Harry Redknapp has been exasperated by slow transfer activity which has hindered Blues’ start, but there should be no repeat of last year’s relegation struggle
17 August ~ There was a revealing moment towards the end of Birmingham City’s eminently forgettable 0-0 draw with Bolton Wanderers on Tuesday. Seemingly innocuous, it said a great deal. Looking to switch the play in pursuit of an opening, Maikel Kieftenbeld instead sent the ball hurtling into touch ten yards behind its intended target. Harry Redknapp looked on forlornly. For a manager who’s accustomed to working at the top level, the lack of quality on show was damning.
Much as he may despise the wheeler dealer tag, it understandably defines Redknapp’s career and his current frustration at a shortage of signings has come as no surprise. The season has only just started but it already feels like Blues face a crucial couple of weeks. If the club are serious about challenging for promotion, as the appointment of Redknapp seemed to signal, then reinforcements are desperately needed before the transfer window closes.
The current squad is solid but nothing more. Although not helped by a spate of injuries picked up in our opening three games, most notably to the tricky Che Adams, there are clear weaknesses. We are sorely missing creativity in midfield and a cutting edge up front. While the market for attacking players has been distorted by big-spending clubs, and value is undeniably hard to find, Redknapp’s exasperation with the director of football, Jeff Vetere, and agent Darren Dein has been barely concealed all summer.
The early additions of David Stockdale, Marc Roberts and Cheikh N’Doye gave us a good platform on which to build but progress has slowed ever since. Redknapp has never been shy about his desire to bring in new players, but most supporters hope that we don’t end up saddled with ageing former stars on big contracts. It’s been a theme throughout his previous roles and one we can ill afford. The response to being linked with Stewart Downing, Ashley Cole and Robbie Keane among others was lukewarm at best.
Crowds are up on last season and, providing at least a couple more additions are made, there is excitement about the prospect of competing at the top end of the table. It’s nice to feel hopeful again after a period of constrained finances and ambitions. If we’re serious about doing well then theoretically we should be beating Burton Albion on Friday (The most trusted betting sites will offer odds for the match), but we all know that football doesn’t work like that.
Currently pointless after three straight defeats, Burton will be keen to make amends. Last season saw the first ever competitive meetings between the two sides following their remarkable rise up the divisions. They deservedly won both games 2-0, with victory at St Andrew’s in April bringing an end to Gianfranco Zola’s brief but disastrous tenure as manager. After a run of two wins from 24 games in all competitions, he stepped down as another insipid defeat left us just outside the bottom three.
Burton’s success, in avoiding relegation with relative ease on the division’s lowest budget, was a reminder of what can be achieved with hard work, unity and a clear sense of purpose. In contrast, our struggle to stay up on goal difference having been on the edge of the play-offs when Gary Rowett was sacked, demonstrated exactly the opposite. We lurched desperately from one approach to another but have inadvertently stumbled on something that might work. Sean Cole