Steve Cotterill and the Poisoned Chalice

4 Mar 2018 | 9 comments

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The title of this article might sound a bit like a Harry Potter novel and Birmingham City could certainly do with a magic wand right now.

Following the sacking of Steve Cotterill, there has inevitably been an explosion of news articles about whether he should have been appointed, about poor player recruitment by the club, overpaid players leading to dressing room unrest, failure to recruit in the January transfer window, Financial Fair Play issues, poor decision-making by the Owners, bad advice from the Board’s advisors, naivety/lack of football knowledge in the Board Room, disagreements at Board level.

The toxic atmosphere which appeared to exist within the club at the time of his appointment and subsequently would probably have challenged many managers. In these circumstances, how did he perform? Although it took a while, he did seem to bring some semblance of unity to the squad. Also, after a lot of experiments with players in different positions and formations (which frustrated many Blues fans), he found a winning formula, and during the immediate post-Christmas period got us clear of the relegation zone.

The margin between success and failure is thin. The loss of 2 or 3 players through injury/suspension over the last few games seems to have unbalanced the team and has probably led to a reduction in quality. With a squad that is still unbalanced and wafer-thin on confidence and quality-in-depth, that was sufficient to turn the tide.

Was Cotterill tactically naïve? Not entirely, although I would not always have agreed with his selections, substitutions and tactics (too defensive?) – but every fan will have their opinion. In the end, for a while he did put a winning team together.

Was he a good man manager – in the early days, some performances seemed to suggest that the players were not motivated (at Hull and Millwall). However, he took over a dressing room in disarray and in the end I think the players were certainly playing for him. They were shattered yesterday and my sense was that the fans recognised this.

As an individual, although he spoke a lot of words in press conferences and was not always concise in what he said, he came across as passionate, dedicated, and wanted to succeed. I believe he tried to be honest with the players and fans, although perhaps he wasn’t able to build a rapport with the fans. Building a rapport is always likely to be more difficult when the team is not winning. I also think he tried to deflect the criticism of the players onto himself, which is why he ended up taking a lot of ‘flak’.

As the visible ‘face’ of the club, I believe Steve Cotterill also took the ‘flak’ for the real culprits who have created the recent problems at the club, namely the Owners, the Board, and their advisors. Although he hinted at the problems, he always maintained a tactful silence on the details. It is interesting how all these people kept their head ‘below the parapet’ and let him take the ‘flak’.

Is this article a defence of Steve Cotterill? No, it is an attempt to look objectively at the challenges he faced, and to put some perspective on his tenure as manager.

I believe Steve Cotterill is an honourable man who did his best in difficult circumstances. His managerial career is a mixture of successes and failures, like virtually all football managers. This is why I hope he doesn’t feel too damaged by his experience of managing our club, and that he has success in the future.

Richard Stanley

Blues Trust

9 Comments

  1. Simon Ward

    Carsley was manager v Hull.

    Fans have their part to play regarding the atmosphere. Garry Monk may not be a stellar appointment but what do we expect given the current shambles?

    A quick scan of the chat forums and you can already start to see a negative and abusive attitude regarding Monk. It must be kept in check

  2. dave butler

    watched him throughout yesterdays game, subdued, very rarely got out of the dugout, probably new the bl….n obvious, everyone else knew… he was not targeted by the away section, it was more of a case of ” lets get today,s game over, if we get anything then that,s a bonus ” sort of an atmosphere.
    only criticism was his usual reluctance to make a change when we were behind..
    i came away thinking ah well, he never learnt.

  3. Sausage n egg

    This clown should never have been anywhere near the club it’s a sad reflection that this is what the club has become under people who know more about rice than football

    • Dave

      Fried or boiled?

  4. Dave

    Steve cotterill walked into the perfect storm that is Birmingham city Fc.

  5. pamela allsopp

    He had the look and air of a defeated man ever since he was unable to get players in the January window. It has since become apparent this was because of the realisation by the hierarchy of the pending FFP decision.He was clearly sold down the river. However, he was also his own worst enemy. His refusal to play people in their best positions, to continually select players who needed to be dropped, his stubbornness to continue with one player up front when we so desperately needed goals, and the ridiculous tactic of passing back to the goalkeeper.I am sorry the way this has come about, but we are unsure at the moment how this was decided; but with time running out, the club HAD to get a replacement ready to take over. How on earth they could have asked the players for their opinions when they have been equally responsible for our demise, is beyond me. I am curious to know who may have advised them on the pending appointment of Gary Monk which on the surface looks GOOD.. I for one am happy, and have a feeling this could be good for us. KRO.

  6. RichardW

    Sadly in post match interviews he came across as hapless and inarticulate. Brucey had the gift of holding his hands up when it was necessary and nothing endeared him more to the fans. Ultimately the results were not good enough.

  7. ADowning

    I feel we have a chance now, the system we have been playing doesn’t create nor score many goals. If Adams had played alongside Gallagher in a 4.4.2 with perhaps Joata on the wing we may of got something. We looked better in the final 15 mins or so when we brought Juke on but surely Adams is our main goal threat.

  8. Roy Smith

    Although I think he was far too negative, just look at the shots on goal statistics, I do feel that he was faced by a virtually impossible situation. An unbalanced squad, frankly abysmal performances by far too many players far too many times and bad luck with injuries. Having said that I do feel a large number of fans were never onboard with his appointment and that said he could have been a little more diplomatic. If I remember correctly many years ago Tom Ross said Cotterill was the most arrogant man he had ever met and perhaps some of his unwillingness to compromise reflects that.

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