BCFC: The New Boss

On Thursday afternoon Birmingham City announced that they had appointed Chris Davies as First Team Manager on a four-year contract. The announcement ended what felt like an extraordinarily long recruitment process to replace Tony Mowbray, who was forced to step down due to his continuing ill health.

St Andrew's vs Blackburn

As one can imagine, there is going to be a metric ton of content about the new appointment from blogs, podcasts and the press itself.

Rather than try to give insight into what Davies brings to the club or to give my opinion on his appointment, I wanted to look at the process as a whole, what it shows about the culture of the club under Knighthead and what this could mean for the future.

The Process

One of the things that stood out to me from the announcement confirming Davies’ appointment as Blues boss was the sheer number of coaches looked at and spoken to.

His appointment ends a robust search by the Club which saw close to 1,000 coaches being evaluated and more than 40 being spoken to directly or through their representatives.

There had been a lot of talk around about how Blues were going about recruiting a new boss; new Academy Technical Director Mike Rigg was rumoured to be part of a group at the club using data-driven methods to find the exact coach they wanted.

The way football has gone in recent years one would expect there to be some data analysis as part of the process, but to go through nearly 1,000 coach profiles is fairly mind-blowing.

I’m intrigued as to how this was done.

While I know that clubs will have their own databases on players as well as using scouting services like Wyscout, I honestly don’t know if there is that level of data on coaches available in the same way.

Part of me hopes that Blues have followed the route of teams like Brighton and Hove Albion and have worked on building a database of managers and coaches to facilitate succession planning and continuation of style.

I’m also hopeful that this is proof that Tom Wagner and Knighthead have truly learned from the mistakes of last season with regards to managerial appointments and have done what they can to ensure that it will never happen again.

Wagner also name checked Tom Brady in the announcement for his “support and involvement” in the recruitment process.

I can’t imagine Brady has a deep knowledge of football coaches and as such I have to believe that his involvement was more from a holistic perspective.

I know that there had been complaints about a lack of “winning mentality” last season and it’s my hunch that Wagner and co have been looking for a coach who can instil a better playing mentality than was served up at times last season.

It’s also good to see that Knighthead understand that data can only really take you so far in football; that sometimes things have to pass the sniff test.

Speaking to more than 40 prospective hires or their intermediaries says to me that the board wanted to make sure that they got the widest possible view of who might come on board.

What is most impressive of all is that the whole process remained pretty much secret until the last 24 hours when the deal was almost done. With so many potential people involved, this was some achievement by the club.

The Silence

There is no denying it, the announcement was a long time coming. I try to be patient when it comes to things like this but even I was starting to get antsy at the start of this week that the process had taken so long.

On the social media and forums I saw, there was a fair number of people who were getting more and more agitated as time moved on.

Part of the reason for the agitation was the lack of information coming out about the process. Blues absolutely locked down any leaks on what was happening and as such the number of cryptic gifs and ITK tweets was minimal.

That lack of gossip had a negative effect on some people who confused the lack of talk from the club as inaction.

It also showed up some of the football gossip sites and journalists out there for what they are.

Only one person I can think of correctly identified Chris Davies as a coach we could be interested in hiring and that was my friend Matthew Elliott from the We Are Birmingham podcast.

It also makes me wonder if part of the recruitment process for the new manager was getting a handle on which agents and intermediaries were leakier than others.

In my experience, a lot of gossip that is out there on the internet about football clubs comes from things agents have passed on.

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that some stories were planted by the club in the football ecosystem to see where they ended up; it’s the kind of thing I would do if I was trying to see where info went.

Looking to the future, I think that this new tightened up Blues is something we’re going to have to get used to.

Towards the end of last season, it was clear that the club were doing everything that they could to lock down how information got out, with a fair degree of success.

As someone who is outside both the mainstream media and confines of the official supporter groups, that containment of information will definitely make things more challenging writing this blog in the future.

And while I agree with the club that it’s not the worst idea for everyone to keep gossip to a minimum, I think there also has to be a realisation from within that it’s important for there to be independent voices talking about what the club is doing with the ability to constructively criticise.

The Future

Now Davies is in place, one would think that the club will get on with things like announcing season ticket prices and revealing next year’s home kit.

The first month or two for Davies should be a nice honeymoon period with players being brought in and a full pre-season to start imparting his ideas and methods to players.

Yet there can be no denying that expectation levels for the season ahead are going to be sky high.

For many fans, promotion is going to be seen as the bare minimum. I would expect that the board feel the same, particularly if they truly believe that the club needs to instil a winning mentality.

Make no mistake, this is a bold appointment which confirms that the board do not want to try the safe route with a known “name”.

And while it’s all very cool right now, I think it’s important that we as fans do not start panicking the second something appears to be not right.

Last season was a horror show for all kinds of reasons, but one of the big ones was the procession of people in the manager seat.

I’m not going to deny that the appointment of Wayne Rooney was ill-judged and ill-timed; however, I’m still disappointed by the number of fans who gave him grief before a ball was kicked and who were itching for his sacking almost immediately.

While I agree the board did the right thing in removing Rooney as quickly as they did, I think it also reinforced the perception with some fans that if things weren’t exactly as they hoped then change should be made.

Davies has to be given time to bed players in and build the style he wants them to play.

It’s imperative that he’s given the chance to succeed even if there are blips along the way – which means we may have to be patient to begin with.

Of course, the hope is that the board have unearthed a manager like Kieran McKenna at Ipswich who can grow with the club and take us not only back up to Championship but to the Premier League as well.

It will need time and patience to make that happen, both of which need to come from the board and the fans.

Although I can’t say I knew much about Chris Davies before he came to the club, the process the club have undertaken gives me confidence that he is the right man for the role.

Now it’s all done hopefully we can look forward to the club signing exciting players for him to work with and a football team we can be proud of next season.