Obviously the best situation would be the board going and selling to some responsible owners, but this article is written under the assumption that our mysterious friends aren’t moving for the next couple of years at least.
How sad is it, by the way, that of all the Chinese ownership that has arisen in our game, we seem to have pulled the short straw? Wolves have struck lucky and possibly the big time; the Albion seem fairly stable, and as mentally deranged as Dr Tony appears on Twitter, Villa seem to be run reasonably well from the outside looking in.
If any of the board happen to read this [unlikely yes, but we do hear stories that they occasionally monitor social media], they might well be scratching their heads wondering why they are being criticised given they handed Harry Redknapp a large transfer kitty in the summer.
But owning a club isn’t solely about chucking money at the team.
It’s about stewardship and decision making.
There’s intricacies of running a football club that they clearly don’t understand, from the other side of the world, and as a result they’re asking a confused and lost football club to compete in a league of well-run rivals and it’s producing the results you’re currently witnessing – chaos.
So, what can save Blues? What do we need to change?
Removing Darren Dein
Darren Dein is at the club to use his vast array of contacts to help us secure a top class playing staff, as well as advise our owners on footballing matters – well, it’s been a disaster.
I’ve got nothing against Dein, I don’t know the man, but we sit bottom of the table after one of the highest net spends in the division, with the fans on the verge of revolting, reports of dressing room infighting and the prospect of relegation on the horizon.
Our signings have been dreadful.
It’s hard to identify successful signings bar perhaps Stockdale and Colin. And it wasn’t exactly rocket science signing the keeper from the best team in the division last year, and one of our rivals’ first team defenders. It’s not as if Dein’s ‘vast array of contacts’ are unearthing unheard of gems.
Wolves signed Bonatini from Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia, we’re paying a ‘transfer guru’ to bring in people from Brighton.
I don’t get it.
We spent in excess of £15m in August to make the team worse, when you spend that kind of cash, you shouldn’t be talking about just two signings that seem ‘alright’.
So i’m not sure what service Dein is offering us, we’re getting worse and we’re signing players your average Four Four Two magazine-reading slob could identify with their eyes closed.
Manifestly the Chinese are receiving a poor service. It would be infinitely better to replace Dein with a football person who could liaise between the unhappy supporter base and the board, relaying the concerns of the fans to the mother-ship.
Somebody like Trevor Francis; to just be there, be a face, connect the fans to the ownership, and offer genuinely helpful advice to the board.
At the moment you get the impression the Chinese are in the fog, waving their arms around, pressing buttons, making decisions in isolation, having no clue what’s happening at St Andrews – that needs to be rectified quickly, having a former player / knowledgeable go-between would be a significant step in reducing these problems.
The Playing Style
Anybody who’s read my blogs before knows i’m a bit of a football dinosaur. My main concern is winning games of football.
I like pragmatism. Put the players in the system that best suits their abilities, and brings about the most shots on goal possible to give us the greatest chance of winning the game.
I don’t know about you, but under Trevor Francis and Steve Bruce we played fast football, direct football, we played at a high tempo, that crucially resulted in us winning lots of games at this level. There were wingers who took their man on and whipped a ball into the box, two strikers up top usually, a central midfield that cared little for side-wards passing, but more about recycling possession and then launching an attack, getting the ball to the wingers and then breaking forward.
Oh for the wide-play days of Stan Lazaridis ghosting past three players and scooping a cross into the box; or Jon McCarthy; or Paul Devlin, Damien Johnson, Jermaine Pennant.
Ndlovu, Furlong and Adebola caused chaos for defences under Francis. Horsfield, John, Forssell, Heskey never gave the opposition a minute’s rest under Bruce.
Why have we abandoned this way of playing? To chase possession-based football, slow build ups, multiple sitting midfielders and inverted wingers who cut inside? I don’t get it, it doesn’t work, it hasn’t worked under Harry, Zola and now Cotterill.
Rowett brought in the 4-2-3-1 tactic, similar to Cotterill’s 4-3-2-1 tactic, but under Rowett we played with wingers like Demarai Gray, Otobor, Cotterill and Maghoma, even Lloyd Dyer, who were proper wingers and once our defensive players soaked up the opposition’s attacks, these wingers would spring the counter and we’d be in on goal within three passes.
Now, under Cotterill, we don’t play the old high tempo football of Bruce and Francis; but we don’t play the intelligent pacey counter attack of Rowett either – instead we play this groundhog day brand of football where we sit back with three defensive centre mids, and when we manage to get the ball, we play this vile, slow, side-wards and backwards possession-based football, giving the opposition chance to get back into position, before somebody miscontrols the ball or hoofs it out of play and then we’re back defending again.
It’s blunt. There’s no craft or subtlety to it, it’s just a weekly spectacle of crap midfielders trying to pass the ball between themselves before they lose it.
Watching Gardner, Davis, NDoye, Grounds and Kieftenbeld pass the ball to one another, as every one of them mis-controls, then struggles to get the ball into their feet and finally spins another pass to another player who struggles to control it, is maddening.
On the rare occasions we get the ball out wide to Jota and Boga, both of them look to cut inside every time; and they end up just dribbling into a wall of opposition players and lose the ball.
No crosses for the striker, the game isn’t stretched, everything is narrow, every Blues player trying to run through the middle of the opposition before being crowded out. Rinse and repeat, every week.
It’s little wonder we are the lowest scorers in the whole of the football league. It’s dreadful.
David Cotterill isn’t amazing, and his best years are behind him, but why do you release him from his contract before the transfer window opens, and then resort to playing David Davis on the right when you’re chasing an equaliser against Norwich, it makes no sense.
So what do we do?
A lot of the fans are blaming Steve Cotterill, and he has made a few mistakes [releasing David Cotterill prematurely; playing Gallagher on the wings in the early days] but really, and especially yesterday against Norwich, his hands are tied . Juke was the only fit striker available, we don’t play with wingers because Maghoma aside, we haven’t got any; and his only real decision to make was which combination of shite central midfielders he was going to pick out of Gardner, NDoye, Kief, Davis and Gleeson.
The squad lacks balance, quality and confidence. All Cotterill can do is try and put them in a formation that makes them competitive.
Even so, I would still let him go. His confidence is shot, and he’s taken to mumbling in press conferences begetting a crazed and defeated air; a lot of the fans have already made their minds up about him and he’s being painted as a Lee Clark type figure; he’s been making mistakes with his team selections and you can’t ignore the fact that we’re bottom of the league, the lowest scorers in the football league and look completely gone.
We need freshening up.
Rowett was the best manager we’ve had since our Premier League days, and i’d look at trying to find another Rowett.
Go into League 1 and 2 and try to unearth a gem. There’s a guy at Shrewsbury Town, Paul Hurst, who’s taken Shrews to the top two of League 1 losing only 4 games out of 24; as well as having a promotion with Grimsby on his CV. These are the type of managers we should be looking at.
Sheffield United went and got Wilder from the lower leagues and they’re having their best season in a generation now.
If it was me, i’d appoint somebody like Paul Hurst, then go into League 1 and put a £2m bid in for the fastest right footed right winger; the fastest left footed left winger, and try to recreate those high tempo Bruce and Francis days. Get the ball out wide, have a run, whip a cross in the box and let’s start making chances again.
Because this groundhog day brand of football, where we create no chances, no attempts on goal, try and pass through teams in slow motion and end up losing 0-1, 0-2, is not good for anybody’s health – especially the club’s.