BCFC: The Squad Summer Overhaul: Pt III

In the third part of my deep dive into the Birmingham City squad, I’ve taken a look at players with the squad numbers 26 to 38. Among these players are a few notable players who are out of contract at the end of this season, with big decisions needing to be made about who will stay and who will go.

St Andrew's Pre Match

You can read part I here, part II here and part IVhere.

I should once again make it clear that these are my individual thoughts on players and while I’ve not been to as many games as some, I’ve tried to be objective in my thoughts.

I’ve used two statistical sources to help write these articles, namely whoscored.com and fbref. All player ratings have been taken from whoscored while stats based on league games played etc have been taken from fbref.

#26 Kevin Long

Kevin Long stats

I need to eat some humble pie when it comes to Kevin Long. I was unimpressed by his signing and feared that he would be another one of those players who turned up at the club, played a couple of games and was then forgotten.

After a shaky start I think Long has shown he’s a decent centre-half, with his whoscored average rating being among the highest in the squad – albeit having only played ten games. I can’t imagine he’s on a huge wage and I think he’s definitely worth another season if he’s up for it.

#27 Jobe Bellingham

Jobe Bellingham Stats

Buckle up, because this is where it gets controversial and I know I’m going to upset people.

I think Jobe Bellingham has had a difficult introduction to first team action, and I am going to say here and now he has my sympathy. It must be hard to deal with expectation following your older brother into a football team; imagine how hard it is when you’re 17 and your older brother has gone from one of the youngest ever first teamers at Blues to being one of the best young midfielders in the world.

I’m not going to comment on how good Jobe is simply cos I don’t think we’ve seen enough; his whoscored rating is warped by lots of short substitute appearances. What I will say is that I don’t think we’re going to see Jobe develop at Blues as there has been a lot of rumour of unhappiness at the lack of minutes for Jobe on sites like smallheathalliance.com.

The club and the fans owe the Bellinghams a debt of gratitude because the money from the Jude transfer pretty much saved the club. If they think that it’s best for Jobe to move on, then we as Blues fans have to accept that.

#28 Dion Sanderson

Dion Sanderson Stats

Until his injury which may rule Sanderson out for the remainder of the season, I think the on-loan Wolves defender has very much looked the part for Blues. There are still some raw edges; he picked up a suspension for five bookings and had he not been injured may have got one for ten as well but he’s been a reliable player for us in the main.

Sanderson’s future seems uncertain as it looks like Wolves are looking to sell him. I had heard a rumour that an offer from Rangers was accepted for Sanderson in January only for the 23-year-old to turn it down as he wanted to stay at Blues. If that’s true, then it’s possible he’d want to make a permanent switch – the only question is can Blues afford it?

#30 Tate Campbell

It’s been a rough year for Tate Campbell. I think there was an expectation at the start of the season that he’d be a fringe player around the first team and would slowly pick up minutes over the season but injuries have put paid to that.

Campbell has made nine appearances for the u21s, but has not appeared since the 2-2 draw with Southampton in December. With Campbell currently injured I do wonder if the club will pick up his option for next year. I’d like to think he’s shown enough to be worth a chance.

#31 Krystian Bielik

Krystian Bielik Stats

For a player who seems to consistently have moments when he looks injured in games, Krystian Bielik has done really well this year. When he’s been on form he’s been a maestro in midfield, although I do think his form dipped a bit after the World Cup.

He’s got one year on his deal left at Derby County, and with the Rams in no way certain of a return to the Championship next year could well be on his way out permanently at the end of the season.

I’m not sure if Blues could bring him back to St Andrew’s on a permanent deal; his wages are apparently high and I suspect Derby will want some money for him to reduce the financial hit it will cost them to sell. If that is the case then I think it will have to be so long and thanks for the memories.

#32 Marcel Oakley

Marcel Oakley Stats
Combined stats from loan spells with Arbroath and Queens Park

It’s been a good season out on loan for Marcel Oakley. He got a good half season for Arbroath in the Scottish Championship, and now is playing for the division leaders Queens Park where he scored his first league goal.

I don’t know what Blues are thinking about Oakley; whether he’s considered behind Josh Williams in the pecking order. However, with Max Colin almost certainly departing at the end of the season I can see why it would be worth giving Oakley another year and telling him to prove himself worthy of a place. At 20 Oakley will still not need to be registered for one of the 25-man squad positions next season either.

#33 Finley Thorndike

Finley Thorndike Stats

I don’t think Finley Thorndike’s first season at Blues has gone quite the way he hoped it would. Yet to make his debut for Blues in any competition, he has gone on loan to National League North side Boston United where he has currently made two sub appearances.

Thorndike has been a regular for the u21s, making eleven appearances including six starts, but has only scored once and made three assists this season. He still has a year on his deal and doesn’t need to be registered for the 21-man squad next year so he still has a chance; however I think he will need to do more to stand out.

#34 Ivan Sunjic

Ivan Sunjic stats
Stats from loan spell at Hertha Berlin

Back when we signed Ivan Sunjic, I was really excited. It felt like he was the kind of player we should be targeting; young, with a good pedigree and a chance to improve with us as a team. It’s not worked out that way, and I fear his loan at Hertha Berlin has gone no better.

His team lie in the relegation play-off spot just one point above bottom side VfB Stuttgart in what has been a disappointing season. This leads me to think that they won’t take Sunjic on permanently, which is bad news for Blues as he’s got a year left on a very costly deal. He’s a player Blues really need to move on this summer if at all possible.

#35 George Hall

George Hall Stats

It’s been a breakout season for George Hall, with the young midfielder starting to cement a place in the matchday squad. He scored his first professional goal against Watford earlier in the season and has looked bright when he’s played.

Although he has a year left on his deal, there have been mutterings that Hall will leave in the summer. A new deal from the club remains unsigned and there is a possibility that Blues may prefer to cash in rather than chance their arm with a tribunal in the summer of 2024.

I personally hope the issues surrounding a new deal can be sorted out because I think Hall would be better served competing for a first team spot at St Andrew’s rather than playing for some big club’s u21 side in the Papa John’s Trophy.

#38 Zach Jeacock

Zach Jeacock Stats

While I’m unsurprised Zach Jeacock has no appearances to his name this year due to having two good goalkeepers in front of him, I’m a bit concerned as to why he’s only played nine times for the u21s. Blues have used two of their younger keepers Oliver Basey and Brad Mayo in 13 games for the u21s and I do wonder if Jeacock has been injured.

It’s a big summer for Jeacock as he has to be included in the 25-man first team squad next year. The question is if Blues can move on Neil Etheridge, do they trust Jeacock to be understudy to John Ruddy? If Blues can’t move on Etheridge, then does Jeacock stay for another year as a third keeper or will it be time for him to move to pastures new?

The final part of this series will look at squad numbers 40-48 along with the first year pros and third year scholar who are without a squad number.