BCFC: Rooney a Replacement?

Despite the unbeaten start to the league season for Blues, rumours broke on Thursday afternoon that the club have identified Wayne Rooney as a replacement for John Eustace as Head Coach.

St Andrew's packed

John Percy reported in the Telegraph that while there is no suggestion that Eustace is close to being sacked, there have been links between Eustace and managerial roles at Swansea City as well as SPL side Rangers and that as such, “checks have been made with regards to Rooney’s availability”.

The article goes on to confirm that Blues CEO Garry Cook is “close to Rooney’s camp”, and notes that Rooney had recently told the Washington Post that he was “slightly disappointed and frustrated” that there had been no contact with regards to a new deal to continue his role at DC United in America’s MLS.

While there has been vague rumours that Eustace may be wanted by other clubs, the timing of this news seems a bit off.

After all, Blues have invested heavily in the playing squad this summer and remain unbeaten (or UNDFTD if you prefer) in the league this season.

Indeed, the start to the season has been so good Eustace has been nominated for the Manager of the Month award.

All of this makes me wonder where this article has come from, and why.

I’m going to be honest from the get-go and make it clear that while I had heard this story was breaking about a day before it did, the only bits and pieces I’d heard was second-hand gossip and as such should be treated with a huge piece of salt.

It’s difficult to know what to think. These kinds of stories have lots of moving parts and can involve various people briefing members of the press with different viewpoints and angles – sometimes simultaneously.

Floating an Idea

One of the things I’ve noticed about the Shelby regime is that there definitely a sense of them having an ear to the ground.

After all, it was quite impressive that Garry Cook wrote a letter to supporters on the official website in the wake of the opening home game and it was clear he’d taken some of the small criticisms out there into account.

People might mock social media and forums, but it’s a good way for club staff to try to gauge how people feel about aspects of the club.

It’s for this reason I think there is a possibility this story has broken to help Tom Wagner and his senior lieutenants gauge what the feeling would be towards a potential new head coach.

As much as I like the idea of senior club staff taking into account what fans think, from a personal standpoint I actually hope that this theory doesn’t hold any water.

The bits I’ve seen on social media suggest that the idea of Wayne Rooney coming to the club would be as popular with many as a pork chop is in a synagogue.

People are quick to point out to Rooney’s win record with both Derby County and DC United which stands at a miserly 28.2% across 131 games in comparison to John Eustace’s 33.33% in 57 games with Blues.

In Rooney’s first season in the American capital, his team won just twice after he took charge and finished bottom of the Eastern Conference with the lowest points total across the whole league.

Of course, stats don’t tell the whole story.

While Derby manager Rooney had to deal with not only the financial mess that the club was in, but also the circus surrounding the failed Chris Kirchner takeover at the club.

Had Derby not been deducted 21 points for various financial irregularities, they’d have stayed up comfortably that season.

I must admit I’m as guilty as anyone else for being immediately negative in my reaction too.

However, I’m aware that it’s easy to react to news like this than to come up with a name myself that I’d be happy for them to think about.

Likewise, I bet if I asked 100 fans what they thought I’d get at least 10 different answers with a fair chunk of people saying that they didn’t know or weren’t sure of what replacement they’d consider gettable and acceptable.

It’s for this reason that I hope as much as Tom Wagner and his team care about what we think, they understand that sometimes there is a need for decisions to be made regardless of the noises from social media.

That takes bravery though, especially bearing in mind decisions made by the previous regime in the recent past.

A Zola Moment?

I don’t think I was the only person to look at this news and compare it to December 2016 when Gary Rowett was fired and replaced by Gianfranco Zola.

At the time of his firing Rowett was still fairly popular with fans, and the team was 7th place in the Championship, just outside the playoffs. Many fans were very unhappy that Rowett was given the push and their ire was given further legitimacy as the team struggled under his replacement.

While I can understand this feeling that this might be a little bit of history repeating, I think it’s important to understand the differences between then and now.

As popular as Rowett was (and remains) with some fans, I will hold my hand up and say that I had grown weary of the way Blues were playing.

Rowett had gone in my mind from the Bromsgrove Mourinho to the Bromsgrove Pulis and while Blues did win three of five games before his sacking, the style of football on offer wasn’t to the liking of Trillion Trophy Asia and their minions.

I opined on this site that in the past we’d seen managers grow stale and past their sell by date before; maybe TTA were being proactive in moving before the staleness really set in.

Furthermore, it was apparent to anyone with any inside knowledge in football that Rowett was touting himself out for a new role at other clubs.

That apparent lack of loyalty coupled with a refusal to sign a new deal with Blues had not endeared Rowett to the Hong Kong hierarchy and his depature was inevitable.

Looking back on it, the appointment of Zola was a shocker.

In the time that has elapsed since then I’ve heard some of the inside stories about how he was approached before Rowett was sacked.

When you hear that one director asked Zola for his autograph in the interview, you’ve got to worry just how searching the board’s questions of the Italian manager were.

Fast forward to now, and things feel very different.

Although there have been links between Eustace and other clubs in the press, I can’t say I’ve heard anything on the jungle drums to suggest that he wants out.

That’s not to say Eustace hasn’t made discreet enquiries with other clubs; all I can say with any conviction is that it’s not been so blatant even a fat blogger from Kingshurst has heard about it unlike 2016.

Likewise, I can’t imagine Tom Wagner or any other director fawning over Rooney over a conference table.

While John Percy might report that Garry Cook is “close to Rooney’s camp”, I don’t think it necessarily means that Rooney’s appointment would be a foregone conclusion.

What it comes down to is that unlike the previous administration, I have the trust in Shelby Companies Limited to be professional whatever happens.

Succession Planning

I think the most positive message we can take from this report is that Wagner and co are doing what they need to do to future proof things at the club.

Succession planning is the fashionable thing to do in football these days; the idea that club staff have plans for who will replace players, staff and managers should they decide to move on to pastures new.

From a holistic perspective, it makes sense.

We’ve seen at Blues how ripping up a squad each season can make things difficult for the team to gel, while the lack of managerial continuity ensured that Blues have struggled over the years to build a successful footballing identity in the Championship.

It’s become obvious to me that any football club has to have a vision of how they want to play football, how they want to set up their team and how they want to progress.

This overarching vision then drives how everything is performed at the club.

Players are signed to fit a system and a methodology rather than the whim of a manager.

The u21 and Academy sides are encouraged to build their teams in the same way so as players progess they know how they will fit into the first team if they make it that far.

Likewise, it’s important to hire coaches that fit that vision.

Much is said of Brighton’s success in recent years but I think they have benefitted massively from this methodology.

I’d never heard of Roberto de Zerbi before he took charge but it’s become clear he was hired because he could continue to develop the team as it had been under Graham Potter.

Compare that to Chelsea, who have had a scattergun approach to both player and coach signings which has left them mid table having spent more than a billion pounds in rapid time.

I don’t know enough about tactics to know if Rooney is a similar kind of coach to Eustace, but I would hope that if Blues are looking at potential replacements they are doing so with an idea of evolution as opposed to revolution.

As much as I’ve waffled on about this story, there is always the chance it could come to absolutely nought – and in many ways I hope it does.

However, I’d like to see if it can help us to develop an insight into the way that this new regime at the club thinks.

As I’ve said before, my hope and belief is that this is about them trying to be sensible and protect their investment more than anything else.

Most of all, I hope they continue to give us a reason to put our trust in the project.

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