Editorial: The Rooney Reality

Once again, it appears that the only certainties in this life are death, taxes and Birmingham City in turmoil. A 2-0 defeat to Coventry City on Friday night mean Blues have now only taken five points from a possible 27 in the league under Wayne Rooney amid growing calls for his removal.

St Andrew's packed

While the result leaves Blues 17th in the Championship, another win for QPR means Blues lie just four points above the relegation zone.

We’re now seemingly back at the point where it’s time as Blues fans are nervously looking over shoulders at what might befall us this season.

With a tough away trip to 7th placed Cardiff City before the Wagatha Christie derby with Championship leaders Leicester on Monday, there is now a very real feeling that Blues could get sucked into trouble.

Déjà vu

When Rooney was appointed, there was this feeling of déjà vu for many Blues fans who remembered what happened the last time the club was taken over.

We’d all heard that Paul Suen Cho Hung had made his career turning around distressed assets and the hope was that after the literal trials and tribulations of the Carson Yeung era, things would settle down a bit.

We all know what happened.

However one might feel about Gary Rowett, the decision to appoint Gianfranco Zola as his successor was a terrible one and by the time Zola fell on his own sword Blues were looking down the barrel of relegation to League One.

It precipitated a period of managers coming and going with frightening regularity, as first Harry Redknapp and then Steve Cotterill failed to put together any success in their short stays at the club.

I desperately wanted to believe that the appointment of Wayne Rooney wouldn’t follow a similar path but after nine games it’s becoming increasingly difficult to argue against it.

As under Zola, players have struggled to adapt to a completely different style of playing; and as under Zola the conspiracy theories are abound of players downing tools, scrapping amongst themselves and picking up little injuries that maybe wouldn’t have bothered them so much previously.

Although I’m still of the belief that nine games is too short a period to make another change to the managerial hotseat, I’m struggling to argue with the idea that not doing anything will only make things worse.

Part of the problem is there are no obvious signs of improvement on the pitch.

Back at the start of the 2018/19 season, it took Garry Monk nine league games to rack up his first win with Blues.

One might think that Monk would have been under pressure from fans back then. At the time of that ninth league game, Blues lay in 20th place in the Championship having only scored five goals in eight games.

The difference back then was Blues had only conceded seven times and there was enough in the performances on the pitch to be convinced that it was going to click.

This proved to be the case, because following that 2-1 win over Leeds, Blues went another six league matches unbeaten, winning four and scoring 12 goals in the process.

I’ll admit that when Blues beat Sheffield Wednesday on November 25, I wanted to believe that would be the turning point for Wayne Rooney; that the players would rediscover their belief in themselves and that Blues as a team could kick on again.

Instead of another home victory, the next game at St Andrew’s against Rotherham United proved to be a metaphorical kick to the ol’ nutsack.

Only Rotherham’s profligacy in front of goal preventing Blues from another heavy defeat as Wayne Rooney’s side failed to impose itself on the game at all.

The subsequent loss to Coventry City away may prove to be a turning point of a different kind. Instead of belief in the team, there is now a visible wavering of faith even among the most hardcore of the away support.

All I can now see online is people openly wondering just how much further Tom Wagner and Knighthead can let this carry on before they have to take action to protect their investment.


As scarred as we are due to our recent previous history, one of the most important things we need to accept as Blues fans is that the ownership is now different.

We only have to look at the sheer level of work done at St Andrew’s to repair the longstanding issues to the Tilton and Kop among other things, to understand that Knighthead are levels ahead of the previous regime when it comes to investment in the club.

Furthermore, unlike the previous regime Knighthead have tried their best to communicate openly what they wish to achieve and how they’re looking to do it.

While I understand the cynicism in some quarters regarding their attempts at communication, one has to accept that an attempt at communication is far superior to treating fans like mushrooms – ie fed on shit and kept in the dark – as has previously happened.

More importantly, I think the reasons Knighthead own Blues are far more transparent than previous regimes have been.

Under Trillion Trophy Asia, Vong Pech (and the elusive Mr King), there was always that niggly thought at the back of the mind that decisions being taken weren’t always necessarily in the best interests of the club itself.

I don’t think anyone can argue that Knighthead are the same in that regard.

And it’s for that reason alone I think Tom Wagner and his staff deserve our trust that they will do what is necessary when it becomes necessary.

It’s my belief that Wagner and co possess something that has been lacking at the club in recent years which will help ensure that we don’t fall into difficulties; a ruthless streak.

The Open House showed that the current regime value using data in making decisions on the pitch.

Using data requires cold hard analysis and should in theory at least take emotion out of making decisions. It requires a brutal rationality and hopefully should prevent a situation where things are allowed to continue to fail due to personal relationships or feelings.

With all that is going on, the question realistically becomes how much faith we have in the current regime to draw a line in the sand whereby if the data goes past a certain point, the axe will fall on Wayne Rooney regardless of any personal relationship he might have with Garry Cook.

It is also one of how much faith we have in Cook as opposed to someone like Ren.

I can remember when BSHL Chairman Zhao Wenqing had to come to Birmingham to fire Steve Cotterill because Ren was unwilling or unable to.

That failure to make a decision was almost fatal for Ren, who was only saved from receiving his own P45 due to the utter incompetence of the others around him.

I sincerely hope Cook has more stones should the need arise.


While league position is the ultimate barometer of success for any football manager, I believe that it’s not only defeats on the pitch which will affect Rooney’s continued employment.

As I’ve said before, the one thing I took from the Open House event was how much Knighthead wanted to improve revenues at Birmingham City.

Tom Wagner is a smart dude. He’s very quickly realised that what separates clubs in the Championship isn’t levels of investment, but levels of revenue.

Profit and Sustainability rules limit the amount of cash that an owner can throw at a club; however those same rules ensure that those clubs which make more revenue can also spend more money.

Therefore, if Blues are to be successful it makes sense to push revenues as high as possible.

More money into the club in revenue allows for more money which can be spent on transfer fees and player wages, which in theory at least should improve the quality of player that can be brought in.

Revenue into Blues comes from three streams: ticketing, commercial and broadcast.

It’s my belief based on everything that I’ve seen that Knighthead have mainly identified commercial revenue as a way to boost the amount of money coming into the club.

Commercial sponsors are more likely to get involved with Blues if the club has a higher profile – for example a name like Wayne Rooney as manager or an advisor such as Tom Brady.

Likewise, commercial sponsors want to be associated with success and popularity.

Fans buying tickets are as much a part of the product as they are a source of revenue. Full stadiums make for better viewing while noise from the crowd helps to add to the overall atmosphere on broadcasts.

While the Rooney effect has apparently worked wonders to get potential new sponsors into the building, should there be a lack of success on the pitch that will very quickly get taken into account.

Likewise, if attendance figures drop off due to toxicity or apathy, some very difficult decisions will have to be made quickly to rectify that situation.

If I’m honest, I think that potential damage to incoming revenue streams is the thing that is most likely to do for Rooney.

It’s also the reason why I personally have belief that things will not be allowed to continue in the same way as it was when Gianfranco Zola (or for that matter Steve Cotterill, Aitor Karanka or Lee Bowyer) was in charge.

As tough as recent results have been, I think we have to hope that this is nothing more than a blip in the rebirth of the club.

I still want Wayne Rooney to turn things around because I honestly believe that would be the best outcome in all of this. No one should want anyone at the club to fail because that only harms what the club could become.

That being said, I also have belief that should Rooney continue to struggle, changes will be made.

Things at Blues are better now, and as scarred as we are we need to leave our lack of faith and trauma in the past where it belongs.