BCFC: A Deficit of Trust

It’s been another tough weekend to be a Blues fan. While a 1-1 draw at Wigan arrested a run of defeats, it did nothing to ease relegation fears and Blues remain just seven points clear of the drop zone. Meanwhile, a fire at the training ground on Thursday night / Friday morning was just the latest episode in the shitshow that is Birmingham City FC right now.

Main Stand St Andrews

Right now, to me supporting Blues feels like being in a toxic friendship or relationship.

It’s like sticking with a partner or a friend out of a twisted sense of obligation, but secretly hating every minute of it and wishing it would end because it’s draining all the life out of you.

While I guess that might be a bit hyperbolic, I can certainly understand the frustration online from Blues fans, whether it’s directed at the team on the pitch or at the directors in the boardroom.

It’s clear that things need to change in the coming months, but I think that there needs to be a deeper conversation about it rather than just going on about a change in ownership or even management.

On the Pitch

I think we can all agree that right now, it’s not great watching Blues play.

While a draw against Wigan did stop the run of defeats, it really was a game we could have and should have won and that nagging doubt that those two points dropped could cost the club in the next two months won’t go away.

I’m not going to pretend I’m a master tactician who can talk about the flaws in the way the team plays and how they can be corrected; for that sort of thing, I’d suggest following people like Blues Breakdown or Blues Analytics on Twitter.

However, what I do feel comfortable talking about is the bigger picture things that affect the team and what I think needs to change there if the club is to move forwards again.

Regardless of where Blues finish this season, there is going to be some massive changes in team personnel.

A lot of players are out of contract at the end of this season, and without severe cuts to current wages I can’t see some of them staying.

This is good in that it will help to reduce a wage bill that is draining the club financially and makes me uncertain as to whether the club will be able to meet the P&S requirements for this season.

However, it represents a big test for the new recruitment staff bought in by Craig Gardner.

I can easily imagine Blues need to bring in as many as eight to ten first team players this summer to replace those departing.

However, I think there is a deeper recruitment problem that needs fixing.

This is exemplified by the issues Blues have in forward positions right now.

The injury to Troy Deeney has left Blues with two recognised first team forwards in Lukas Jutkiewicz and Scott Hogan, neither of whom are in any kind of form right now.

The only alternatives that John Eustace seems to have is to play players like Tahith Chong or Reda Khadra in forward positions in the hope that they can do a job; something which doesn’t seem to be working either.

There aren’t any obvious candidates in the u21s to step up to the role.

I believe both Josh Andrews and Kieran Wakefield are injured currently, leaving the Development Squad in a similar position of having to use attacking midfielders Keke Simmonds and Finley Thorndike in advanced positions, or even trying out u16 winger Trevan Sanusi in an unfamiliar striker role.

The club faces a big call this summer as all of Andrews, Simmonds and Thorndike will need to be named as part of the 25-man first team squad next year, with none of them looking like they are close to a first team call.

Of those three, only Fiinley Thorndike has a contract which does not expire in June.

In my opinion this means that the recruitment team also need to look at bringing in one or two true forward options with an eye on the future.

I think they will also need to look at defensive options too, as Blues could potentially lose Nico Gordon, Tate Campbell and Mitch Roberts this summer although all three have one year options on their contract.

Of those three, only Roberts would need to be registered as a first-team player due to his age.

I have no doubt that the recruitment team will be working on all of these problems right now, but with Blues survival in the Championship still somewhat up in the air I think there are almost certainly going to be two very different lists depending on where we end up. I don’t envy any of them that task.

St Andrew’s and Wast Hills

The reactions to the fire at Wast Hills on Thursday morning said much for the deficit of trust fans have towards the club.

While I can and will accept that gallows humour and social media hyperbole were out in force, I sincerely believe that some of the people making comments about insurance scams and burning documents believed what they were writing.

Regardless of what caused the fire, any required repairs to the training complex potentially just add to the infrastructure costs the club are currently facing.

What doesn’t help in this situation is the obvious deficit of trust the club face bearing in mind the repairs to St Andrew’s that still need to be completed more than two years since the problems were originally found.

Although there are words of encouragement from people around the club that repairs to St Andrew’s will be started this summer, I’m going to admit here and now my scepticism that they will be started on time.

There are no accurate figures in the public domain for the cost of repair to the ground but from the bits I know I think a figure of £5-6million is probably not far from the truth.

I have no doubt that any contractors signed up to do the job will need the project signed off well before they start in order for everything to be readied; likewise, I can imagine a hefty deposit will need to be paid up front to cover material costs among other things

The only thing the club have said publicly was at the fans forum in December. They told the supporters groups in attendance that the project requires board approval which will be given in April.

I’m sure I’m not alone in my scepticism that it will be signed off, if only because the ongoing negotiations with the Often Partisan consortium to take over the club place a material doubt that the current board will even be in place then.

Like St Andrew’s, Blues do not own the Wast Hills training ground; although the lease from the University of Birmingham is much longer and has been in place for a while already.

The fact that the training ground is leased means that there is some uncertainty about how quickly repairs can be sorted and how urgently they are needed.

I think the club will need to make an announcement fairly quickly to confirm what is happening if only to reassure fans that they are indeed doing something.

The good news is that should the OPL takeover go through, St Andrew’s will come back into the club’s ownership.

I think this is important as it is clear the current situation cannot continue.

Birmingham City Stadium Ltd, which is the holding company that owns St Andrew’s, are now eight months late in producing accounts which potentially leaves the company in danger of being struck off the register.

Clearly neither majority shareholder Kang Ming Ming nor Vong Pech care about running the company properly, which goes some way to showing why the club are in the situation they are with the ground.

The Ownership Situation

I’ve got to the point where I feel like a broken record about the ownership of Birmingham City.

The only real difference now is that the EFL have got properly involved and after one set of charges have been made public in relation to the failed Maxco bid, we’re now waiting for the main course of this particular shit sandwich, the Wang Yaohui investigation.

There’s still zero public indication as to what will happen with respect to the investigation into the man also known as “the elusive Mr King”, but I becoming more and more certain that it will spell the endgame for the current stewardship of the club.

While Birmingham Sports Holdings have confirmed that no one at the Hong Kong listed company has yet been charged in relation to the Maxco, I’ve now had it confirmed by three separate sources that shareholder Vong Pech has been charged by the EFL.

This is where it could get interesting, as Pech has never said anything publicly about Birmingham City, let alone confirming or denying any charges and I’m intrigued as to how this will progress.

Although I’m fairly sure Pech won’t travel to the UK to defend himself in person, I’m curious as to how far he will go to contest the charges anyway.

Logically, the fact Pech has openly been selling his stake in the club (and the stadium) means we can infer that he wants out of the current situation.

If he can sell that 21.64% stake in the club in the time before the hearing, then the EFL telling him he can’t be a “Relevant Person” at the club doesn’t mean that much.

What would be key then would be if the EFL accepts that BSH would have no control whatsoever over the club during the staged takeover, as then Pech’s stake in BSH would then be meaningless in context with the club.

The problem with any staged takeover is the deficit in trust that fans have that BSH would really be out of the picture.

In fact, I think that any perceived connections between a new regime and the current one could potentially be seen as tainted by a fanbase which is weary after more than a decade of crap following the arrest of Carson Yeung.

I even believe that there is merit in the thought that there has to be not only a clean slate of ownership but in management too.

As much as that there are people I like who work in management roles at the club, I can agree that a clean sweep of new appointments would potentially give fans more reason to trust the club in the future.

As testing as the next few weeks will be in relation to the immediate playing future of the club, I think that this summer could be a turning point for the club in general.

If Blues can somehow get to a point where the ownership situation is less muddy, the ground either repaired or on the way to repair, and with a team of players who offer a little bit of excitement, then there is a chance that we can truly move forwards.

What we cannot have is another summer of turmoil without seeming end at St Andrew’s.

If fans are to trust in the club once again, then there needs to be something that they can put their faith in.

Just asking for positivity in the hope of jam tomorrow is no longer enough.