An opportunity for change
Lee Bowyer became Blues’ eighth manager in 5 seasons last week, to much acclaim, following the departure of Aitor Karanka. In his interviews he has stressed that he was wanting to build for the longer term rather than just sort out the immediate problems.
In several ways he starts in a much better position than Karanaka did. For a start he’s got 10 games this season to actually see the players and work with them to evaluate who he wants to keep, who he wants to let go and where the team needs strengthening. Then he will have a full transfer window and a full pre-season to condition the team ahead of next season. Secondly, he seems – from the outside anyway – to be less encumbered by being in ‘partnership’ with Blues CEO, Xuandong Ren, and ‘the project’. One of the enduring characteristics of Karanka’s time as Blues coach was his continuing references to the strong partnership he had with Blues’ chief executive. How much influence or input Ren had we may never know – but the club’s transfer policy once again seemed fraught and unbalanced. Blues scouting staff appear to be still on furlough with Ren saying in his recent interview that scouting activity was now partly outsourced to companies in France and Spain.
Bowyer starts with clean slate. Whereas Karanka very much seemed a Ren appointment it is much less clear who handled the appointment of Bowyer with some press reports suggesting Birmingham Sport Holdings chairman Zhao Wenqing was directly involved. Bowyer is also in a powerful position – the club (surely) cannot afford to lose another coach and he appears to be less dependent on the Chief Executive than his immediate predecessors. Arguably – following his close ties with the failed Karanka appointment – Ren’s influence is currently reduced presenting an opening to start reshaping important aspects of the club. At Charlton Bowyer forged a reputation as someone who was determined and independently minded. As the senior football person in the club Bowyer has the opportunity in his early days, not just to coach the current team, but to try and influence the wider football side of the club – how transfer policy will be handled, what the long-term scouting set up should be and how the academy should develop. In the end its how these elements develop just as much as his coaching skills which will probably determine his long-term success at the club. It is to be hoped that the senior management at the club give him the opportunity to influence and shape the wider football side of the club as he sees fit.
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