The Board – a hypothesis
Now, before I start, I know that what I’m about to put forward will be contentious and is in some respects a generous interpretation of events.
However, Blues have had our best year since 2011/12 and that hasn’t happened by accident.
So, with things looking so positive, I wanted to stand back from the received wisdom about the way the club has been run and ask a controversial question – i.e. “taking things in the round, have our current owners taken us forward?”
When we think of our current owners we all understandably focus on the decisions that haven’t gone so well. Zola x 2 (hiring & not firing); Redknapp (the 2nd time); some poor and very expensive signings (Nsue, Kieta, Frei, Jenkinson, N’Doye); the size of our 2017/18 financial losses and the associated “FFP” problems. It’s fair to say that for most supporters the odd error of judgement will be forgiven (e.g. Zigic’s wages) but over the last 2½ seasons we’ve had to endure more than our fair share.
However, despite all this let’s be controversial and recognise that there have been some positives. In no particular order:
- Firing Rowett. Very contentious then, still rankles with some fans now. A very big, brave and high-risk call. But with hindsight there’s growing acceptance that it was the right one. To be fair, he did an excellent job sorting out Clark’s mess and got a very limited squad to hugely over-perform. But he was failing to move us on and allegedly lacked commitment. A good call by our owners.
- Having some vision. Now bear with me here. The Zola appointment was partly about PR and brand, partly about “sexy-football”. After showing early signs of promise, it failed quickly and miserably. The execution was terrible but the concept and the vision weren’t. A bit more luck in the first 4 or 5 games and who knows what might have been…..
- Harry (the first time). Perhaps born out of desperation and met with much derision when it was announced, it worked. Brilliantly.
- Investment. I’m not sure we’ve ever been on such an ambitious spending spree as we did in summer 2017. Carson’s only really significant signings were Zigic & Foster. Gold and Sullivan backed their managers consistently relatively well but never went OTT like TTA did that summer. Whether going OTT is good or bad remains a moot point, but the fact is they put their money up and went for it in a way we’ve never seen before.
- Dean, Colin, Pederson, Jota, Juke and Vassell. All arrived as a result of the board’s investment.
- A better (but still not brilliant) financial outlook. Hard to be sure of the details, but this season’s wage bill has been significantly reduced and the ongoing goalkeeper situation proves that there is a determination to cut it further. On a fag-packet (and somewhere on SHA some time ago) I estimated that the wages of our current playing squad are in the region of £17M a year. This would be about 80% of turnover – a huge improvement on last season and not too far from where it should be. Now it may be that this hasn’t been the board’s doing and has been mandated by the EFL as part of our FFP restrictions. Nonetheless it does appear that the board have been trying (perhaps a little belatedly) to stay within the FFP limits and didn’t ignore them entirely (unlike QPR did and Villa appear about to).
- Saved the best ’til last. Garry Monk. I don’t recall us having a better manager and I’ve been going since Jim Smith was in charge!
I’m not saying we should all change our view and suddenly start believing that this board is wonderful. Their financial decisions and player recruitment strategy in the summer of 2017 are of particular concern as they jeopardise the club itself, never mind any FFP sanctions we might get. But what I am saying is that there’s a flip-side. Are we better than we were in autumn 2016? Yes. We have a far stronger squad & manager and genuine positivity about our league chances.
Only time will tell whether the financial gamble’s been worth it and whether our newly found prudence will endure, but for the time-being let’s at least give a tiny bit of credit where it’s due and enjoy the on-field improvement while it lasts.