Lowest scorers in the Football League, five managers in 16 months and over £33 million of debt – Monk has a tough task to save Blues from League One
15 March ~ From the press box at the Reebok Stadium, Colin Tattum, a respected reporter for the Birmingham Mail and a supporter of the club he covered, gave a stirring address. Birmingham City had just survived relegation to League One courtesy of Paul Caddis’ dramatic late equaliser. The celebrations behind the goal were as chaotic as you would imagine.
Once the euphoria had died down, Tattum delivered a sobering message which was featured on the Mail’s website. As the standard of local sports journalism has declined in the era of clickbait and list articles, this was something of rare worth. An impassioned appeal on behalf of a club being dragged down by Carson Yeung, an absentee owner found guilty of money laundering in his home country.
“It’s been a horrid season, a horrible season. Never again. The powers-that-be need to sort things out. On the pitch, off the pitch. Never again flirt with League One.” Tattum was visibly emotional at the end. Four years on and, after brief respite under Gary Rowett, for the second season running Blues look like they will be fighting to avoid relegation from the Championship up until the final day.
Different owners are now in place in the form of Trillion Trophy Asia, although those bankrolling the club remain in the shadows. The recently appointed Garry Monk is our fifth manager in 16 months. A once rather stable and cautious club are now anything but. The latest accounts showed that our losses have trebled from the previous year, with a gross debt of £33.4 million owed to parent company Birmingham Sports Holdings Ltd.
In pursuit of promotion, Gianfranco Zola, Harry Redknapp and Steve Cotterill have come and gone. The more money that has been spent, the further that target has retreated from view. There’s little sense of identity about Blues these days and an undercurrent of despair at how things have been handled. After a lot of rushed and reckless recruitment in the previous two transfer windows, Cotterill was unable to bring anyone else in.
The squad ostensibly has more quality than it once did but now lacks in the character and unity that once compensated for its technical shortcomings. Stories of a divided dressing room have become commonplace. An unwieldy mix of players signed for different purposes, and by different regimes, has struggled to come together as one.
Blues are the lowest scorers in the Football League and goals sometimes seem impossible to come by. A run of five consecutive defeats spelled the end for the unpopular Cotterill and Monk has so far been unable to arrest the slide, losing to promotion challengers Middlesbrough and Cardiff City in his first two games. Performances have been better but points are desperately needed. This weekend’s visit of Hull City, who have improved recently to pull clear of trouble, is massive.
The clear-out of the coaching staff, and recruitment advisers Jeff Vetere and Darren Dein, which accompanied Cotterill’s departure at least augurs well for the future. Monk has insisted on a clean slate and being surrounded by his own team, with no interference. He speaks well about the challenge he’s inherited and could be a decent long-term choice, but nobody is looking any further ahead than the next nine games.
Off the field, matters feel as confused as ever. Trillion Trophy Asia’s intentions are unclear and information coming out of the club is closely guarded. For all his previously aired frustrations, in a classic case of poacher turned gamekeeper, Tattum is now in charge of media and communications. It’s tempting to wonder what he feels about Blues’ current situation. Sean Cole