BCFC: The Final Week

Once again, it’s a last day of the season relegation battle for Blues only this time it’s hard mode; starting from the bottom three. A draw with Huddersfield all but condemned the Terriers to relegation but also means that even a win might not be enough for Blues next weekend if the results don’t go right.

St Andrew's packed

While the mood on social media reached toxic levels weeks ago, there were reports from Yorkshire that it’s reached the stands too, with scraps occurring between fans venting their frustration at the performance.

It’s difficult for me to comment as I spent my Saturday on family duty in Birmingham, but having heard from multiple people who were there that I trust it does appear that we have sunk to a new low of toxicity.

It means Saturday afternoon is set up for something; another poor performance and I fear we’ll see toxicity within the ground we haven’t seen since the BSH days.

Yet despite all this, there remains the hope that the hotel I’ve booked in Brum for next weekend will be the scene of celebrating yet another miraculous escape.

The Permutations

With only one game left in the fixture calendar, the permutations of what Blues face up to are now much more simplified.

Should Blues lose to Norwich, they will be relegated whatever happens anywhere else.

Should Blues draw with Norwich, then they will be relegated as long as Plymouth do not lose at home to Hull City by five clear goals or more.

This means that for any realistic hope of survival, Blues must win.

If Blues win, then a Plymouth win along with Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn Rovers avoiding defeat will relegate Blues.

Blues superior goal difference means that a win for them coupled with a defeat for either Sheffield Wednesday or Blackburn will see Blues safe.

Blues are at home to a Norwich side who have (barring a couple of freaky results) reached the playoffs, while Plymouth are at home to a Hull side who must win if they are to have any hope of reaching the top six.

Sheffield Wednesday face a Sunderland side at the Stadium of Light who have nothing to play for, while Blackburn Rovers travel to the King Power Stadium to face the would-be Championship winners Leicester who will collect the trophy at the end of their game.

All of this means that Saturday really is do or die – and while Gary Rowett’s men have done well in front of sell-out crowds at St Andrew’s, Blues have not beaten Norwich at home since August 2016.

That game saw a Blues side managed by Gary Rowett wrap up a 3-0 win thanks to a goal from David Davis and a brace from Clayton Donaldson including a pen.

In the four home games against the Canaries since then Blues have only picked up a point against Norwich, conceding nine goals and scoring just four.

It’s not hard to understand why Blues are now odds-on favourites to go down with all of the bookies.

The Blame Game

With Blues looking more and more like they will go down at the end of this season, once again on social media the fingers of blame are pointing at various people at the club.

It’s a subject I’ve touched on before on this blog, and as much as I don’t like it, I understand why there is so many accusations being flung around right now.

I get the sense of frustration among Blues fans that this season should have been better because of all the good stuff that is happening off the pitch and the fact that it isn’t means someone has to be to blame.

Yet, as a pragmatist I know in my heart that as cathartic as blaming people is, in the long run it doesn’t actually contribute anything.

What is more important right now is that the club learns from the errors of this year and does what it can to not repeat the same mistakes next season.

At the Open House, Tom Wagner answered my question about the biggest lesson learned this year was that you shouldn’t disrupt forward momentum.

I took that answer to confirm that he understands that they fired Eustace at the wrong time; at a time when the team was winning games and the momentum was behind us.

I can’t disagree with that, but I think there is also a deeper lesson to be learned.

When Wagner and co came into the stadium for the first time they said they realised just how broken the club was and how much work needed to be done to fix things.

Despite the good start we had to this season, I think the club was as broken on the pitch as it was off it.

Thanks to years of underinvestment from BSH coupled with some truly horrific contract negotiation from former CEO Ren Xuandong, the squad was imbalanced and loaded with players on inflated contracts that constrained spending massively.

Just as off the pitch this season has been one of getting the infrastructure up to a reasonable position, on the pitch this year should have been one of consolidation.

As boring as it would have been, a mid-table finish would have been better than every year since 2015-16 and would have given Blues a platform to build upon.

Relegation brings a whole bunch of new challenges.

For one, going down this season will mean immediate pressure for the club to bounce back at the first opportunity.

Even with a ton of money and more relaxed rules around financial fair play, Blues will be in the tough position of having to recruit players who will not only get them out of the division quickly but who will be able to step up to a good level in the Championship.

Commercial and broadcast revenues will also drop and will mean that there will be massive additional pressure on the commercial side of the business to continue to grow the revenues.

This will mean a lot of pressure on the shoulders of people like Garry Cook, Craig Gardner and their respective teams for instant results – and not just from the fans.

This coming week is not going to be pleasant.

There is undoubtedly going to be some piss-taking from other fans, and there is going to be some toxicity and anger online from those who cannot hold in their vitriol at the situation the club finds it in.

There will also be that stubborn hope that maybe, just maybe we’ll see the next addition to the last day escapes from down the years with the possibility of another iconic moment like Paul Caddis’s goal up at Bolton.

As Saturday nears it’s going to be tense and it’s going to be stressful.

All we can do really, is what the anthem says – keep right on.