BCFC: The R Word

As Birmingham City enter the March break it feels almost a miracle that they remain outside of the relegation zone. A horror show of an error from Emanuel Aiwu gave away the only goal of the game in a 1-0 defeat to Watford on Saturday, and Blues only remain outside the bottom three due to Huddersfield’s failure to get more than a goalless draw out of bottom club Rotherham.

St Andrew's vs Blackburn

Blues are now out of the bottom three thanks only to goal difference, and while the bottom half of the table is still very congested it’s not hard to understand that some Blues fans are wondering where the next point is going to come from.

After so many years battling and beating relegation, it does feel like the “typical Blues” thing to do would be to finally go down now that the ownership situation is finally resolved.

I’ll be honest in that I’ve not wanted to discuss the whole “R” word for a while simply because I didn’t feel the timing was right while Blues went through a rapid sequence of games that could have easily changed the complexion of things.

However, now we have a two week break I think it’s time to have an adult conversation about relegation and what Blues can do to prevent it.

The Manager Situation

One of the themes of this season has been that there has been a constant flux when it comes to who is in charge of first team affairs.

I don’t really want to go into the history of it this season; we know that the Rooney appointment was a shitshow from start to thankfully mercily quick finish.

I know people still want to point fingers of blame at Garry Cook for that decision and I have no doubt he’s under pressure because of it, but that has been and gone.

The bigger issue right now appears to be that without Tony Mowbray at the helm, the players have lost all confidence in how to play football.

While it’s kind of galling that professional footballers seem to lose their mind without the friendly PE teacher vibe of John Eustace or the truly comforting words of Tony Mowbray to guide them on the pitch, the fact remains that it’s not a good situation.

With two weeks now until the next game, the powers that be have to make some tough decisions as to what to do.

From the outside, for many it’s simple – bring someone in to stop the rot. However, like most other things in life, it’s just not that easy.

The biggest variable in all of this is Mowbray’s health. I’ll be honest – not only do I not know what is the situation there, I don’t want to know unless that knowledge comes in the form of the official communication from Mowbray or the club.

If Mowbray is fit to come back for the QPR / Preston game, then nothing needs to be done.

However, if it’s possible he’s going to need a little bit longer on the sidelines then the board have to decide whether they want to do something to change the current situation.

If they do decide to bring in someone else, then I think there are a few things that will need to be considered, namely:

  • Whoever comes in needs to come in with the consent of Tony Mowbray and Mark Venus.
  • Whoever comes in also needs to be able to slot in and reinforce current training and messages. Trying to make any kind of drastic changes is only going to cause more chaos and confusion and we don’t have the space for that now
  • Realistically, whoever comes in needs to understand it’s probably not more than a temporary role until Mowbray returns to full health.

Off the top of my head, I can only think of one coach who could possibly do it, should they want to – Lee Carsley.

Carsley not only knows the club but is also familiar with Ashley Cole due to their work together with England’s under 21 side. It’s my understanding that Carsley has no desire to take a job like Blues on permanently, so he would be okay with a temporary role.

Most importantly, I think the connections Carsley has with the club would help make him a seamless addition to the coaching staff.

Before anyone says it, I’m talking from a position of ignorance. I don’t know what the club is going to do, or if someone like Lee Carsley would even take the role.

The only thing I want to make clear is that any such move like this would need to be made in a delicate and compassionate manner – and would take lots of careful consideration.

My fear is that if something like this were to happen and not much changed for four games, then there would be people online demanding another change of staff. We cannot keep doing that.


One of the recurring themes I’ve read on Blues social media in recent times is the fear that should Blues go down, that Knighthead will walk away from the club.

This fear is mostly driven by quotes from last year where Tom Wagner said that they would not have bought Birmingham City if the club had been relegated at the end of the 2022/23 season.

I can understand why people might be scared that Knighthead would bail – after all, it’s that PTSD many of us have that nothing good can happen to the club.

That being said, I want to do what I can to reassure people that it’s very unlikely Wagner or Knighthead would bail should the worst happen this season.

The first reason for being this confidence is simple logic.

While it makes sense that Knighthead would have backed away from “The Project” had it started from a League One base, at the time of backing out they would have invested precisely £0 in the club.

We know for a fact that right now, Knighthead have gone all in via their Shelby Companies Limited subsidiary.

As I’ve previously noted on this website from Zo Future Group (the new name for Birmingham Sports Holdings) accounts, Knighthead have in the six months up to December 31, 2023 put in £17.412M into the club.

That’s a lot of money invested to walk away after nine months because the club got relegated to League One.

The second reason is Tom Wagner himself.

Everyone I’ve spoken to who has dealt with Wagner has told me the same things. That Wagner is absolutely driven to make this ownership work and will do everything it takes to make that happen.

From the outside, everything I’ve seen corroborates that view.

We have to accept that mistakes will be made – like the appointment of Rooney for example.

However, I think it’s worth noting how quickly the club moved to change that situation when it was obvious it was not going to work; especially in comparison to situations under the previous ownership with Lee Bowyer, Aitor Karanka and Steve Cotterill to name three drawn-out death rattles of sackings.

If relegation happens it will no doubt enforce some changes in their timeline of plans for the club. However, I also believe that it won’t change their overall vision.

The Future

On April 9, the second “Open House” event will be held at the club to inform supporters of the vision of the owners.

According to the announcement of this Open House event last week, the theme will be “Ambition” and there will be two focus areas, namely infrastructure and fan experience.

There hasn’t been much more information on what is going to be discussed, although it has been confirmed that Wagner will be in attendance in person.

The only bit of information I’ve been given about the event is that it will blow people’s minds.

As much as I like the idea of Blues fans having their minds blown by the scale of what Knighthead want to do to improve the club, there is a part of me that thinks that maybe right now isn’t the time to talk of ambition.

Now it might be in the three matches between then and now, things happen in such a way that Blues pull themselves out of the shit and any talk of relegation will quieten back down. I sincerely hope that this is the case.

However, if it isn’t, then I think the club really need to think about having a contingency session which is about now rather than the future.

The mood in the ground on Saturday where I sit was one of frustration and growing anger; neither of which great selling points when the club are trying to move as many match tickets as possible.

As Blues fans we’ve had plenty of talk about “jam tomorrow” – the sunlit uplands of the Premier League, of fancy stadiums and huge investment. And yes, we have owners now who I genuinely believe will attempt to deliver everything promised.

The problem for me is that fans aren’t worried about tomorrow. They’re worried about today. While recency bias is as much a thing on social media as hyperbole is, it’s clear that many need reassurance that things are going to be alright.

Obviously, Wagner can’t make promises about avoiding relegation; after all, that’s down to the players who go out on the pitch to deliver.

The problem for Wagner is that everything depends on those players delivering, because it’s the hope that they will that powers the product he’s trying to get people to invest in.

I’ll admit, I genuinely don’t know what the club can say or do should we be in deeper shit when April 9 comes around.

Indeed, should we be in deeper in the brown stuff the smarter thing to do might be just to postpone the Open House until the end of the season.

As I sit and write this, I’ll be honest – I still don’t think Blues will go down.

While I accept the position is precarious it very much remains within our own hands and I still have belief that the club can grasp enough to stay out of it.

I’m also sure we’ll get some positive reassurance from Wagner in the coming couple of weeks to confirm my belief he’s still all in.

The key in the next couple of weeks is that the squad and coaching staff are in the best possible position for the last eight games.

I still have faith that the board will do their best to ensure that.