Birmingham City Owners. Avoid Relegation, Restore Stability, and Build on Optimism. Can They Deliver?

03.04.2024 10:21:36 Adam England
Birmingham City FC v Preston North End ticket
  • Even with Easter Monday’s victory, Birmingham City are in a relegation battle yet again.
  • Gary Rowett rejoined last month as interim manager after Tony Mowbray’s medical leave.
  • The Blues were in the play-off places when former manager John Eustace was sacked and replaced by Wayne Rooney in October 2023.
  • Under Rooney, they tumbled down the table until he was sacked less than three months later.

 

When Jay Stansfield coolly slotted home the winning goal for Birmingham City against Preston North End in the 68th minute on Monday (1 April), the relief from everywhere in St. Andrews was palpable. 

It was the Blues’ first victory since a 2-1 win against Sunderland on 17 February, and it could prove invaluable come the end of what has been a long, hard season for the Championship’s longest-serving club. ,

 

New owners, but a similar story 

Last July, Birmingham supporters were full of optimism after Knighthead Capital Management co-founder Tom Wagner bought a controlling stake in the club and full ownership of the stadium, with Garry Cook being appointed as CEO and NFL legend Tom Brady becoming minority owner too. 

A host of new players arrived and the team was in the play-off places come October after successive wins against Huddersfield Town and West Bromwich Albion, but then manager John Eustace was sacked to make way for Wayne Rooney

From there, it’s fair to say that the club’s season turned into a disastrous one. After just two wins from 15 matches, Birmingham were in 20th place and Rooney was sacked. Experienced second-tier manager Tony Mowbray took his place, and for a while, it looked as though the club were getting back on the right track, but he had to step back in February to undergo medical treatment. 

His longstanding assistant, Mark Venus, took charge in his absence, but after Birmingham only picked up one point during his time in charge Gary Rowett, who’d managed the club from 2014 to 2016, has taken the reins on a temporary basis again until the end of the season. 

 

Big plans and promising signings

Wagner, Brady, and co. have got some huge plans for the club, and the city of Birmingham more generally, They’ve reportedly lined up a deal to buy a 48-acre site from Birmingham City Council with a view to building a new stadium, and they’re also looking to create a ‘sports quarter’ in the city. While they haven’t, and won’t, throw money willy-nilly like Todd Boehly at Chelsea, for example, they’re still planning on investing some serious cash.

By the time Eustace was sacked, with the team in the play-offs, the general verdict of the new signings was that they were good additions. Previous loanees Krystian Bielik and Dion Sanderson arrived on permanent deals from Derby County and Wolverhampton Wanderers respectively, while Tyler Roberts, Siriki Dembele, Koji Miyoshi, and Keshi Anderson were all seen as being solid attacking players arriving from Leeds United, AFC Bournemouth, Royal Antwerp, and Blackpool respectively, the latter two even coming for free. 

The full-back spots got revamped, too, with Ethan Laird and Lee Buchanan coming in from Manchester United and Werder Bremen, while Emanuel Aiwu, Oliver Burke, and Cody Drameh all joined on loan. The icing on top of the cake, however, was forward Jay Stansfield from Fulham, who if reports were anything to go by was wanted by about two-thirds of the league.  

That’s all well and good, and there’s been a serious plan in place for eventual promotion back to the Premier League from the start. But relegation isn’t part of that plan, and it’s looking ever more likely as the weeks go by.

 

Relegation still a real concern – again

Since Rowett took the Blues to successive tenth-placed finishes, they’ve finished 19th, 19th, 17th, 20th, 18th, 20th, and 17th. This is the eighth successive season of flirting with relegation, Birmingham relying on other teams getting points deductions, and other teams being worse than them. 

After so much discontentment with the club’s former owners, Trillion Trophy Asia, it would be ironic should this season be the one in which Birmingham finally go down. 

Nobody expected miracles from this season. Nobody expected promotion this season, or even next season. However, a bit of stability certainly wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Rowett’s first game in charge, away at Queens Park Rangers, ended in a heartbreaking last-minute defeat after Blues originally went 1-0 up. It’s fair to say that the mood among supporters was on the floor at this point, and the idea of loss against Preston three days later just didn’t bear thinking about.

Without a doubt, Birmingham have been unlucky this season. Nobody could have foreseen Mowbray needing to step away for medical treatment at such a crucial time. It goes without saying that his health and wellbeing come first, and the messages of support and goodwill from his former clubs and their supporters are a testament to his nature and his quality as a manager. 

Mowbray stopped the rot, and his January signings, in particular South Korean international Paik Seung-ho, look to be astute additions. Had he not needed to step away, Birmingham probably wouldn’t be where they are right now. 

But nobody made the club sack Eustace and bring in Rooney, the decision with which the wheels really fell off. If Blues do go down, questions need to be asked of Cook, and, in fairness, of technical director Craig Gardner too. While Eustace divided opinion among the fanbase, the prevailing view seemed to be that it would have been best to keep him around to maximise the chances of a season of stability and make a change this summer if it was felt that he wasn’t the man to take the club forward. 

Removing Eustace to bring in Mowbray directly would have been one thing, but removing him to bring in Rooney, a manager whose record at a crisis-ridden Derby wasn’t too bad, but who failed at DC United in the MLS, was almost fatal. 

It looks as if Birmingham might have just about enough to stay up, particularly with Rowett there to steady the ship, but nothing’s guaranteed yet. Avoid relegation and revamp the squad in the summer, and the project should stay on course. Go down, and things might take a little longer. 

 

 

 

Click here for our Discounted Account Offer. Access updated previews and analysis on up to 5 tournaments for 30 days.

Featured
Today on FTN
20
matches playing
7
match previews updated
0
match reports added
Editor’s Choice
?
New on our website? Get the guidance! Guided tour