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Birmingham City – A Positive Beginning, Heading For A Torrid End

Predicted for a top half finish at the start of the season, after the announcement of new American owners and a positive summer transfer window, Birmingham City now find themselves in the midst of a potential relegation battle after losing to 23rd placed Sheffield Wednesday on Friday night.

New Beginnings

On the 13th of July last year, it was announced that Knighthead Capital Management, through affiliation to Shelby Companies Limited, had bought a 45.6% stake in the club, making them majority shareholders of Birmingham City FC. A new board was appointed and building blocks were starting to be put in place for the season ahead, with an aim for Birmingham to push for the higher end of the Championship, as opposed to previous seasons where the Blues have found themselves amongst relegation struggles.

Just two days before Birmingham’s season was set to begin, there was another addition to the board which came as a shock, not just to Blues Fans but the entirety of football fans. NFL legend, Tom Brady, was set to become a minority shareholder in the West-Midlands side. Brady’s new role was becoming the chair of an advisory board; set to try and create winning methods off the field, by helping with the nutrition, health, wellness and recovery.

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 10: Former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks during a ceremony honoring him at halftime of New England’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette Stadium on September 10, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
A Positive Start

With signings such as Koji Miyoshi and Fulham loanee Jay Stansfield, the transfer window was positive and so was August. John Eustace had the Blues in full swing heading into September; with three wins and a draw in the Championship’s opening month, it felt the club was moving in the right direction and quickly.

Sitting third heading into September, Eustace and his team were set to face a test of character, with three out of five games away from home.

Having drew their first game of the month at home to Millwall, their unbeaten run was extended. But not for long. The following four games resulted in only one point out of a possible 12.

October was a new month and Eustace had seemed to of turned the form around. With high scoring home victories, against Huddersfield and local rivals West Brom, St. Andrews was soon becoming a fortress. Or so fans thought.

Shock Managerial Change

Just three days after beating West Brom in an emphatic 3-1 victory to claim the cities Championship bragging rights, John Eustace was sacked. A shock to the system for many; Eustace had managed to lose only three times out of the first 11 games, winning five and had the Blues in a play-off charge.

With no manager set to take charge on the same day, it was a decision which had stunned many.

The Wednesday that week saw former Derby boss Wayne Rooney take the reins, an appointment that left fans confused about the way in which the club was heading. A manager who so far hasn’t succeeded at any of the clubs in which he has managed.

Respectively, his time at Derby was a torrid time, where the club was in financial crisis. Yet his win ratio in America at D.C United read only 26%, a strange figure for a club who is looking to bring a winning mindset into their setup.

The ex-Manchester United stars first game ended in a 1-0 loss away to his former teammate Michael Carrick’s Middlesborough. And this was just the beginning of what was to come for Blues fans.

Birmingham were about to embark on a run of form that only saw them win twice in their next 10 games. A 0-0 draw against relegation expected Rotherham was enough for fans to turn on Wayne and the feel-good factor of St. Andrews in August, was long gone. Many had begun to further question the appointment of Wayne Rooney and the judgement of the new board.

Christmas was certainly not festive either. The hectic fortnight saw just two points gained out of a possible 15 and that was all she wrote for Wayne. His third managerial stint ended after 83 days. Just two wins out of 15 games was enough for the board and with a break in play for two weeks, it was best for the club to use this time wisely and re-group. Their new manager had to have Championship experience; Rooney had left the club sitting four places above the bottom. He had taken the club from tormenting with the play-offs into a potential relegation scrap.

LEEDS, ENGLAND – JANUARY 01: Wayne Rooney, Manager of Birmingham City, arrives at the stadium prior to the Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Birmingham City at Elland Road on January 01, 2024 in Leeds, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
Mowbray The Man

After careful consideration, with names like Jesse Marsch and England under 21 manager Lee Carsley amongst the favourites, ex-Sunderland manager Tony Mowbray was appointed on the 8th of January. The 60-year-old was sacked by Sunderland earlier this season and agreed a two-and-a-half-year deal with the Blues.

The former Celtic centre-half is no stranger to the Championship. Driving Sunderland into a play-off finish last season, later losing to promoted Luton, he was applauded for achieving so much with such a young squad.

 Prior to this, many moons ago in 2008, Mowbray managed to steer local rivals West Brom to Championship glory. A proven championship manager, better suited to the demands of the new Birmingham board.

Tasked with Swansea at home and Stoke away in his first two weeks, the former Blackburn gaffer reverted back to a 4-2-3-1 formation and managed to earn four points out of a potential six.

Struck with a weekend off, their next challenge was away to West Brom where it appeared the new manager momentum had quickly worn off. A late Adreas Weiman goal secured a one nil win for the baggies.

Next up Sheffield Wednesday. A guaranteed three points for most teams this season? A chance to gain some more momentum heading into the final stretch of the season? Well, an Ike Ugbo brace certainly was not in the script for the travelling side. A sad Friday night for the Blues; losing two nil against relegation beckoned Sheffield Wednesday, amounting more pressure on the job that their new manager has to face.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – JANUARY 13: Tony Mowbray, newly appointed Manager of Birmingham City during the Sky Bet Championship match between Birmingham City and Swansea City at St Andrews (stadium) on January 13, 2024 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
What Does The Future Hold?

Birmingham are certainly a team underperforming. It’s clear John Eustace was able to get the best out of his players and a shock managerial change has no doubt played a massive piece in the downfall. They are set for two upcoming home games on the bounce against a tough Blackburn who will bring their best for new manager John Eustace, who will be looking to get one over the Birmingham board and an in-form Sunderland team, who sit in seventh place currently.

Tony Mowbray is certainly a man who can steady the ship, as proving in his first two games and with a two-and-a-half-year contract on the table, it looks as if they have full trust in the experienced manager to help the Blues reach their goals of pushing for promotion next season.

They are a club, now, with money behind them, a team good enough for the Championship, and whose owners and fans are expecting change.

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