And so, Blues prepare to go once more unto the breach in the Championship. Once more, a promising end to the campaign has dissolved into another pre-season fog of apprehension, if not quite the dumpster fire of last year.
At least we’ve had a chance to breathe and take stock of the apprehensive final few weeks of last season and the sort of run-in to which we’ve become all too accustomed.
Blues simply have to stop doing this. For all that, surviving a relegation run-in is good for the soul; the attrition of it is not. It demeans and undermines the club, makes good players and managers think twice and bad reputations are difficult to shake.
Four years ago at Bolton, after the wildest celebrations in living memory had died down, we all said this must never happen again, that Blues must aim higher than a final day reprieve from English football’s third tier.
But again it happened. 2016/17 witnessed some spectacular decision making and an equally spectacular collapse. Blues nearly fell through the Championship trapdoor on the final day, with only the late appointment of Harry Redknapp helping them to cling on.
Redknapp had barely finished his celebratory lap of honour before he began drawing up his transfer plans and promising us a team to be proud of. But all too soon similar patterns of error emerged. Nobody knew who was in charge of recruitment. Players came and went without any semblance of long term strategy. Blues bet the bank on a promotion charge that was snuffed out before the final last-minute cheque was even signed. Redknapp found himself in a situation he didn’t expect and didn’t fancy and conveniently got the boot before the chaos really began.
Come winter Blues found themselves bottom of the second tier, for the first time in over 20 years.
Once more the Board were forced to act or die, and once more, fortunately, they made the right call. Garry Monk and his team did an excellent job, bridging a divide between fans and players and setting things up nicely for the following term.
And breathe. It absolutely goes without saying that Blues must buck the trend this season, put some structures in place and look to stabilise. It would be foolish to the point of stupidity to keep relying on late interventions and last minute escapes.
We have had ample opportunities to digest difficult lessons in the last five years and still we cannot be convinced that they have been learned. Again, the positivity of that superb end of season run and the manager’s wise words about putting lasting structure in place have lost their lustre after another pre-season mired in painful transfer difficulty and poor communication from within the club itself.
It’s fair to say that the best-run clubs have a clear plan, a series of realistic objectives achievable through incremental improvement. A template against which to measure progress and success; be that number of players promoted to the youth team, number of players sold on for profit or an increase in bums on seats. There are short, medium and long term goals, and a sensible idea of how to reach them.
It is unrealistic to think that Blues will ever have the billion-dollar spending power of some of the Clubs traditionally considered our peers and rivals, so we must be careful and not bet beyond our means on the gamble of promotion. Short-term solutions run the risk of disappointment and disaster.
We can’t spend our way to success, but we are a big club in a big city with a raw supporter base rivalled by few others. We need a plan, a road map for not only this year and next, but for the decade and decades to come. An idea of what we realistically want from our football club.
The Trust has wondered for some time whether it’s time to start thinking about things in a different way.
What should Blues look like as we approach the club’s 150th Anniversary in seven years time? What’s important to us as fans? What does success look like?
We need to find out what sort of club we want Blues to be.
In order to achieve that, we need to have an idea of where we want to go to, and we need to work together to get there.
That’s why the Trust wants to ask you, the loyal supporters, to help us shape a vision for Blues fit for 2025. We want the fans to own an idea of what sort of Club they believe Blues should be and to communicate this to the owners.
Of course, they are not beholden to do anything for or because of the fans. But Blues fans have accepted far too much in recent years. We can sit on our hands or we can at very least have our say, define what it is that we want, and make those recommendations to the powers that be. It is time to at least have our say.
The survey will launch soon via this website. Please promote it through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram; through WhatsApp and YouTube and Snapchat, talk about it in the offices and pubs and in the stands. We need as many responses as possible to make something of this and are counting on your help.
We’ll collect your thoughts over the season ahead and then look to publish the results for both fans and owners.
Now it’s down to you to help us: help us produce a Blueprint for the future. Blueprint 2025.