Keith Dixon Author Birmingham City Football Club

THE TROY DEENEY EFFECT

When Troy signed for The Blues on 30th August 2021 the impact off the pitch was amazing, the hype was extraordinary: an auction for his Player Sponsorship package, followed by a raffle for the boots and shirt he wore on his debut.

For the first time in a long time we really had “one of own” joining the club, unlike those so called Blues fans, Hogan, Craig Gardner and his brother Gary who would take their skills to any club for the money!

Can you imagine Troy ever wearing a claret and blue shirt?

Besides all the media scramble, the facts were that we had signed a striker with Premier League experience with an impressive goal scoring record.

At the time of Troy’s signing we had played 5 games only lost one and had accumulated 8 points and the 5-0 beating of Luton Town was only a week away.

Since Troy joining the club and announcing his coaching qualifications, his captaincy credentials and his desire to buy the club we have played 6 games in which he played a part in each one, we have won one, lost 4 and drawn one thereby adding only 4 points resulting in us lying, at the time of writing, in 16th place in The Championship table 4 points off relegation and 6 points off the play-off places!

It is too much of a coincidence but has Troy’s arrival destabilised the club and the dressing room?

Having said that is it just a case of our player weaknesses and our inability to consistently play our current system are being exploited by the opposition.

There are for me some obvious ways of improving our performances:

• Don’t start Scott Hogan – he is not a natural striker and his work rate is only acceptable when his contract is up for renewal.

• When Troy is fully fit, and I believe that to be a factor, start every game with Lukas and Troy.

• Why we persist with Mark Roberts I do not know when we have George Friend available. His selection cannot be for his long throw-ins as they prove to be nothing more than heading practice for the opposition defenders. For me long throw-ins should be at pace and with a much lower trajectory! It would be sad analysis but how much game time is spent watching Roberts dry the ball regardless of the weather?

• Go back to 4-4-2 where will get the best out of Colin, Pedersen and Bela • Lee needs to have a “heart to heart” with Harlee Dean because something is wrong with his attitude.

KEEP RIGHT ON!

IT'S A DISGRACE!

On 14th August 2021 10,189 fans were allowed to attend a home fixture at St.Andrew’s for the first time since the Reading game on 7th March 2020 which was over sixteen months ago.

The match against Stoke City ended in a goalless draw, which resulted in Birmingham City being unbeaten and not conceding a goal in its first two EFL Championship games of the 2021/22 season.

In Birmingham City terms this was a good start on the pitch but the back story shows abject chaos behind the scenes regarding the safety issues in parts of the stadium. (Note for Non-Bluenoses: The stadium has four stands. The Main Stand, The Gil Merrick Stand, The Kop Stand and the Tilton Road Stand both of which have upper and lower tiers)

It was nine days before Christmas 2020 that a routine annual survey identified “corrosion within the steelwork propping up the stands known as the Tilton Road and The Kop.”

At the time the estimated cost was around six figures, which was not covered by insurance even though the stands were little more than 25 years old.

St.Andrew’s was redeveloped when David Sullivan and David Gold owned the club at the time when grounds were losing their traditional terracing. So began a six-year redevelopment programme during which the ground was converted to an all-seater stadium to comply with the Taylor Report into safety at sports grounds. Although relegation to the Third Division meant Blues were no longer bound by the Taylor Report's 1994 deadline, Sullivan continued the £4.5 million development as planned. At the time the club was quoted “The brief to the selected architects Seymour Harris Partnership, was to provide a 25,000 all-seater stadium with capacity for further expansion and an emphasis on atmosphere and flexibility. The chosen design provides a continuous flow of seats under a full cantilevered roof forming a bowl shaped amphitheatre”.

This option was never progressed as in 1993 Birmingham City Council sold the Holmes Estate, which was located immediately behind the Main Stand for the sum of £1.00 to Focus Housing (now Midland Heart), a nominal sum due to the amount of work needed to be done to improve the estate. It took £5,000,000 to upgrade the estate.

The Blues have never had an “easy” relationship with the City Council and they are the authority responsible for approving the current safety work. Approval was given to start the redevelopment early in April 1994. One problem which arose immediately was the need to remove vast quantities of contaminated material from under The Kop, which in 1906 had earned the club £800 as a rubbish tip.

Thousands of tons of earth were moved, at a cost of £250,000 - >5% of total budget), to enable three hundred piles to be driven for foundations to be laid in the first six weeks of the programme.

Maximum progress had to be made during the fast reducing daylight hours. (Note: Piles are structural supports used to support the foundations of a building. The use of piles is normally required due to the inability of the soil to support the designed foundations of a project.) Are we today suffering from the situation of 1994?

Suffering?

The Club has sold season tickets and match tickets to its supporters who were aware that seats in the Lower Kop and Lower Tilton were not available. However on Wednesday 11th August, three days before the match, it was announced that “due to an unexpected delay caused by the discovery of further repair work “ the Upper Kop and Upper Tilton seats were also not available for the first two home matches. The statement continued, “The Club is working with its contractors with the aim of re-opening these areas in time for our match with Derby County on 10th September. However we acknowledge that previous timeframes have not been met and therefore it would be irresponsible to set a final date for re-opening. Please rest assured that we will be doing everything in our power to find a swift and satisfactory solution that will allow you all back as soon as is safely possible. We understand the magnitude of the announcement and with safety remaining the Club’s priority, it is not something we have taken lightly”

What did this mean in practical terms after all the P.R. speak:

• All match tickets for the Stoke game were cancelled with a full refund

• Season ticket holders of Upper Kop and Upper Tilton were entered into a ballot for seats in the Gil Merrick and Main Stands. There are 7,311 season ticket holders and the available ballot seats are 3,346

• Those season ticket holders unsuccessful in the Stoke ballot are guaranteed a seat for the Bournemouth game on 18th August 2021.

This was another example of the owners not understanding the fans – very few of us go to the match alone, we go with either family or friends. So if a family of three season ticket holders are entered into the ballot, the chances of all three getting a seat is huge and the chances of getting three together are incalculable. Therefore if one out of the three gets a seat is he or she going to go without his or her friends? The answer explains the number of empty seats in the two stands operational.

I and two of my sons, as season ticket holders in The Main Stand, were lucky enough to be part of the crowd at the match and as we walked around the ground to get to our seats there was absolutely no visual evidence of any repair work taking place: No contractor’s sign – no bollards – no equipment, nothing!

Are we being told the truth? – watch this space!

KEEP RIGHT ON!

HOPES AND THOUGHTS FOR THE FUTURE – SEASON 2021-22

6th August 2021

Tomorrow at 20.00 hours we BLUENOSES can take our seats in Bramall Lane, Sheffield and watch our team “live” in a Championship game for the first time since the Reading home game on 7th March 2020.

What changes have happened since then?:

In the Boardroom

DONG has gone – Craig Gardner is now Technical Director and responsible for all transfer movements alongside Lee Bowyer, at least we will not have to watch him on his mobile phone in the technical area as witnessed on Blues TV several times. On a positive note we will be saving considerable sums now that the recruitment is no longer in the hands of Spanish sub-contractors.

St.Andrew’s

Ground repairs have started with no completion date in sight – this has resulted in KOP season ticket holders having to renew their KOP seats and then select an option in either the Gil Merrick or the Main Stand. My sons and I will be in Section B Row F!! With a week to go to the Stoke City fixture, postal season tickets have yet to be despatched.

Wast Hills

The Spanish influence has been massively reduced, as well as in the dugout, San Jose had his contract cancelled – so no more calamitous errors at critical times – plus Andres Prieto and Fran Villalba have left- cancelled contract and a season long loan back to Spain respectively. Lee has strengthened his coaching team with the introduction of Mark Kennedy (Assistant Head Coach), Paul Horsley (First Team Development Coach) and Andy Marshall (Goalkeeping Coach)

On the pitch

I assume they have had to fit a turnstile door on the dressing room with all the comings and goings, but some interesting acquisitions should keep our attention for at least the first few games:

Matija SARKIC on loan from Wolves – had a poor performance in the Baggies 0-4 friendly defeat

Dion SANDERSON on loan from Wolves

Ryan WOODS from Stoke City on a three year contract – impressive in the first half in the Baggies friendly

Chuks ANEKE from Charlton on a three year contract – well known to Lee B.

Jordan GRAHAM from Gillingham on a two year deal

Juan FAMILIA-CASTILLIO on loan from Chelsea

Tahith CHONG on loan from Manchester United – will he have the same impact as Jesse Lingard, who I believe was the last forward we had on loan from Old Trafford

Off the pitch

St.Andrew’s enters the cashless world which has the benefit of the TAPPIT queues no longer being in force.

Congratulations to Ian Dutton and his commercial team for bringing back PUKKA pies!

With two ex-Blues players in charge of the playing side of the club I am optimistic about the season – optimism defined as “mid-table security” The signings vastly improve the overall squad which still contains some anomalies in the form of Adam Clayton and Sam Cosgrove.

KEEP RIGHT ON!

END OF SEASON 2020-2021 REVIEW

Mixed emotions this season as we did not have the excitement of a last day relegation battle still the fact that we were safe with two games to go meant we were able to learn something about our new manager:

a) He will give players a chance to show off their worth to the club

b) Statistics are unimportant to him – with two defeats against Cardiff and Blackburn meant he ended his 10 match tenure at St.Andrew’s with a 50% win ratio

c) His family is his priority as witnessed by his return home due to his wife being ill last Saturday.

My prediction at the end of March, that we would end the season with 43 points was a little off the mark as that points total would have seen us relegated!

Going back to BOWYER giving players a chance to show their worth to the club, I feel the selection of COSGROVE and LEKO to start against Blackburn Rovers was proof of this but their double substitution at half-time suggests to me that their time at Blues in the future will only be as fringe players until their contracts end. For me neither of them has shown any value for the transfer fees paid.

On the subject of contracts ending we have the following players out of contract on 31st May 2021:

CLARKE-SALTER – SEDDON – VALERY – DACRES-COGLEY – HARPER – TORAL – HALILOVIC and BOYD-MUNCE For me I would retain SEDDON and HALILOVIC and let the rest go, along with CLAYTON (one year left) and MCGREE

This would reduce the squad from 28 to 20 which will give BOWYER some scope to bring in new players?

Of the 9 goals scored during BOWYER’s reign, three were scored by defenders: DEAN, ROBERTS and PEDERSEN – the goal celebrations have been a joy to watch particularly DEAN’s when he mocked KARANKA’s lack of enthusiasm?

There was a great interview with FRIEND, newly elected PFA committee member, on BLUESTV on Saturday in which he told about the dressing room’s positive atmosphere after a win. Apparently he is in charge of the music and the song that is the victory anthem is TOTO’s “HOLD THE LINE”

Good to see BOWYER nominated for EFL Manager of the Month and DEAN nominated for EFL Player of the Month – let’s hope they win their categories!

Our form over the last five games (including two when we did not field our strongest side) would have put us in 10th place – there I go clutching at straws again!

For next season I hope for a mid-table finish, the Kop and Tilton Road stands open for the fans’ return and a stable financial ownership which will provide the platform for the BOWYER BOUNCE to continue through to May 2022

KEEP RIGHT ON!

MARCH 21 REVIEW

So here we are 21st in The Championship three points ahead of Rotherham United who have four games in hand.

March 2021 saw The Blues play 5 games, win 1, draw 1 and lose 3 and score 3 goals whilst conceding 9 which had one positive outcome which was the removal of Aitor Karanka as manager.

The appointment of Lee Bowyer bodes well for the future as he is “one of our own”

Below is an article which I have submitted for inclusion in the next edition of the LATE TACKLE magazine which sums up my feelings on Lee’s appointment:

“The appointment of Lee Bowyer to the position of Head Coach of Birmingham City Football Club has filled the hearts of all Bluenoses with optimism for the future.

Because of the nature of the history of The Blues , the fans always give a newly appointed manager every chance to prove his worth and let’s face it we have had plenty of practice, as Lee is our eighth managerial appointment since October 2016 the previous seven surviving an average of six months each.

But this time it’s different because Lee is “one of our own” and that’s important as the history books confirm.

We have had seven managers since 1875 who have both played and managed the club on a full-time basis – ARTHUR TURNER – GIL MERRICK – GARRY PENDREY - TREVOR FRANCIS – STEVE BRUCE – GARY ROWETT and now LEE BOWYER.

Why is this important?

Because if you match the limited successes associated with Birmingham City then it happens when we are managed by “One of our own”

Under Arthur Turner, who managed the club from 1954 to 1958 we won the Second Division (now Championship) in 1954-55 season, got to the F.A. Cup Final in 1956 and achieved our highest top division finish of 6th – a record which still stands today.

Gil Merrick’s tenure from 1960 to 1964 saw The Blues beat local rivals Aston Villa over two legs to win the Football League Cup in 1963, he also led us into Europe where we made two Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Final appearances in 1960 and 1961 losing both to Barcelona and Roma respectively.

Next was Trevor Francis, our longest serving manager overseeing 290 matches, who took us to the Worthington Cup Final in 2001 and three successive Play-Off Semi-Finals.

Inheriting Trevor Francis’ squad was Steve Bruce who got us the long awaited promotion to The Premiership.

Only Gary Rowett and Garry Pendrey failed to bring success to St.Andrew’s during their spells of 106 and 98 matches respectively, indeed Garry took us into Division Three in May 1989.

With a club like Birmingham City there is one constant; and that is the fact that we are a working-class club which is important to the local community, which is the major commercial and industrial centre of the West Midlands.

You cannot describe it, you have to feel it. All the above managers have played for the club and therefore understand that special connection with the fans, I can’t prove it but I would bet we have won most of our games throughout the years playing towards the Tilton Road Stand in the second half, the atmosphere is electric and intimidating.

So whatever your opinion of Lee Bowyer and his various misdemeanours no one can dispute his passion for the game and his intense dislike of the taste of defeat.

On the website www.coachesvoice.com he states “since I retired from playing ... the one thing about me that will never change is how I feel after a defeat. As a player, it always took me a few days to get over it, and I’m the same now (as a manager)”

His first game as Head Coach saw a home victory against a Reading side vying for a Play-Off place. What we saw was a team playing a system which emphasised the qualities of the players who were energetic and committed.

This was from the same players that had delivered in Karanka’s 38 games a 50% loss rate. What was the difference?

Lee had, in less than 48 hours, made them believe in themselves reaffirming that they are good players and that they can succeed if they play for the team and work hard. He also gave the players a system which they could operate i.e. 4-4-2 reinstating the upfront partnership of Hogan and Jutkiewicz. A side benefit of that decision was that Lukas scored his 50th goal for The Blues and the smiles on the player’s faces were the best seen on Sky Sports in a long time.

It’s worth remembering that during Lee’s 81 game playing career he won a Carling League Cup Winner’s medal when we beat Arsenal 2-1 in 2011

He brings with him from Charlton Athletic a manager’s win ratio of 40.8% from his 157 matches

Compare that to the other “one of our own” managers: Trevor Francis 47.9% Arthur Turner 44.6% Gary Rowett 39.6% Steve Bruce 37% Gil Merrick 31.7% Despite Garry Pendrey only achieving a win ratio of 20.4% it’s worth remembering that Gianfranco Zola achieved 8.3%!!!

Can we survive in The Championship?

I do not know but at least we know we will not fail due to a lack of effort and commitment which is all any supporter of any team wants.”

In my opinion the final eight games of the season should see us secure 5 points with a win against Rotherham United and draws against Forest and Derby which would result in us ending the season with 43 points. Rotherham, on the other hand. have twelve games remaining and I can only see them getting three points via draws against Huddersfield, Coventry and Luton. Their run-in includes games against Millwall, Middlesbrough, Barnsley, Brentford, Blackburn and Cardiff for which it is difficult to see them gaining anything.

So my prediction as an optimistic Bluenose is that we will finish the season on 43 points with Rotherham ending up with 38 points. Fingers crossed!!!

Yesterday it was revealed that St.Andrew’s, valued at £20.6m, has been sold, with BIRMINGHAM SPORTS HOLDINGS selling its remaining 75% stake in BIRMINGHAM CITY STADIUM LIMITED to Ms Kang Ming Mong of the British Virgin Isles company, ACHIEVER GLOBAL GROUP LIMITED for £10.8m.

They will receive £1.25m/annum rental income from the club. The remaining 25% of BCSL is held by VONG PECH of ORIENTAL RAINBOW INVESTMENTS who is the major shareholder of BCFC which is wholly owned by BIRMINGHAM CITY PLC.

The board of BIRMINGHAM SPORTS HOLDINGS is: Zhao Wenging (Chair) Huang Dongfeng (CEO) Chin Kong, Hshao Chang Geng and Dr. Gui Honglin (Executive Directors) Sue Ka Lok (Non-Executive Director) and Pun Chi Ping, Ms Leung Pik Har.Christine and Yeung Chi Tat (Independent Non-Executive Directors)

SOME IMPRESSIVE “SCRABBLE” SCORES?

With such an impressive line-up of Directors it is hard to understand why the club is in such difficult circumstances.

Our CEO has made more mistakes, on a regular basis, than the Metrological Office.

The Chair is “locked” in Birmingham because of COVID-19 travel restrictions but at least he had, reportedly, the sense to get rid of KARANKA (still no official club statement on the reason for his departure?)

We are massively in debt due to poor decisions (by Dong) in terms of recruiting average managers who left with above average pay-offs and ineffective transfer deals leading in 2017-18 (Redknapp’s reign) to a total annual wage bill of £38m.

The lack of working capital creates concern about the £1m required to get the Kop and Tilton Road stands back to a safe enough condition to allow the fans’ return.

The atmosphere at both Small Heath and Wast Hills must be toxic with long-standing employees leaving for the reason described by Richard Beale, who was part of the development of Nathan Redmond and Demarai Gray, as he was “not willing to sit back and let what was happening happen”

Richard’s departure meant he joined Julia Shelton, Ciara Gallagher (Julia’s replacement as club secretary), Paul Robinson (Under 18s coach), Colin Tattum (Media & Communications), Rita (Manager’s secretary for decades!), Richard Lloyd (Finance) and Kristjaan Speakman (Academy Manager and Sporting Director (Designate) ) leaving the club.

Recruitment staff have been furloughed for over a year and scouting has been outsourced to companies in France and (surprise, surprise) Spain!

Never before have we had to acknowledge those words “Though the way be long let your hearts beat strong.......”

Hopefully Bowyer is given the opportunity and time to prove his worth by our current owners because the complex organisation created by BSH has made it very hard for any potential new owner to assess the value of the overall business.

KEEP RIGHT ON!

FEBRUARY '21 UPDATE

What a depressing month February was, for Birmingham City Football Club and that’s before we talk about football.

Reports have it that approximately £1m is required to bring The Kop and Tilton stands up to the required safety standards before we are allowed back by the “Blonde with no comb”

It would seem from the latest accounts issued that we have reduced our debt due to BIRMINGHAM SPORTS HOLDINGS through the “add-on” fees linked to the transfer of JUDE BELLINGHAM and CHE ADAMS.

In an interview with Richard Wilford on RADIO WM, our erstwhile CEO, Xuandong announced that we would lose £6m this financial year, which as you can imagine did not enhance his reputation with the HKSE (Hong Kong Stock Exchange).

I understand the statement was later retracted as an error and in fact after all the machinations of our accountants we will make a surplus this financial year.

 

Aitor Karanka has failed to increase his reputation with us Bluenoses with a February ’21 performance of 7 games played, 4 lost, 1 drawn and 2 victories scoring 5 goals whilst conceding 10 in amassing 7 points.

Whilst he has yet to finalise his best starting eleven he now seems settled on our best starting formation – we started February with a 4-3-3 formation which has switched to a 4-1-4-1 on five occasions other than the 5-3-2 away at Millwall.

Back to the starting line-up issue, in February he used 17 different players with only ETHERIDGE, DEAN, PEDERSEN and GARDNER starting all seven fixtures.

SANCHEZ, BELA, SUNJIC, HOGAN and COLIN featured six times so he is getting close to a regular selection:

ETHERIDGE

COLIN – DEAN – ANO – PEDERSEN

SUNJIC SANCHEZ – GARDNER - ANO – BELA

HOGAN

It would seem that FRIEND and TORAL have fallen out of favour – COSGROVE is something of a mystery?

VALERY clearly has a clause in his loan contract stating that he must play a certain number of games per month.

SAN JOSE is a liability and for me does not have an athletic body or persona.

HALILOVIC looks an asset and has now played a full 90 minutes!

So I would suggest that HALILOVIC could fill the vacancy in midfield and, I can’t believe I am saying this, but ROBERTS in the back four mainly due to his crossing and goal scoring ability!!!

Look out for LATE TACKLE magazine out this week which features an article celebrating the 65th Anniversary of our 1956 FA Cup Final appearance.

I could do with some help on my next article which is loosely called “EX-BLUES PLAYERS CURRENTLY IN THE PREMIER LEAGUES OF ENGLAND, GERMANY AND SPAIN”

I’ve got ten players but I need another defender to go in with BARTLEY – BURN and DANN?

KEEP RIGHT ON!

END OF JANUARY '21 REVIEW

Let’s start in the Boardroom where XUANDONG REN was fined £7.5k by the F.A. for abusing officials. As you know I like to broaden the appeal of my blog.....so 辱骂,侮辱和不当行为 Rǔmà, wǔrǔ hé bù dàng xíngwéi which means “abusive, insulting and improper” in Manadrin/Chinese.

Currently we are 20th in The Championship with 27 points, 4 points off the relegation and zone and a massive 16 points off the play off places.

At least we can concentrate on survival as we were knocked out of the F.A. Cup in the 3rd Round by Manchester City.

Part of our problem was clearly demonstrated by the actions of the two managers in their technical areas when the score was 3-0. – Pep Guardiola was full of emotion still driving his team onwards with lots of encouragement whilst Aitor Karanka just stood there!

In the five January games we have scored twice and taken only three points. I would imagine Aitor is delighted that he is managing the team in front of empty seats otherwise he and DONG would know exactly how we Bluenoses feel.

The transfer window also provided some interesting insights.

Through the EXIT went David Davis to rejoin Steve Cotterill at Shrewsbury Town, Dan Crowley went to Hull City on loan, Jayden Reid went to Walsall on loan whilst Mitchell Roberts went to Harrogate again on loan, Josh McEachran had his contract cancelled and last but not least Maikel Kieftenbeld rejoined Gary Rowett at The Den.

Really disappointed to see Maikel leave as he has been providing the “bite” in midfield alongside Sunjic, who is going to replace that midfield factor?

It looks like Rakeem Harper will be given the job after joining on loan from the Baggies. As well as being a Under-17 and Under-19 International he is only the second player born in this century to play in the Premier League. I can hear DONG already making plans to retire his shirt!!!

The Spanish connection continues with ex-Barcelona player Leonardo Do Reis joining our Under-23s squad.

And we have paid £2m for Aberdeen striker Sam Cosgrove who has joined on a 3 and a half years deal.

He is having a lean time of it currently with only 3 goals in 16 games this season.

This fact is omitted from the news of his signature on bcfc.com although quite rightly they mention his previous season’s goalscoring record of 47 in 103.

It would be churlish of me not to mention two of “my most favourite Blues personalities”:

Marc Roberts - who has had a good January coming on at half-time and making a positive impact.

Craig Gardner - who having left us to join Pullis at Hilsborough, gets fired after failing to improve Sheffield Wednesday and immediate walks back into the Blues coaching set up. I suggest he acts as Karanka’s interpreter?

In the Feb/March 21 edition of LATE TACKLE my article entitled “BLUES’ GLORY DAY” is published celebrating the 10th anniversary of winning the Carling Cup. It is also scanned onto the website.

For those readers as old myself this year sees the 65th anniversary of our appearance in the 1956 F.A. Cup Final.

Oh forgot to mention Odin Bailey’s loan to Forest Green has been extended to June 2022 – it does not get more exciting than that!!!!

 

KEEP RIGHT ON!

2020 REFLECTIONS AND 2021 HOPES

 Well what a year it has been "no live fotball" and two consecutive home drubbings with us conceding four goals.

It could have been worse, ask any Baggies fan! - imagine our feelings if ALLARDYCE was in charge?

During 2020 we lost some stalwarts from the 60s - GORDON ASTALL, HARRY HOOPER (who never got his shorts dirty) and last week COLIN WITHERS. I'm sure there are others but let's thank them (those who are old enough) for some great memories.

Against Derby I was thrilled to see MARC ROBERTS not even on the bench and not according to the website injured - is he on his way out in the January transfer window?

You've had my thoughts on SCOTT HOGAN and for KARANKA to prefer him to our leading goalscorer JUTKIEWICZ in the starting line-up sums ALITOR up for me -it is as if in response to our crisis of confidence he would recall STEVE SEDDON from AFC WIMBLEDON - Oh he did?

I love a proactive manager - when the fourth goal went in, did he get on the sidelines and shout motivating words (even ALLARDYCE would do that) ,no he went into the dugout and made notes!!!

Hopefully it was a draft of his letter of resignation. All on nationwide television!!

Enough of the past what are my hopes for 2021:

DONG resigns KARANKA is sacked along with his brother and other Spanish connections

PULLIS is appointed (or BILIC) and CRAIG GARDNER is left in Sheffield

ETHERIDGE gets a new pair of goalkeeping gloves

ROBERTS is sold

Some of the BELLINGHAM millions are spent on a proven striker like DANNY GRAHAM?

SAN JOSE goes back to Spain - he proved against DERBY that he is colourblind! (based on misplaced passes!)

I know I'm no football tactician but as it has happened before i.e. VILLAALBA are we suffering the effects of an English Winter on the mentalities of our continental contingent? (I've checked with my lawyer that's not racist, it's (or could be) a matter of fact!

Nevertheless I will be, like the rest of us watching tomorrow's game v Blackburn Rovers!

KEEP RIGHT ON! P.S.

Talking of Blackburn Rovers, Fred Pickering told me about an incident that happened at Ewood Park. There was a corporate area known as the "International Lounge", as he approached with RONNIE CLAYTON and BRYAN DOUGLAS (two other English internationals) he was denied entry but CLAYTON and DOUGLAS were admitted. The reason was that Fred did not get his cap whilst playing for Rovers!!! End result CLAYTON and DOUGLAS came out and they went and sat in the stands together.

That's the type of mutual support we need at St.Andrew's?

PRE-CHRISTMAS 2020 BLOG

I felt I should end this crazy year with the great news that Blues have just won two away games in succession to reach the dizzy heights of 15th position in the Championship having played 17 games, won 5 (two in the last 5 days), drew 7 and lost 5.

This leaves us with 22 points which is 8 points of the play-offs but more importantly 10 points from the relegation zone.

As means of an update on the website are my last two published articles in the LATE TACKLE football magazine: “GOOD LUCK AITOR” and in the current edition “BLUES IN SAFE HANDS” which is a profile of NEIL ETHERIDGE’s career to date.

Neil was an underwear model in his homeland of the Philippines – so you could say we now have an underwear model who performs like a goalkeeper unlike LEE CAMP who was, in my opinion, a goalkeeper who performed like an underwear model!

We have seen ALEN HALILOVIC join the club with a football C.V. to die for whilst our Technical Director and seemingly Number 2 to DONG, KRISTJAAN SPEAKMAN has left to join Sunderland as Sporting Director – LEE JOHNSON is in for a shock me thinks!

Apparently SPEAKMAN fell out with DONG (not the hardest thing to do apparently) who has other things on his mind:

“Following accusations made by various Portuguese coaches against Blues CEO Ren Xuandong in October 2017 regarding financial negligence, it can be exclusively revealed by this website that there are 14 current court orders issued from various courts in China against Ren in connection with his failed venture Winning League.” – ALMAJIR.NET

The VONG PECH deal was approved by shareholders at the E.G.M. held on 8th December 2020 which gives him the status of the largest shareholder in Birmingham City plc. With an equity stake of 21.64% we can expect some changes in the New Year?

A likely change is that to the Academy structure (was that the reason for the SPEAKMAN DONG fallout?) which means, as I understand it, that the Under-18s will become Blues’ “C” team with the Under-23s becoming Blues’ “B” team.

If this means that our senior academy recruits are going to play “real” football i.e. similar to high standard Non-League opposition then this bodes well for their future and it will also give “sidelined” first team squad players like DAVID DAVIS a better chance to put themselves back in the limelight?

Do not forget that history was made on 1st December 2020 when we, for the first time, made four simultaneous substitutions against Barnsley at St.Andrew’s.

KEEP RIGHT ON!

ANOTHER INTERNATIONAL BREAK

It’s mid-November 2020 and halfway through the second “lockdown” in England but there is good news?

At the E.G.M. of Birmingham Sports International following the announcement of the detail contained in my last blog CHINESE CRACKERS, the share value rose by 2.94% to HKD 0.14.

Although any increase is welcomed it needs to be given a dose of reality as the HONG KONG DOLLAR is worth £0.098 or let’s say 10p!

So break open your piggy banks and get down to your wealth management team.

On the pitch we currently lie 17th in The Championship with 13 points exactly 6 points off the play-offs and 6 points off the relegation places. I will settle for that at the end of the season?

October to date has been a mixed bag with 2 wins, four losses and two draws, scoring seven goals and conceding 10.

What surprises me is some of the team selections made by Karanka. For a man who came into the club saying he wanted to work with a limited squad (was it 20 or 22?) why has he used 24 players during this period and has yet to find a place for CLARKE-SALTER since he re-joined Blues?

The only thing I miss about Steve Cotterill is his detailed injury reports, with Karanka we get nothing.

Now is this due to COVID-19? it’s an excuse for most things so why not, certainly the reason for JUTKIEWICZ’s disappearance from the squad after the Stoke City game was not told to the fans but ultimately it was COVID-19. Do we assume that the loss of FRIEND is also down to the virus and what about CRAWLEY and TORAL.

Let’s have the facts Karanka it’s what the supporters deserve!

I know I have a downer on him but any manager that can find a regular place for MARC ROBERTS has to have questions asked in my opinion.

Looking on the positive side the acquisition of ETHERIDGE, SAN JOSE, LEKO, SANCHEZ, FRIEND and CLAYTON bode well for the rest of the campaign.

His persistence with BOYD-MUNCE and DACRES-COGLEY can only be due to his liking of double-barrelled names?

My side, which surprisingly contains no players that have worn claret and blue, would be: ETHERIDGE; COLIN, DEAN, FRIEND, PEDERSON; SUNJIC, SANCHEZ, CLAYTON, BELA; JUTKIEWICZ, TORAL

I know HOGAN scored against Bournemouth but his overall performances since signing full-time demonstrate an interesting personality trait? When he needs a contract he is motivated, once that contract is gained he relaxes.

Ask you Villa friends for confirmation he was just the same at Villa Park.

Disappointing to hear of the redundancies at St.Andrew’s, particularly for Colin Tattum and Rita Reading, both of which have been good contacts for me in the past. I wish them well.

CHINESE CRACKERS

On  Friday 9th October the Hong Kong Stock Market informed the world that Chinese-born Cambodian business man Vong Pech had become the largest shareholder in Birmingham City Football Club.

In reality the Hong Kong statement did not say that in as many words but that was the unspoken headline!

Through his British Virgin Islands investment vehicle ORIENTAL RAINBOW INVESTMENT LIMITED Vong Pech had paid £5.4m for a 21.64% share of Birmingham City PLC and 25% of Birmingham City Football Club.

This together with his existing 25.6% shareholding makes him the largest shareholder in the club. His previous investment was also made via another of his British Virgin Islands investment vehicle EVER DEPOT.

Does this make financial sense as in the club’s latest financial statement the equity value of the club is only £22m and they owe BIRMINGHAM SPORTS HOLDINGS £110m?

It would seem that Birmingham City Football Club will use the money from Vong Pech to repay some debt and the club will be “exploring strategic options to lessen the financial burden of running the club”

Vong Pech has agreed to take on 21.64% of the £110m debt around £24m and will also cover 75% of the losses incurred whilst the club remains outside of the Premier League up to season 2022/23 although that arrangement is capped at £25m.

It is worth noting (with tongue in cheek) that should the club get promoted to the Premier League then Vong Pech will get a bonus from BIRMINGHAM SPORTS HOLDINGS the equivalent to 75% of the net profit achieved up to a maximum of £30m per annum.

For his investment Vong Pech gets to appoint one of the five Directors on the Birmingham City Football Cub board and also establish a Strategic Committee which has the following agreed remit (it’s in the Hong Kong Stock Market statement): a) To advise on the signing of and/or transfer of players b) To advise on the appointment and removal of team managers c) To formulate sales,marketing and branding strategies d) To make recommendations on sponsorship arrangements e) To review the ticket pricing policy f) To develop directions and plans for the youth players academy g) To formulate corporate finance and fund-raising strategies h) To implement the matters referenced to in items a) to g) above

There will be three people on the Strategic Committee: Vong Pech, Zhou Desheng – a Shanghai businessman with a football background? and long-term Vice President Michael Wiseman.

The appointment of Mike to this committee gives me hope that this new structure will be more than just window dressing. The Wiseman family, through Mike’s grandfather David and his father Jack and now Mike have served Birmingham City Football Club consistently for over eight decades.

Mike is a successful local businessman who as well as being a Vice-President also sits alongside myself as a committee member of the Birmingham City Former Players Association.

He has the club at heart and to have someone operating at senior level with his pedigree gives hope for the future. Everything will be aigned off at the planned Extra-Ordinary General Meeting on 6th November 2020.

ALL READY FOR THE NEW SEASON?

Only three days away from the start of the 2020/21 Championship season and what an interesting pre-season it has been?

But before that put on your face masks and get into your local newsagent this Thursday (10/09) and buy a copy of "LATE TACKLE" in which you will find an article which describes the managerial merry-go-round, we Bluenoses have had to deal with over the last decade!

 

But back to our pre-season preparation. Four friendlies and a Caraboa cup-tie left us with a playing record of 1 win, 3 defeats and a draw.

The £26m secured for Jude Bellingham, who is so good senior management decided to "retire" the Number 22 shirt (how embarassing was that?), has safely been deposited outside of B9!

The transfer fee received for Wes Harding's move to Rotherham United was transferred to West Bromwich Albion for Jonathan Leko. 

And to date that's it everything else has been free transfers mainly from Middlesbrough or Spain.

Here is the August transfer diary:

15th George Friend joins to hopefully replace Roberts - undoubtedly he will be Karanka's eyes and ears in the dressing rooms

25th Jon Toral returns - good move - never did play for Arsenal

26th REMEAO HUTTON (Who are ya? Who are ya?) was loaned to Stevenage

27th Ivan Sanchez joins from Elche

28th Andrew Prieto a 6 foot plus goalkeeper replaces CAMP to my delight only for him to allow Cambridge a free header - if you are 6ft 4in you need to be able to dominate your box!

1st Sept. Adam Cayton joins from Middlesbrough and looked impresive when he made his debut against Cambridge.

Alongside all this my mobile keeps alerting me of all the signings the Ladies team have made - do I care?

Nevertheless I can't wait to get back into St.Andrew's and have already got my NIKE first team home shirt!!!!

KEEP RIGHT ON!

P.S. Just a word of warning remember Fran Villalba? His loan to Almeria has been extended for the season - he was a Spaniard who joined us and for the first two games looked "world class" (well you know what I mean?) but then it went cold and rainy and the rest is history!

BELATED END OF 2019-2020 SEASON

So here we are watching on television -, games being played in empty stadiums in the Summer!

But nothing changes for us Bluenoses as we are again going into the last game of the season needing a result to confirm survival in the Championship.

Since the resumption we have played 8 games and earned 3 points scoring 5 goals and conceding 16!

What does the club expect when our manager resigns but they let him stay in post until the season ends! Have the Chinese never heard of motivation – how can a manager exert the required discipline over his players when the squad know he has no real power?

Pep’s personal motivation was evidenced when he failed to make one substitute during the 90 minutes against Huddersfield? I know the bench was predominantly defenders but even so we were 3-0 down so change it! But did he care?

But it’s not just Pep, what mentality lets a loan player who has not scored since the resumption take a vital penalty when our top scorer, vice-captain and Alice Band wearer is on the pitch! It defies belief ,just like us expecting to score from Roberts’ long throw-in – but it’s excellent heading practice for the opposition defenders.

The good news is that Dortmund are prepared to pay us £26m for an untried 17 year old – it has just been announced that he leaves after the Derby game – let’s hope he fulfils his potential and the cash stays in the UK? I have serious doubts about both.

Need to take time out to thank Ian Dutton for organising the ability to convert season ticket surplus into a BluesTV subscription. Note: One of our own, Tom Gavin also wrote to Ian suggesting this action.

During the so-called Lockdown, ask TF if this is a lockdown compared to Spain, I had a conversation with Ricky Otto about his plans to write his autobiography. Thanks to Eric Partridge and Colin Tattum for the introduction. I will not be writing his story but have offered my advice etc.

Who will be our new manager with Pearson and Cowley entering the fray after being sacked on Sunday?

I guess it will depend on what Division we are in, I cannot bear the thought of Craig Gardner taking the reins on a permanent basis!

At least Camp will be gone, whilst he is decent shot stopper he seems incapable of organising his back line.

We cannot keep selecting Roberts because his energy and commitment for me has always been suspect.

The future depends on who the next manager is and how much of the £26 million is available to him (or her – well it is the Blues?)

KEEP RIGHT ON!

THE LONG AWAITED RETURN

This an appropriate day to return to my blog on my beloved BCFC.

The fixtures are confirmed for the completion on the 2019/2020 season with games being played behind closed doors with "digital" enhancements to replace us - the fans!

It all begins on Saturday 20th June 2020 with The Baggies at 15.00 hours - that's only eleven full days for us to wait!

I sent this e-mail to Ian Dutton of BCFC on 1st June

I hope you are well and managing to cope with everything that's going on with football, or the lack of it? With the announcement by the EFL that Championship football will re-commence on 20th June subject to approval then it got me thinking about the season ticket holders situation. Undoubtedly season ticket holders will be looking for either a refund on their 19/20 ticket or a discount on their 20/21 ticket. Both of these options will be unpalatable to a club which has generated had little or no revenue since early March 2020. My idea would be to offer BLUESTV free-of-charge to all season ticket holders as a positive proactive response to the problem you and the Board will be facing at the end of this season. This idea means that BCFC has met its contractural obligation to its season ticket holders i.e. to be able to watch all fixtures. If individual season ticket holders do not take up the option then it would be the same as not turning up to watch a match. The revenue loss to the club by not charging for BLUESTV will be minimal compared to any refund or future discount so it makes good business sense. I hope you do not mind me sharing my thoughts but as you know I am a BCFC supporter through and through.

Ian replied:

Thanks Keith, appreciate this. Yes, all options as outlined above are being considered, which also includes BluesTV. Thanks very much, Ian

So good reply and it looks as though all season ticket holders will be able to watch the games free-of-charge and that seems to have been endorsed by the EFL but what about DONG!

Great news through the pandemic was that STOCKDALE, KEITA, MAGHOMA and GROUNDS are off the salary bill without in my opinion weakening the squad.

Then today the news broke that Pep is leaving at the end of the season and my initial thought was one of disappointment and then my second thought was I hope they do not promote "lazyboy" GARDNER.

Then I heard that he was the short priced favourite ahead of tried and trusted experienced managers like HUGHTON, BOWYER, PULLIS, ROBINS and ADKINS. If I was going to promote anyone from the Wast Hills set up it would be Paul Robinson.

I would prefer to "Craig Gardner is a Blue" to have Redknapp - no not Harry but "our Sandra" - only joking? or am I ?

To end on a positive note? I think there is something in the interest of the ex-Leeds United owner to buy the club as Blues must be in dire straits financially after receiving zero revenue since 4th March 2020.

Hope I am wrong

 

KRO

FEBRUARY 2020 PART TWO

I delayed my blog in the hope that this morning we would be celebrating getting into the Quarter Finals of the F.A.Cup, sadly as you know this is not the case. Whilst over 5,000 Bluenoses sang their hearts out, the players did not match their enthusiasm. Once again we were a different team in the second half and the Leicester winner was just a matter of time!

Odd team selection with the return on Mrabti and Kieftenbeld and Harding in midfield.Whilst our unbeaten run is over we now have a 100% V.A.R. record! Clutching at straws or what? A bit like Dean Smith saying that their fans outsong their opposition supporters at Wembley?

Looks like Bellingham is off to Germany I wonder how much of the millions of Euros will be invested in the team?

Back to February:;

11th. An away win at Barnsley 0-1 with Hogan scoring ( 3 in 3) thanks to Bellingham's "never say die" attitude when the ball looked lost.

15th A draw with Brentford 1-1  saw Jukey gaining his 12th of the season but the injury to Hogan begged the question "Who do we have to replace him?" To gain a draw in the face of STORM DENNIS was impressive, nearly as impressive as the club's annoucement that fans in the Kop could only leave to the left as the alternative route was closed. Guess What? All the Kop fans returned home via all normal routes.

22nd Another draw this time against Sheffield Wednesday 3-3 once again Camp kept us in it with 2 great saves(just as with Brentford) Jukey scores again as does Hogan that's 4 in five appearances. Barry Bannon once again ran the show and we let him - what's happened to identifying the opposition's key man and sticking someone on him 100% of the time?

26th SKY's Main Event did not live up to its publicity a drab 0-0 draw against Millwall was not a great visual experience but we did keep a clean sheet! C.A.S. again (Clutching At Straws).How Pederson's goal was disallowed is a mystery to all 11,209 spectators!

29th 2-2 v Q.P.R. and a double from Hogan this left us in 15th position on 47 points - 9 off the Play-Offs and 10  off relegation.

In the latest issue of LATE TACKLE there is an article on the oldest surviving England International - Gordon Astall of Birmingham City

Another claim to fame

KEEP RIGHT ON!

FEBRUARY 2020 PART ONE

LATE TACKLE magazine Issue 65 Feb/Mar 2020 read my article on page 19 entitled "PAUL TAIT -BLUES GOLDEN GOALS AND THAT T-SHIRT" - it is the 25th Anniversary of our "double winning" season. The club has no plans to commemorate the event, Shame.

February began with the Winter transfer window closing and what did that mean to BCFC? 

We reduced the wage bill significantly by shipping out on loan seven players: MEDINA (UE Cornella), BAILEY (Forest Green), VILLALBA (Almeria), STOCKDALE (Wycombe Wanderers), SEDDON (Portsmouth), GIMENEZ (Cadiz) and DAVIS (Charlton Athletic) then we fended off interest in BELLINGHAM and PEDERSON before securing the services on loan of Scott Hogan from the Vile.

Disappointed as I always am when we sign a Villa discard, I have to eat humble pie and say 2 goals in 2 appearances and his positioning on the last defender bodes well for Hogan in a Blues shirt for the rest of the season.

As I write we are undefeated in 8 games, 17th in the league with a healthy 40 points and a team that has demonstrated in the last three fixtures that they can bounce back from negative positions.

February 1st we beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 to secure a first home win since October 2019. My headline for this game has to be "WHAT DO I KNOW!!!" I was berating the effectiveness of CAMP and HOGAN when what happens: CAMP saves a penalty which prevents us going 2-0 down, the team responds and HOGAN scores on his debut. The message has to be "Keep it shut,Dixon"

February 4th sees us move into the Fifth Round of the FA Cup by beating Coventry City 4-1 on penalties after drawing 2-2 after extra time. again we came back from behind on two occasions within the final minutes of normal and extra time. Dean scores one for his new child and Bela scores with what looked like a cross but he celebrates with a "confident shrug" towards the fans! Then what happens my favourite goalkeeper saves two penalties!!!!

Injury news is both bad and good:McEachran is out until next season but Joey Hutchinson gets £8.5m compensation for the hotel fall which has left him crippled.

So onto Sky Sports on Friday 7th February with a visit to Bristol City, now if the commentator mentions they have kept a clean sheet for the past 4 games once it must have been a least repeated on a dozen occasions.

Our recent resilience is confirmed when having gone behind to a ROBERTS error in less than a minute we fight our way back to a 3-1 win with goals from HOGAN, an own-goal by Villa discard WIEMANN and JUTKIEWICZ, which was his 100th career goal.

What a start to the month, can't wait for Barnsley, Brentford, Sheffield Wednesday and Millwall

KEEP RIGHT ON !

JANUARY 2020 PART TWO

Prior to the Luton game on 11th January, we were alerted that we might experience another points deduction from the EFL for not adhering to the agreed Business Plan. 

There was no outcry from our Chinese owners because a further points deduction means that at best their team will avoid relegation. Which suits their overall strategy that they have no intentions of funding us into the Premier League!

More good news for the owners was the £8m operating loss which will be extremely welcome to Peter Suen as a means to reduce his corporate businesses tax obligations!

Back on the field - I was amazed with Pep's team selection for the visit to Kenilworth Road, as it seemed we had a stronger bench than the team on the pitch - but not for the first time I was wrong and we won away from home against bottom of the table Luton Town - what is wrong with Harlee Dean's attitude?

Coventry's victory over Bristol Rovers begged the question "Who's going where?" - it was a general feeling that this type of scenario could only happen to Blues and of course the resultant 0-0 draw and the subsequent replay were well predicted. Well Done to the Commercial team for producing a limited edition half-and-half scarf for the occasion. I believe it to be the case that the Chinese are charging Blues more for the hire of St.Andrew's than they charge Coventry?

As an aside the demolition of the Vile by Manchester City 1-6 was the best TV viewing of the year to date - the look on Dean Smith's face of total bewilderment was worth the SKY subscription on its own!!!!!

West Ham United have a goalkeeping problem, so David Moyes re-signs Darren Randolph from Middlesbro' - so they just have a different goalkeeping problem - Randolph's agent must be some salesman!

On 18th we played Cardiff and saw a "game of two halves" not for the first time this season we find that the opposition "works us out" at half-time and we have no Plan B. For me the priority in the transfer window is a keeper ahead of a striker?

If I was advising Jude B on the chance of a move to Manchester United I would say "Go" because if he says "No" he may never again have the chance to get a life-changing contract at the age of 16.

21st January we travel to Middlesbro and fail for the 17th consecutive time not to secure a clean sheet. To fail to secure the three points the way we did was gut wrenching.

Finally we ekked out an impressive draw and clean sheet away from home in the 4th Round of the F.A. Cup, drawing 0-0 looking forward to tonight's  5th Round draw  - I predict a Premier League at home as the incentive to beat Coventry - well I can dream after all I am a Bluenose!

 

KEEP RIGHT ON!

A NEW DECADE - JANUARY 2020 PART ONE

New Year's Day saw a humiliating defeat to bottom-of-the-table Wigan by 2 goals to 3 which left us in 18th position and only six points outside off the relegation zone, forget any thoughts of the play-offs.

As often happens in any walk of life when someone is promoted or loses the associated motivation to remove the words "designate" or "caretaker" from their job title, that persons performance slumps - is that the case for Clotet whose playing records now looks very much like that of Steve Cotterill's!

Apart from a great goal from Mrabti there was little else for the 18,616 crowd to enjoy other than (tongue in cheek) Bellingham tackling Gardner on the edge of his own box and Craig Gardner in his role of coach briefing brother Gary, who I believe now knows he is not a central defender.

This was our fourth consecutive home defeat and the sixth this season at St.Andrew's.

Three days later it was the Third Round of the F.A. Cup and Lee Camp was reinstated for the visit of Blackburn Rovers.

It is an indictment to the state of our club when for a F.A. Cup game we can only sell about 7,000 tickets and that's at a tenner!

The atmosphere with a closed Tilt was weird and we only got to sing KRO after our second goal.

Dan Crowley's goal was exceptional and I think the crowd can claim the assist as he was told to "keep going and shoot" - it's not rocket science.

Connal Trueman must have enjoyed Camp's return to show us his "circus tricks" - turned his back on the penalty - spilled a shot from outside the penalty area from their number 3 and his party piece which is to punch the ball when catching it would be so much easier.

It was a pathetic performance but thankfully we are in the 4th Round draw.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 

K.R.O.!!

DECEMBER 2019 PART TWO

21st December saw us lose poorly at Hull by three goals to nil. This left us in 15th position with 28 points from 23 games.

Problem I see is that Harlee Dean is not the same player since his three match ban with him having some responsibilty for all 3 Hull goals.

23rd December Jude Bellingham wins the EFL Young Player of the month for November. Is it all too much too soon as Pep relegates him to the bench for the Boxing Day fixture.

Spanish news: Paco Herrara returns home to be replaced by Alberto Escobar as Assistant Coach.

26th December saw us bring to an end our losing run with a 1-1 draw at Ewood Park, I felt disappointed by the starting line up with Davis, Gardner and  Maghoma restored to midfield. Why was Sunjic, our best player to date dropped and Dean kept his place? 

We now have 29 points from 24 games and lie 16th in the table, 8 points of relegation and 10 points off the play-off places.

29th December and I missed it. What a game to miss???

9 goals in 90+ minutes - Blues fighting back on three occasions to level things and 4 great Blues goals.

It proves beyond doubt that we can compete with the best in this league even though we are now in 17th position some 8 points off relegation.

New Year wishes for me are: Harlee Dean to get back to form - recruit a central defender - recruit another striker?

Happy 2020 to everyone

 

Keep Right On!

DECEMBER 2019 PART ONE

The start of December saw Pep Clotet finally appointed as permanent Head Coach and he got off to a great start at Reading with an away win despite having to make two enforced substitutions in the first half to key players, Crowley and Clarke-Slater.

That left us in 13th position in the league with 28 points from 20 games - 4 points off the top 6 and 12 points away from the relegation zone.

All that optimism fell away at St.Andrew's four days later on 11th when we witnessed the worst home performance to date, losing 0-2 to an average QPR. They had nothing in a football sense but were a big, well-organised side who swamped us and we fell apart after the first goal. Where is Pep's Plan B?

How Maghoma stayed on the pitch I will never know.

I thought Bellingham's walk to the dug out past the Tilt after being substituted indicated some interesting aspects of this young man's personality? Was he sending a message to his manager?

 I believe that Pep Guardiola changed the face of English football when he was appointed as manager of Manchester City. Apart from finishing Joe Hart's career because he could not play out from the back, all teams including Blues have started to follow the concept of playing the ball across the box umpteen times before getting on with the game. I thought "walking football" was for old men?

What happened to that adage of never passing the ball in front of goal?

Wes Harding's body language when receiving a pass in this scenario suggested a total lack of confidence.

So onto the lunchtime kick off against WBA on 14th - two great headed goals by Jutkiewicz and Dean were too early in both halves and to be leading twice and then to get nothing out of the game was painful.

Only at Blues could the scoreboard wrongly credit a home goal to the visitors!!

I felt their Number 12 Costa Pereira was a nightmare in terms of his disrespect to the referee and the opposition players.

But if the Chinese have enough money in January look no further than Charlie Austin to solve our striking problem.

Worth noting that the oldest living England International is our very own Gordon Astall.

So onto December 2019 PART TWO as we are now 15th with 28 points from 22 games and face two away games against Hull and Blackburn folowed by a home game v Leeds United on 29/12.

Have a great Christmas

 

KEEP RIGHT ON!

1-1 DRAWS THE THEME FOR NOVEMBER PLUS OLD MANAGERS - 01/12/19

After a third 1-1 draw in a row we are 15th in The Championship with 25 points ( 6 points away from 6th spot and a healthy 9 points away from the relegation zone) 

The game at Huddersfield was noteworthy for Clotet's strong management in dropping Camp for Trueman - it was a decision that was totally justified but it still took courage to replace Camp with a ;keeper who had not played a first team game for 15 months. Hopefully Stockdale's name never came into Pep's thoughts and hopefully Stockdale is behind Ramos in the pecking order! How was Stockdale described by Redknapp - "the best 'keeper outside of the Premier League" - beggars belief.

Clarke-Salter has been given his chance in the absence of Dean and for me, he has looked the part unlike Roberts - there is no hiding a lack of talent!

On Wednesday 27/11/19 about a thousand of us travelled to Hilsborough and we saw Garry Monk in the technical area for The Owls. The spat during the week over Pep Clotet left Monk refusing to accept Clotet's handshake at the end of the 1-1 draw - I am a Monk fan but that was a PR mistake in my mind.

It grieves me to say this but Barry Bannon ruled the midfield on that wide expansive pitch.

What a goal from Gimenez clearly a candidate for "goal of the season" but it happened to early in the second half and we were always under pressure from that moment on!

During a week when his brother has retired at the age of 33 to become first team coach, it was good to see Gary Gardner in with fans!

And so to yesterday's 1-1 draw thanks to two great saves from Trueman we managed to scrape a point. Disappointing finishing from Jutkiewcz and Gimenez sums up our problem.

Rumours are that Pep is on his way to be replaced by Mark Robins can this be true?

What is true that women do not need equality as yesterdays crowd was less than 20,000 - don't blame the train strikes, it was the last pay day before Christmas and at least a thousand of us were carrying parcels.

 

KEEP RIGHT ON!

WHAT FIREWORKS IN THE FIRST WEEK OF NOVEMBER 2019

On 2nd November 2019 we travelled to the Welsh countryside to face Warnock's Cardiff City, a recent member of the Premier League club. 

What a game it was - it had everything!!

6 Goals - 2 penalties - 1 Hat-trick

4 Yellow Cards - 2 Red cards

25 shots from the away team and a brawl!!! What more can one ask other than a point or three.

Still all was not lost as we were 12th in the Championship 8 points off 6th place but 10 points clear of relegation.

Pep made, according to www.bcfc.com , his ninth signing bringing in the Angolan international Jeremie Bela - who were the other eight? - SUNJIC - CLARKE-SALTER - RAMOS - CRAWLEY - GIMENEZ - XXXXLBA - (sorry I cant put the Aston name in my blog!) - MONTERRO and McEACHRAN.

So then we faced another recent member of the Premier League club in the form of Fulham.

Without doubt Fulham are the best team we have had at St.Andrew's this term and as always Mitrovic was going to be a threat - how is he still in the Championship?

We matched them in every department except goalkeeper - Camp's inability to both catch and punch the ball meant we were effectively playing with ten men! Once that goal went in we seemed to lose it because, as we all know, at whatever level you play at, a weak goalkeeper breeds nervousness throughout the team. Did you see his efforts with the Cardiff penalties? Is it time to give RAMOS a chance?

So 21,334 of us got throughly soaked but we are still mid-table at 13th.

Highlights from Saturday were Jutkewicz hitting the bar, Clarke-Salter looking confident - Bela looks likely at this level and the return of Monterro gives us a useful option off the bench.

KEEP RIGHT ON!

0-1 1-0 WHAT A WEEK - 25TH OCTOBER 2019

The week started with an interview I did with FREE RADIO on Thursday 16th with Mitch Rushton. Mitch, who is News Content Editor, and his Dad are big Bluenoses and we conducted both an audio and video interview on my TF autobiography "ONE IN A MILLION" The interview has yet to be aired so tune into the news bulletins over the next two weeks (if you are desperately bored!!)

For the visit to Elland Road I was pleased to see that Clotet had kept the team that played so well against Middlesbrough. Whilst the result was disappointing we had our fair share of the ball and had more shots than them 16 v 15! Now as you all know I am not a master tactician but I do not get it when Phillips scores in the 65th minute. What does Pep do? He immediately substitutes Crowley for Maghoma and then 11 minutes later takes Bellingham off for Gary Gardner and Jutkiewicz off for Bailey - these changes to my mind do nothing to suggest he wanted something out of the game! Whi is going to score?

Bellingham seemed a little off it especially his first touch I just hope his confidence is kept in tact.

So Luton Town on Saturday with us sitting in 11th place with 19 points from 13 games.

I loved the moment when Sam Gallagher was substituted for Rovers and the fans, including me, chanted "Who are Ya?" - forgetting he spent 12 months with us on loan. Although it is fair to say his performances were fairly ananymous!!

 

KEEP RIGHT ON!

I will not make comment on the crowd trouble as I remember too well the 70s! A return to that behaviour would be outrageous!!!

And so to Tuesday night and disappointing crowd of 18,561 which incuded included at least 500 away fans saw a "goal of the season" contender from Colin and a "shot of the season" contender from Jutkiewicz.

Humour of the night went to their GK, Walton who feigned a head injury in front of the TILT! It must have been a difficult 20 minutes as the fans berated his every move with their usual merry quips like "W**NKER"!

DOWNS AND UPS OF A BLUENOSE 11TH OCTOBER 2019

The first week of October 2019 was a fairly typical one for us Birmingham City fans – the highs and lows in just four days!

On Tuesday 1st we saw our team perform dismally – I could have stood between the sticks for Wigan, did we have a shot on goal! We know Camp is always subject to the occasional “cock up” but really…… at least it was only in front of a crowd of 9,244.

Then on Friday night in front of a Sky TV audience our team produced the best performance for a long time and certainly the best of the season to date

Jude Bellingham in his natural central midfield role played in a way which justified the “hype” surrounding this young man.

We dominated the game from start to finish and would have won easily had it not been for Randolph in the Middlesbrough goal – he never played like that in a Blues kit?

So there we are on Saturday morning in 12 position having taken 16 points from 11 games.

It was good to see Odin Bailey score his first senior goal for Blues along with XXXXALBA (you can fill in the blanks yourself. Despite us being on TV we still attracted a gate of 19,703 which included a contingency based on “Kids for a Quid”

In the Kop we always know there are “first-timers” in the crowd because they stand up when the Tilt starts signing “Stand Up If You Love The Blues!”

The only blot on the weekend’s landscape was the XXXXX score – Norwich 3rd Choice Goalkeeper 1 XXXXX 5!

WHAT'S HAPPENING? 26TH SEPTEMBER 2019

What a weird experience it was watching the Blues playing Preston North End last Saturday.

1) The Gallery of the Gil Merrick was open yet the attendance was less than 21,000 

2) We know Jude Bellingham is a great prospect and seeing him make his home debut was a pleasure but how come this sixteen year old took all the corners and free kicks until he was substituted?

3) The referee was irritating when he kept stopping the game due to a Preston player "playing dead" I thought this only applied when it was a head injury? This concept of giving the ball back needs to be reviewed!

4) I am worried that football is in danger of dying as a spectacle - I didn't buy a season ticket and devote 90 minutes of my life to watch four Preston defenders including the goalkeeper passing the ball to each other in their own penalty area!

5) I also did not expect to see a number of Blues defenders standing watching the ball rebound off the post whilst at least three Preston players beat them to the ball. At this point I tried to start a "Pep Clotet's Blue Army" chant with zero effect, surprise, surprise

Please see in the LATE TACKLE section of this website my article on Coventry's ground share under the title of "GOOD NEIGHBOURS"

Looking forward to this Saturday at Pride Park, I thought it was a good time to play The Rams but even better now their captain is ruled out.

Derby County 0 Blues 1

No news from Paul Suen or Xuandong Ren - I will give them another week before I contact Mr King in London!

KEEP RIGHT ON!

BEST START SINCE 2008-09 SEASON 20TH SEPTEMBER 2019

Here we are 7 games into the season in 8th position with 13 points. As I always like to "gild the lily" we could say we are equal 5th!

This is apparently our best start since 2008-09, a season in which we gained promotion to the Premier League.

Good news off the field - no forget our reducing injury list, it's the 20% discount on Hot Dogs if you use FASTPAY at the Preston game!

I have expressed interest in joining the Blues Trust ( thanks to Mark Posonby for the idea) - anyone have any thoughts on whether this is a good route for me to get to talk to Xuandong Ren?

Last Thursday I went to the press launch of Emily Heskey's book "EVEN HESKEY SCORED" in Leicester, When I asked him to sign my book "Keep Right On!" he asked me what it meant! I know he was only with us for two seasons but really! Apart from that he is a really affable guy.

Disappointing news of the £42,500 fine for the attack on Grealish but pleased to note that Paul Mitchell had to pay £100 to the Villa captain for the "shock,discomfort and shock" he experienced. I guess that would pay his weekly hair gel bill?

On 6th September the Former Player's Association hosted an evening entitled "STRIKERS" which was a great success. 2020 is the 25th Anniversary of us winning the AutoWindscreens trophy so a reunion might be on the cards.

Good to see Monk back in a managerial role at Sheffield Wednesday I wonder how long it will take before he links back up with James Beattie?

This Saturday's game I predict is a 2-1 victory for The Blues which could, if the other results go our way, put us in the play-off places.

Get the latest LATE TACKLE magazine which is out today - great article on Coventry City's ground share entitled "GOOD NEIGHBOURS"

KEEP RIGHT ON!

 

IT'S ALL ABOUT BEING THE FIRST! - SEPTEMBER 3RD 2019

What a weekend and what a start to the International break - and it has been nothing but firsts!

In a world-first sports partnership agreement Blues have become the first English team to sell cannabis-based drinks at their stadium. That should damage Bovril sales!

Jude Bellingham scores his first senior goal and breaks another of Trevor F's long-standing records. Let's hope the 16 year old, who seems very rounded in the interviews I've heard, becomes as half as good as TF? 

For the first time in our history we now have a Chinese- born player within our professional ranks - welcome to Bernard Sun.

After Saturday's lucky win over Stoke City it is clear the mammoth task the Blues have to maintain its current position in the league. For me there are only 6 players from Saturday's performance that should be first on the team sheet: COLIN - DEAN - PEDERSEN - JUTKIEWICZ - CROWLEY - GIMENEZ and SUNJIC!

Lastly I am still pursuing my efforts to help the club on its business side, having had no reply frm XUANDONG REN I have written directly to CHO HUNG SUEN who is the major shareholder of Birmingham Sports Holding Limited who in turn own 96.64% of Birmingham City Plc. This is my first letter to Hong Kong.

Hopefully see some of you this Friday night at The Legends Lounge for the "Strikers" evening!

KEEP RIGHT ON!

 

FIVE MATCH UPDATE - 27TH AUGUST 2019

So here we are five games into the season: lying 15th in The Championship with seven points and negative goal difference of three. The alarming thing in an OK start to the campaign is the manner of two 3-0 defeats away from home.

Morrison is undoubtedly a miss in the back four, with Roberts an adequate replacement at best. Whether Denis Becerra( released by Malaga last term) is the answer. Who knows? not even Pep Clotet I suspect.

Pep's Swansea post-match comments I felt took a step towards the bizarre meanderings of Steve Cotterrill, with his continual references to the Barnsley performance. OK I know we won, but apart from the first five minutes, the first-half was poor from Blues and whilst we took the 3 points with 2 good goals, it was hardly the type of performance to compare future displays. Don't forget it was Barnsley, currently 21st and tipped for relegation to League One.

If you are a gambling man I advise you to avoid our new shirt sponsors BOYLESPORTS.  888Sports were excellent paying out on line to winning bets placed at the kiosks in St.Andrew's. BOYLESPORTS confirmed my winning bet after the Barnsley game and promised funds in my account within 24 hours. This did not happen and when chased they suddenly had "no record" of my bet and offered me nothing in terms of reconciling my problem other than returning to the kiosk at the next home game. I have closed my on-line account and you will see the Securicor van at the Stoke fixture.

As he was dropped for their game against Leeds United, will the Potters feature Jack Butland in goal? I hope so because I do not rate him as a keeper and as he has conceded 10 goals in four league games to date this seems to confirm my assessment. 

I always felt that his attitude suffered by being capped by England before playing a senior competitive match for Blues. Whenever he conceded a goal he was always seen berating his defenders as if the goal was no fault of his own!

Is he still an England squad member?

KEEP RIGHT ON!

 

UNBEATEN AFTER TWO

Whilst it was disappointing to lose two points so late in the game last Saturday the nature of the performance showed great promise for the rest of the season.

It was good to get over 21,000 in St.Andrew's albeit with the help of over 2,000 Robins fans. The atomsphere was great with Villalba and Sunjic catching the eye, the former with a "man of the match" performance. I think for obvious reasons we will have to call him ALBA!!!!

Whilst I do not like the pre-kick-off "huddle" as soon as it was over, you could see that SUNJIC was "ready for action". His body language suggested he was going to stamp his authority on the game and that he did. 

The result was against a very smart Bristol City team who will be much better opposition than the Forest team this Saturday, who are 20th to our 8th position in the league( or equal 4th if you like a gilded lily). 

I can see no reason for Clotet to change his squad other than to put Montero on the bench in place of Bailey. 

Did we miss Jacques?

I am worried that another youngster from Spain has been signed to the Under 23s, this will surely restrict the chances for the members of the squad e.g. Jack Concannon who have been in the Academy system for a long time and done everything the club has asked of them e.g. going out on loan to gain "real " football experience.

My prediction is for a 2-1 victory and I hope that Crowley gets a full 90 minutes.

Off the field I wish the club would invest in a decent P.A. System and stop trying to switch supporters to FASTPAY. It simply does not work.Also we can no longer buy steak and kidney pies and by the look of the pies regardless of filling, we no longer purchase PUKKA!!!

Finally I cannot believe that BoyleSports can think of a better half-time amusement that "Chip 'n Win"  Another reason to be at the Barnsley fixture?

KEEP RIGHT ON!

 

 

FIRST HOME GAME THOUGHTS

So here we are ,the opening game at St.Andrew's of the 2019/2020 season is tomorrow. I wonder what the attendance will be, I am hopeful that 20,000 plus will be there but after the disarray of the close season, I think there will be a number of "stay aways"!

The season to date has given little indication of what we can expect. The 3 points away at Brentford could be as good as it gets, and the defeat at Portsmouth only reinforces my opinion of Stockdale, who was at fault for two of the goals. How can a "big" (or is it unfit) man be so reluctant to domnate his six-yard area?

Of the youngsters/newcomers that played against League One opposition only Medina, Bajrami, Seddon and Clarke-Salter warranted being in contention for the Bristol City starting eleven.

As you know I am not a fan of Craig Gardner but reluctantly I have to say he did OK on Tuesday night - at least he tested their goalkeeper! So what will be the team on Saturday bearing in mind that Vassell and Dacres-Cogley have gone to Cardiff and Crawley respectively.

My guess is it will be close to: CAMP - COLIN - DEAN - ROBERTS - PEDERSEN - MAGHOMA - DAVIS - GARDNER G - SUNJIC - CROWLEY and JUTKIEWICZ with the bench comprising of TRUEMAN - CLARKE-SALTER - SEDDON - HARDING -VILLALBA - GIMENEZ and MEDINA.

My score prediction is a 2-1 win with Villa losing heavily at Spurs on whatever day that is!

Keep Right On!

P.S. Pep Clotet is a clever man, by bringing in these Spanish players he is protecting his position as caretaker Head Coach. If Dong chose to replace him and his assistant Herrera, there would be no one to communicate with a decent proportion of the first-team squad!!

PRE-SEASON VIEW

So here we are only two days away from the Brentford game and the start of the 2019/20 season. 

How am I feeling? Confused but at the same time intrigued by what the season may offer.

A realistic objective would be mid-table safety but with only two recognised strikers in the squad ( Jutkiewicz and Vassell) I cannot see where the goals are going to come from, unless one or more of our eleven midfielders can provide a few!

Defensively I am nervous that Marc Roberts will be seen as a replacement for Morrison, hopefully Clarke-Slater has been recruited, allbeit on a season long loan, to prevent this happening although Roberts signed a five year deal in July 2017 and therefore the owners may wish to prevent a Stockdale situation recurring.

Stockdale's recall to the first-team last Saturday resulted in us conceding four goals but will the new regime allow him to see out his contract until Summer 2020 just training with the Under 18s?

In the current squad there are seven players that have come through the Academy system: Dacres-Cogley,Trueman,O'Keeffe. Lakin,Weaver and Harding but their progress may be curtailed by the younger players signed in the Summer: Ramos (19) Clarke-Slater (21) Medina Delgado(24) Ivan Sunjic (22) and Crowley (22)

On the other side of the age divide we have Craig Gardner appointed player-coach in June 2019. Have a look at the way this member of the coaching team warms up before a game: having waved several times to his family and friends in the Kop, he then does the absolute minimum in terms of the group exercises: never goes round a cone always stops just short, he lifts his arms to the bare minimum as he does with his legs when required. Just watching him is an amusing diversion - have a look you will be surprised!

As we stand today the squad comprises of four goalkeepers, eleven defenders;eleven midfielders (including Kieftenbeld) and two strikers (source: bcfc.com)

Get ready for a return to the Championship with a brand new footballing philosophy - I can't wait - as usual suporting Blues will require an "unbreakable spirit"

Keep Right On!

 

UPDATE

No reply from Xuandong Ren regarding the letter I sent but no real surprise there. I shall try again once the season has begun and an opportunity arises! Perhaps Xuandong Ren has been too busy installing CCTV in his offices at both St.Andrew's and Wast Hills?

At Wast Hills Xuandong Ren is having to deal with Jude Bellingham's policeman father who is causing problems within the academy set up to the extent that some scholars are looking to "buyout" their contracts. 

Ex-Academy manager Kristjaan Speakman has been a confidante of Xuandong Ren but that closeness has not apparently secured Kristjaan the Technical Director role he sought.

So we kick-off in 30 minutes time in our friendly against Brighton and Hove Albion, it is my feeling that the attendance will be low even taking the weather into consideration. 

I guess we have all received a text today asking us to subscribe to BluesTV if we cannot get to this afternoon's match. This demonstrates the short-termism of the owners - wasn;t this a great opportunity to use BluesTV as a promotional item i.e. watch today's game for free - see what it is like for potential subscription in the future? No way says Xuandong Ren's team, let's get the £4.99 now!

The extension of the Earlybird Season Ticket renewal date to a week before the season starts is perhaps an indicator that season ticket sales are down. Am I being to simplistic?

One day Birmingham City Football Club will be worthy of the loyal support it gets - on our season ticket envelopes it says "Unbreakable Spirit" well that's being sorely tested at the moment

Keep Right On!

LETTER SENT FIRST-CLASS RECORDED ON THURSDAY 27TH JUNE 2019

Dear Mr Ren Xuandong

As a Birmingham City supporter of over fifty years I understand that currently you are receiving a lot of criticism over the dismissal of Garry Monk.

This criticism is being increased by the way the matter was handled initially. In my opinion the club statement was adequate from a public relations perspective but totally ineffective in terms of building confidence in you and the business of Birmingham City Football Club. The club statement posed as many questions as it tried to answer. What did you mean by the phrases “A fresh and modern footballing philosophy” and “the club’s core values?” I believe there is a simple and cost-effective way to help you restore and grow the confidence in you and your business with the stakeholders of the business; your employees, sponsors, bank, lawyers, accountants, suppliers and most importantly your customers, the fans.

Become the first English football club to appoint a fan to its Board of Directors.

The fan would act as a Senior Independent Non-Executive Director with special responsibility for “the club’s core values.” These values are not known outside of the Board Room but must include honesty, financial probity, strict corporate governance, transparency and customer focus.

There would be little resistance to taking this action from Birmingham Sports Holdings Limited as it has four Non-Executive or Independent Non-Executive Directors on its Board.

The candidate must be free from any involvement with a supporters group but should have some profile with the fans of Birmingham City.

I would like to offer my services as a Non-Executive Director on your Board, initially for a period of three months – free-of-charge!

I am able to make this offer as my current role in business is to act as a Non-Executive Director for eight companies in the United Kingdom across a diverse number of industries/markets from bicycle manufacturing to tile distribution.

My understanding of corporate governance, business strategy and building shareholder value has been successfully experienced by my companies for over twenty years.

I apologise for this unsolicited approach but I truly believe I can help you improve the way Birmingham City Football Club is perceived, pre-dominantly by its customers but also by the wider football audience. Regarding my connection with the fans, I have written nine books on the history of the club and serve on the committee of the Former Player’s Association

Please let me have thirty minutes of your time to discuss my proposal further.

A fan in the boardroom would be excellent public relations?

Thanking you for your time

Yours sincerely Keith Dixon

HERE WE GO AGAIN! THE CURSE OF THE CHINESE OWNERS!

First we had a Chinese owner that had no money and the existing Chinese owner can't manage what money it has got!

Now we have sacked Garry Monk in similar circumstances to the removal of Gary Rowett, let's hope we do not replace him with a "name" something the Chinese have been guilty of in the past e.g. Zola.

What worries me is that failed managers like Steve McLaren are being associated with the manager's vacancy. 

The sacking of Monk would be perhaps more acceptable to those concerned if we knew what the Board of Directors mean by these phrases in the club's statement posted on bcfc.com on the evening of 18th June: "A fresh and modern footballing philosophy" and "the club's core values"

I challenge Xuandong Ren to meet with me, any time any place to discuss what is meant by these meaningless(?) phrases that so often appear when public relations become more important than real information for the customers (sorry fans!)

It is my expectation that my request for a meeting will be met with the same lack of reply that accompanied my offer to act as a Independent Non-Executive Director for six months free-of-charge!

Let''s hope those "core values" include HONESTY - FINANCIAL PROBITY - STRICT CORPORATE GOVERNANCE - TRANSPARENCY - CUSTOMER (FAN)  FOCUS - that will do for starters!