BCFC: Stick or Twist?

Another weekend, another defeat. Saturday saw Blues lose 3-1 away to Sunderland, pushing the club down to the familiar situation of 18th place in the table. As to be expected, the reaction online has become ever more toxic with more fans insisting that Wayne Rooney and even Blues CEO Garry Cook must go.

Pre Match St Andrews

I have to admit, the whole fan reaction gets to me a little bit.

Within one hour of the final whistle, I’d had five different people message me in varying degrees of anger and despair at the league situation the club has found itself in.

What’s more alarming is all of these people are the kinds I’d think are rational and not quick to jump to rash conclusions.

Yet the tone of messages were all similar; talks of “shambolic” situations, worries that “we’re fucked” with one going as far as stating that “we are sleepwalking into relegation”.

Maybe it’s me, but I can’t feel that.

With 16 games having been played we’re just over a third of the way through the season.

The table is still very tight, with just three points separating us with 11th placed Bristol City while 22nd placed Rotherham are eight points behind us.

Why have things got so toxic? What is the path the club should take to change this situation?


While I think it’s naïve to ever think that there is complete unity within the Birmingham City fanbase, things were so much different back in July.

The arrival of Knighthead and Tom Wagner as the new guys in charge was met with almost universal approval, and the buzz around the club for the first game was incredible.

I can remember being stood in the beer garden of the Royal George two hours prior to kick off marvelling at how packed out the pub was; how excited people were. It felt like a new beginning, a chance for us all to be proud for once and excited for the future.

Fast forward to now, and once again it’s toxic online.

Once again there are fans arguing with each other on social media; once again there is division and there is a fear that antipathy will return to the terraces.

I’m loathe to get into the arguments about the removal of John Eustace as head coach and appointment of Wayne Rooney to the manager role.

There are such entrenched positions already about these two decisions that it’s difficult to discuss them without allegations of “bedwetting” or “happy clapping”.

Fans have already become so obdurate with their opinions I am starting to wonder how this division can be healed.

For what it’s worth, I think the way the decision was made has caused much of the trouble we have seen.

It was inevitable that Eustace would be given his marching orders sooner or later. No matter how well he did in the head coach role, Eustace was missing one key qualification – he was not “their man”.

I can remember saying on the Daz Hale football phone in on Radio WM back in July that I thought Eustace would be on a short leash and that he’d be lucky to last until Christmas.

That being said, the timing of the public announcement of Eustace’s departure was poor.

I’m convinced that the decision had been made long before the announcement was made and that Eustace was almost certainly aware of it before the WBA game at least.

I think the only reason that it was made public when it was, was to maintain the fiction that Wayne Rooney was not approached until the MLS season was completed and he had left his role at DC United.

Had the decision been made public before the Huddersfield game, I think more people would have been amenable to it.

I can remember the anger online following the defeats to Watford, Preston and Norwich and it wouldn’t have shocked me if Eustace had been given his marching orders before the home game against the Terriers.

Likewise, I think that the fact Rooney is demonstrably a connection of Garry Cook’s has caused much more cynicism about his appointment.

I wonder if someone such as Graham Potter, Marcelo Bielsa or even Jesse Marsch would have gone down as poorly with Blues fans?

As much as I understand the anger at the seemingly nepotistic choice of Rooney, I do think that it’s a bit rich.

Do people think Eustace was appointed purely for his track record, or did his friendship with Craig Gardner and Troy Deeney come into it?

Likewise when people point to Cook appointing people he knows to various positions at the club, were they that critical when Gardner has done similar in the past?

Football is like everything else; it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

It might not be fair, but life isn’t fair – and I think we need to be a bit more grown up and accept this.

The biggest factor I think in all this toxicity is the sheer bluntness of the words used when the public announcement of Eustace’s sacking was made.

People might deny it, but I think words have a lot of power.

Those words have shaped the way this whole episode has been reported, which has continued to emphasise that bluntness.

The use of buzzwords like “no fear” has just given rise to more cynicism and has given more ammunition to those who are angered by the whole situation.

So what happens now? Does Tom Wagner need to say something? Does the club need to do something?


For many fans, the solution to the current situation is obvious and the only argument is just how many people are given the Spanish archer.

As well as the obvious in Wayne Rooney, some fans have been advocating that Garry Cook should follow the Rooney out of the door while one apoplectic message I received added various other names including Mike Rigg who doesn’t take his position up with the club until January.

While it might be a bit OTT to call for someone’s removal before they even start, it’s not hard to understand why some fans might feel that there needs to be an immediate change.

There is a saying on Wall Street that “the first loss is the best loss”.

What that means essentially is that on the occasion you get a trade wrong, you should take the small loss and move on before it gets any worse.

This is very similar to the perception I have of how many fans feel.

Those demanding change want Tom Wagner to accept the decision to appoint Wayne Rooney (and or Garry Cook) was wrong and to remove him/them before any further damage can be done.

In the trading world this makes perfect sense.

There are too many people who have chased losses and turned a small problem into one that is beyond control; as much as it hurts to have a minus symbol against one of your trades it’s better to walk away with something than to throw good money after bad.

The problem with Blues is that the decision doesn’t end with pulling out of the trade as it were. Another decision has to be made about a replacement manager and/or CEO – and this is where it gets tricky.

The problem I see with firing Rooney, Cook or anyone else is that there is no guarantee that it will end the losses we take as a club.

While some might believe that “anything is better than the current situation” I can’t help but think that this is hyperbole and it’s easily possible for things to go from bad to worse.

How many clubs have we seen in recent years who have lurched from one dumpster fire to another as they’ve gone through managers.

Indeed, how much has it hurt Blues in the past few years as managers have come and gone?

With that in mind, what else can the club do?


If the club aren’t going to fire Rooney then seemingly the only other alternative is to stick with what we have and hope it gets better.

It’s possible results could improve.

Two of the next three games Blues play are home games against teams in the bottom three with bottom club Sheffield Wednesday next up at St Andrew’s.

The international break gives two more weeks for the team to work on the way they play.

It gives two more weeks for players like Lee Buchanan, Keshi Anderson and Tyler Roberts to work their way towards their respective returns to first team action.

However, there are complications.

Due to their own international training commitments neither Ashley Cole nor John O’Shea will be present to assist with training for much of the next two weeks.

This puts more pressure on Rooney as well as Pete Shuttleworth and Carl Robinson to get the team into better shape.

It means there will be less knowledge on the training ground and less opportunity for two well-respected coaches in Cole and O’Shea to give their input.

The other obvious way to improve the team would be to sign more players in the January window.

Sadly I don’t think that this is that likely either.

We know that the FFP situation isn’t great and it’s common knowledge that the January window is a very difficult market to bring in any kind of value.

Blues already have four players on loan which means there can only be one more in any matchday squad.

The only way that there could be any wholesale changes would be the sale of a player or two; as much as I agree there is some deadwood in the squad that needs to be moved on, I don’t think the appetite will be out there from other clubs to sign them.

There has also been some discussion that either Garry Cook or Tom Wagner himself should come out and say some more about why Wayne Rooney was hired and how they see the team evolving over the coming months.

I can understand why people might want a public statement but I think this would be a senseless thing to do.

We all know how cynical the “vote of confidence” thing is in football.

This makes me think that no matter what Wagner could say, it will be twisted to fit the biases and agendas of those who report and comment on it. I think it would be wise for now for him to keep his counsel until change has to be made.

Likewise, having seen how fans have latched onto buzzwords and commentary from Garry Cook already I can’t imagine how he could say anything that is going to improve the situation.

In fact, I’ll go as far as saying that anything but a win against Sheffield Wednesday could make the Blues Open House event on November 27 a somewhat toxic and spiky environment.

Garry Cook is due to be at that event, giving the introduction and leading the structured Q&A session at the end.

Regardless of how cynical some sections of the fanbase have been about those invited, I think Cook could be in for a rough ride with some tough questions about what has gone on over the last month.

It’s some fall from grace since July – but the test of any new regime was always going to be the first crisis it suffered.

I don’t think it should come as any surprise that I fall into the “stick” camp currently.

This is based on my feelings that any change could come with as much pressure as is currently being felt and could cause even more upheaval down the line should things not immediately improve.

That being said, I think there has to be a time limit for the situation to improve. While I’m sure that promotion was not the be all and end all this year, I’m also sure that relegation cannot be on the table either.

John Eustace had 11 games this season to prove his worth to the owners; a timeline which many felt was not long enough.

I think we have to be fair and give Rooney at least that level of patience to maintain the moral high ground.