A Love Affair In Which We Keep On Forgiving

6 May 2024 | 7 comments

In Off The Post
In Off The Post

The following article has been written by one of our Trust members.  They are the opinions of that person and not necessarily those of Blues Trust.  Would you like to contribute a discussion point of your own about Birmingham City Football Club?  If so, we would be delighted to hear from you.

Before the ink had dried on the rubber-stamping of Blues’ relegation, the club’s leadership would have been more than aware of the naivety which sent us down. While reviving an ailing company might be Knighthead’s stock in trade, breathing life into a failing football club isn’t just about investment and positive spin in the media. Those things certainly help. But, as Tom Wagner has said many times, “the product” is all-important.

While Mr Wagner has moved quickly to improve the matchday experience, that is not the product which ultimately fulfils the needs of Birmingham City fans. What happens on the pitch trumps everything from fan parks to £2 pints, much as we love them. He and his business associates have learned this the hard way this season.

The irony that we go down with ambitious new owners, ready to mortgage the farm to make us the Man City of the Midlands, while our ludicrous Chinese owners managed to keep us in the division, won’t be lost on anyone. No matter how close they came, even with the disastrous tenure of Gianfranco Zola and the Supermarket Sweep buying spree of the Cockney wide boy, we retained our Championship status.

It may well turn out to be a blessing in disguise to spend a season or two in League One getting our house in order. And developing a squad which cares more about winning than dropping a post on Instagram, or having a crafty pint when you should be keeping your body in tip-top condition for a relegation battle.

I think it’s an unnecessary and dangerous slip-up which could set us back years if we don’t get the footballing side right. But I live in hope.

If we don’t get a new stadium and sports village in the next five years but build a team which lives up to the very best ethos of our club, a side which fights until the end at places like Rotherham or Huddersfield, I’ll take that. That lack of a determined culture, that cohesive team ethic running through the squad like a stick of rock, was hinted at by Gary Rowett in his parting shots. However much money you have, you cannot buy that.

A winning DNA, a culture of defiance and a willingness to learn and improve is built from the ground up. But it is inspired from the top. And therein lies the naivety of the board and our new owners, trying to run before we had even taken baby steps towards our new future. It’s easy to get swept up in the atmosphere when you’re feted as the Messiah and everyone loves your ambition and the free pints. But it’s all about the football Tom.

We can probably buy a team capable of winning League One. However, if they come for the money they will leave for the same reason. It’s basic economics. We need to build something better and longer-lasting. We need to build something in the image of the incredible support which packed out St. Andrew’s three times to watch a team which could only produce when 25,000 fans or more demanded it.

John Eustace epitomised that commitment. His classy response to our relegation, after leading Blackburn to safety, only sought to highlight his decency and respect for our fans. And the irony of our respective fates. He deserved better treatment. What was Wayne Rooney thinking as we slipped into League One? Something less charitable would be my guess.

The big lessons for Tom Wagner, CEO Garry Cook, Craig Gardner and our wider board are about choosing the company we keep wisely, and building a team more solid than the crumbling stands they inherited. It will take time and we are all prepared to wait, as long as we see progress.

While financial investors may look to get a quick return, those fans who invest their lives into the club are happy enough with progress. We enjoy the building process as much as the finished article, and we’ll all make the best of Wycombe away and Shrewsbury at home on a dank November evening. The relationship between fan and club is like no other. It’s a love affair which repeatedly forgives the abuser if they promise to be better next time.

So let us be better from the top of the club next season. Let’s build a young and hungry team, jettison anyone who isn’t 100% committed and add a sprinkling of seasoned pros who are hungry for a last hurrah. And at a venue where they’ll be treated like Gods for 90 minutes every Saturday. I would give the Juke at least another year to help forge that new dressing room spirit. He epitomises everything good about our club.

I would much rather watch a team who will give total commitment in February on a rainy Tuesday night in Mansfield, than a team of artisans who’ll trot out a 1-0 win against a side hoping not to get injured for the play-offs, after the damage has been done. You can blame the players all you like but that spirit is dictated from the top of any successful organisation by creating good foundations at the bottom.

The fact we had a disjointed team, which ultimately didn’t have the heart to do the ugly stuff, was a product of that rush to have it all now. Get a big name in and the rest will take care of itself? It backfired spectacularly amid the ashes of “no fear” football and dressing room unrest, ultimately created by our Board. No one had heard of Kieran McKenna before last season. Look at Ipswich now.

I trust the Board to learn and to set the foundations for a proper team with the values we all want to see. It would be business suicide not to. It’s what will pack out the stands and forge a bond between the team and its fans. I think our Board knows this, and Cook and Gardner owe us one for the Rooney debacle.

So, let’s give them the opportunity to put things right, despite the road now being a little bit longer than it needed to be. We all make mistakes and Knighthead has admitted it made a whopper this season. I’m looking forward to them putting it right, in style.

Jez Hemming

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7 Comments

  1. Ed Truman

    Great piece Jez. Pretty much nails it for me. Relegation by itself is bad enough, but when you’ve given it a big helping hand by shooting yourself in the foot it is very hard to stomach. Still, it’s happened now and we are where we are so we need to trust the people in charge to put things right. My confidence in Cook has been shaken and I think the brand has been damaged, but not irreparably so, and I’m sure Tom Wagner will be as fed up as the rest of us and will demand improvement next time around. Will be interesting to see what happens with season tickets now though. Surely they can’t expect us to pay top dollar for third division football? We’ll soon find out.

    Reply
    • Jez Hemming

      Hi Ed. Thanks for commenting. I agree it will be interesting to see what the season ticket prices are for next season.
      My hunch is they will freeze them but offer an early bird discount. I’m not sure it will give them the volume of sales they would want but it wasn’t us who got the team relegated was it.
      Let’s hope there’s some quality recruitment to get us excited again.

      Reply
  2. WD

    I’m very pleased the CEO has declared they will learn lessons and that the executive will improve their performance. The commitment from the Chairman is also to be gratefully welcomed. However fine words now have to be turned into action especially on the playing side.

    As the squad undergo the many changes that are inevitable the first step is to ensure that the squad meets the requirements of the Head Coach and I really hope it remains Tony Mowbray.

    It will not be easy to get back into the Championship but the big advantage Blues have is that they will have superior finances to most other clubs in the division unlike the first time we were in the third level.

    I well remember attending a game at St. Andrews on a freezing February night in 1990 that ended 0-0 along with just over 5.000 others. Difficult to believe but the club took over 40,000 fans to Wembley for the Leyland Daf Final a few months later to see Blues lift the cup. A great thing personally was that John Gayle, who scored two of the goals, had played at Bromsgrove Rovers whom my son and myself also followed very keenly as we lived in the town.

    For those who are downcast by relegation they should take heart as there’s always another day ????????????????????????

    Reply
    • Jez Hemming

      Thanks for commenting. We’ve been here before haven’t we?
      As an interesting aside I supplied the suits to the team and management for that 1991 final. What a day that was. It really showed the potential of the club, if we could just get some success.

      Reply
  3. Mark R

    A disappointing end to a crazy season for sure, but I believe our hierarchy have already learnt from the one, albeit huge, error they made this season. The lesson therein is that whilst they are fantastic business people with wonderful aspirations for our club and our city, they need to stick to the things they are good at, and avoid making too many significant decisions on football-related matters without taking advice from knowledgable football people. The evidence that they have already learned this lesson is from their decision to appoint Tony Mowbray-a good one, and also to appoint Gary Rowett to attempt to save our season-another good one (in my opinion). So let’s draw a line under Garry Cook’s infamous decision to appoint Wayne Rooney, and let’s get behind him, and all Tom Wagner’s team, in their endeavours to make Blues the great club our fantastic fans deserve.
    Leicester City and Manchester City also dropped to the 3rd Division in recent memory, and both eventually went on to win the Premier League. With the owners we now have in place, there’s absolutely no reason why this can’t happen to Birmingham City Football Club. KRO

    Reply
    • Jez Hemming

      Hi Mark.
      Thanks for commenting and I admire your optimism. I think it was an horrendous mistake which they may come to rue, or even Roo, in the coming years.
      I think League 1 will be a difficult division, more so than people are givinmg it credit for and other clubs will see what we’re saying and raise their game.
      But, as ever, we KRO.

      Reply
  4. Mitchell Bray

    What will be an issue with Tom Wagner is the ‘limelight loss’ that league one brings. Super Stadium etc has been the talking point on all media fronts which has glossed over the footballing debacle. People are now well aware of the future off field plans for our club and this will be quickly tempered down as old news. What’s needed now is a ‘headline making’ successful football team out on the pitch- both at St.Andrews and away.

    Reply

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