An Open Letter to Birmingham City

I don’t know how to feel about the club I love. That’s the shit truth about the situation you, the Board have created.

Under any other circumstances, I would say the defeat to Derby was the team heroically losing the game trying to win it. But this isn’t any other circumstance, this is the cruel reality we are in:

  • We sit in 18th position in the league, having dropped from 7th 19 games ago
  • We have the second worst goal difference in the league, second only to already relegated Rotherham
  • Just 6 points above the team in 22nd
  • We have 5 games (and 15 points) left to play for
  • Of those 5 games, one is against the team currently third, one is against the Villa and the other 3 are against teams below us, two of which are fighting for survival
  • Of Zola’s 22 games in charge he has won just 2, a win percentage of 9.09%
  • In those 22 games, we have scored a mere 17 goals and conceded 38, giving Zola a goal difference of -21

The Derby game perfectly summed up all that is wrong with the Blues at the moment, more possession (52%), more shots on goal (22 to 12) and yet we came out the wrong side of the final result.

I want to say “it’s OK, we played well, we just lost.  We can move on to the next game and set things right”.  But those numbers above just swirl around in my head.  A team cannot be unlucky, unfortunate, let silly goals in and be ready to set things right for 22 games.  We cannot be going in the right direction for 22 games having not won in our last 7.

But the fans do not seem to be discontent with things – there are no protests, no banners, no harsh songs.  What the fans have done is shift from supporting the club to supporting the team. Just getting behind the 11 that take to the field in the hope they can get something from the game.

Is hope enough? Should we not set our standards higher than hoping not to lose? When did Birmingham fans become so use to things being so shit?

If Zola were to read this, I would ask him why things haven’t changed.  Why in his 22 games in charge are we still succumbing to the same old problems we were when you took over? Why has he not found a formula that works? Why does he insist on a formation and mindset that leaves us exposed at the back?

I would ask him if he thinks his coaching staff are getting the most out of their groups of players?  I would ask him if he thinks his defensive coach is really up to the standard required? I would ask him, if he said yes to the last question why it is we are still more fragile than bone china at the back?

I would ask him why, if we had 22 shots on goal against Derby, why he thought only 3 of them were on target? I would ask him how he plans to address this.

Getting into specifics, I would ask Zola why it is Cheik Keita is still not tracking back hard to help defend.  I would ask him why he thinks Paul Robinson makes a good centre back in this league.  I would ask him why we do not play with any width other than that provided by wingbacks. I would ask him why our most expensive signing cannot make it into the starting line-up.  I would ask him if he’s thought about introducing any of the younger Blues players who have shown great form in the u23’s.

But most of all, if Zola were to read this, I would ask him what he thought of his performance so far and if he thought he could honestly affect change from the way things are currently.

Those last questions would probably reveal most about Zola as a manager.  I understand and appreciate the pride and commitment he has to his task at hand.  I really do.

I just think, when all things are considered and all is said and done that both parties just don’t fit. He has been asked to completely change the style of play for the team, despite only 5 new first team signings.  He has been asked to do this mid-season when games come thick and fast and real opportunities for coaching are limited.

I do have real empathy for Zola and sympathy for the situation he is in.  But, and it is a big but, we are in a results driven business and no-one can argue the results haven’t been good enough.

Even Lee Clark, with his finger in the air approach to match day formations and names out of a hat approach to his starting XI selections had a significantly better management record than Zola has. So why has he been afforded so much luxury in time in charge?

Firstly, timing.  He joined 2-3 weeks before the start of the January transfer window.  He then saw signings take place for the 4 weeks of January.  People (quite rightly) then afforded him the time to let those new signings bed in. However, he has had time, those players have bedded in (as best they can) and the results are still not there.

Secondly, performance. Performances have been a lot brighter than they were under Rowett.  I don’t think even the most ardent of Rowett fans (of which I am probably one) could argue that the football being played now is more positive than it was under the Bromsgrove Mourinho. If performances were crap as well as results then Zola would be gone. Hell, results weren’t enough to save Rowett’s job.

Finally, I firmly believe that Zola’s tenure is closely tied to that of Panos Pavlakis.  Zola was the man Panos wanted, he was the man chosen by Panos. TTA followed his lead as someone with more experience than them in the world of football and someone who knew what the fans wanted.  If Zola goes it will be because Panos has lost his job or if Panos needs to save his own skin. I cannot see Zola going under any other circumstance.

Today, the Birmingham City Board (probably driven by Panos) decided to issue a statement regarding Zola, confirming fans worst fears in that he is here to stay.  The full statement can be found here, but I just wanted to break it down a little:

“the Club has not lined up any manager to replace Gianfranco, who has the continual full support of the Blues Board of Directors.”

This should probably have read: “The Board of directors are not prepared to admit defeat on a failed appointment to the holding company who fully backed the change in manager and want to try and save face.”

“Whilst we understand the frustrations caused by the run of results,”

You really have no idea. You do not and will not ever understand what it means to be a Bluenose. Going through the hurt, enjoying the good times, and the let downs – until you commit your heart and soul to the turbulence of supporting Birmingham City you will never understand our frustrations.

“… the way the supporters got behind Gianfranco and the team on Saturday at St. Andrew’s was typical of Blues fans’ passion, care for the Club and desire for success, which is what we all share and much appreciate.”

The supporters got behind the eleven players giving what they could on the pitch. There is no support for Zola. All the fans can do now is get behind the players playing. You have left nothing else for us to support.

“…to try and play the kind of football every Blues supporter deserves to watch.”

Blues supporters deserve people that recognise that whilst attractive football is a great target that what really matters is getting 3 points. Fools.

Teams that strike out to enforce change get unstuck.  West Ham’s pursuit of ‘The West Ham way’ cost them massively and they are arguably still recovering from it. Leicester City won the Premier League being difficult to beat and playing on the counter.  They won the league ugly, did anyone complain?

There needs to be clear communication as to why the Board feels the need for attractive football is more important than results.  Playing attractive won’t do us any good if we go down.

I want to know from the Board what their strategy is going forward.  If we do survive, do they stick with Zola? If so for how long? I want to know if we do go down do they stick with Zola? Is there a worst-case scenario plan in place? If we do go down how much change is required in the playing staff to accommodate the FFP rules of League One?

Speaking of communication, the one thing the Board need to do is engage more with the fans.  Speak to us, we want to know. We have a right to know.

I would beg the Board to listen, on bended to knee to my request to provide more information to supporters – how can we back what we don’t know?

Another reason I have fallen out of love with my club is down to this frustration that nothing is forthcoming from the Board. The Only communication provided to supporters is through Social Media.  Since Zola, Since TTA officially took over, there has been a concerted effort to defraud supporters.

The complete and utter nonsensical fanfare on social media that came with the signing of Zola, through to the bludgeoning of celebrating mediocrity with the twitter commentary it’s clear that the communications team at the club have been given a mandate to hype anything they can.

Fans are not stupid.

I am not stupid.

We all know the Board want to try and distract fans from the imbroglio by over egging anything deemed positive. The flashing GOAL! Gif used on the twitter commentary for a last-minute consolation goal when 3-0 down is just one example of this.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe it’s not the Board forcing this type of idiocy onto the fans, expecting them to act the plebs and lap it up, maybe the team in charge of social media output do not realise the stupidity of their work?

I know fans will say “you should support your team no matter what”. I have huge respect for these people.  I am not one of them.

If you are ill, you go to the doctors.

Birmingham has problems, but they are ones that can be remedied. But either the key decisions makers are not willing to make a needed change or they simply do not see the problem in hand.  Either way, they are fundamentally ruining an entity that has been a constant in my life for about 30 years.

I want the club in the hands of people that have real experience of running a football club.  I do not want a ‘Penny Stock King’ keeping things ticking over and renaming holding companies and investment vehicles to make the Club more attractive to someone else who has no idea about running a football club.

I want a Chief Exec at the club that knows how to run a business in the footballing world.  Make sound business decisions based on true footballing knowledge. Because at the moment, the current incumbent, along with the rest of the Board at Birmingham City are unable to demonstrate sound industry knowledge.

I am tired, I am weary and I will journey on, but I right now I’m struggling. I’m struggling because I no longer recognise all that is good about my club.

 

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