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Birmingham City's managerial merry-go-round

Birmingham City's managerial merry-go-round

After parting company with Steve Cotterill last night, Birmingham City are poised to appoint their fifth manager in 15 months - the same number of managers they employed in the previous 15 years.

Blues were once a club renouned for unequivocally backing their manager. So why has the dynamic of the football club changed and where did it go so wrong for so many managers?

Trevor Francis, Steve Bruce and Alex McLeish racked up a decade and a half between them in the St. Andrews dugout. Birmingham City, unnder the ownership of David Sullivan and the Gold brothers, always gave their manager a fair crack of the whip.

The merry-go-round started after relegation in 2011. Under the ownership of the mysterious Carson Yeung, McLeish resigned paving the way for Chris Hughton.

With financed becoming tight, Hughton unaruguable overachieved at Blues - leading them into the play-offs which they eventually lost to Blackpool over two legs.

During the close season, Hughton was of the opinion that he couldn't possibly take the club any further after being instructed to sell players. That marked the end of a highly popular manager after one solitary season ehich included a Europa League run.

Since Hughton's exit, five managers have come and gone in a little under six years.

LEE CLARK: 26 June 2012 - 20 October 2014

Newcastle legend Lee Clark was appointed with a relatively successful spell at Huddersfield Town under his belt. Although Clark didn't take the Terriers up into the Championship, you could argue that he built the foundations on which their success has since been achieved.

His reign at Blues took a different avenue, though. From the moment he walied through the door as a young, enthusiastic manager, he began to feel the bite. By this point the purse strings were firmly tied and Clark had to wheel and deal on a less than a shoe string budget.

Many of his acquisitions were way below Championship standard and the young players coming through the ranks only did so because of the very poor squad being assembled.

Clark did make one or two very shrewd additions - Jonathan Grounds still remains a Blues player to this day and Paul Caddis will forever be lauded for his last minute goal at Bolton which saved Blues from the dreaded drop into League One.

What Clark's team lacked in quality they more than made up for in passion - which came from the dugout. However, Clark's tactics and management style often left a lot to be desired. After keeping the team up at Bolton in 2014, Clark paid the price for a poor start to the 2014/15 season and was sacked in October with Blues languishing in the bottom three.

GAMES: 116

GARY ROWETT: 27 October 2014 - 14 December 2016

On a shortlist that included Owen Coyle and Mike Phelan, Gary Rowett was the stand out choice to succeed Clark.

On the back of an 8-0 drbbing on home soil at the hands of Bournemouth, Rowett set about straightening things out. Michael Morrison was signed on loan from Charlton Athletic and went straight into the team for a goalless draw at Wolves.

A few days later, Rowett took charge of his first home game - an impressive 2-1 win over promotion contenders Watford.

Rowett's early success was based on simple tactics. Players were played in their natural position and the team adopted a system which suited their strengths. In a season that started so shabbily under Clark, Blues finished 10th.

Rowett's reliable counter attacking system was working but the football was often drab. His first full season saw another solid 10th place finish.

At the time, Carson Yeung's ill fated reign was over and Trillion Trophy Asia were now in control of the club.

That proved to Rowett's downfall. The fact he was never their man - and their refusal to publicly back him - led him astray. After Kit Symons was sacked from Fulham, Rowett's interest in the post had become serious.

Fulham wanted Rowett and he had verbally agreed to join them until Panos Pavlakis tabled a new and improved contract to keep him at St. Andrews.

With Blues challenging for a play-off place, Rowett's relationship with the board became strain and his position was under scrutiny. A 4-0 away loss at Newcastle was followed by a 3-0 home defeat to Barnsley and the decision was made to sack him even before a 2-1 win over Ipswich Town which proved to be his last game.

GAMES: 106

GIANFRANCO ZOLA: 14 December 2016 - 17 April 2017

Good players don't always make good managers and in Zola's case, this rings true. The less said about the Itlaian's reign the better.

The club appointed Zola hours after sacking Rowett deeming 'a change in direction' as their reasoning behind the decision.

A few early decent performances was about as good as it got for Zola. You could see his vision - he envisaged a Birmingham City team playing open, attractive football but, ultimately, you can't play champagne football with coca-cola players. And the team lacked direction, Zola lacked tactical nous and things quickly started to travel south.

Zola's remit was to staple down a play-off place but he led Blues in the opposite direction. After just two league wins from 24 games, Zola chucked the towel in after a Easter Monday defeat to Burton Albion.


HARRY REDKNAPP: 18 April 2017 - 16 September 2017

With Blues sitting just above the danger zone with three games remaining, Harry Redknapp was offered the chance at a rescue mission.

After starting his reign with a narrow 1-0 defeat at Villa Park, Redknapp led Blues to safety with a home win against Huddersfield and a final day victory at Bristol City.

In the summer, Redknapp was expected to move upstairs and hand the ropes over to his Assistant Manager Steve Cotterill.

But when 'Arry decided he quite fancied a pop at the job himself, he was handed a one year deal.

A slow start to the season led to Redknapp's criticism of the squad and the club's lack of trasnfer activity. A flurry of new signings on transfer deadline day was meant to be greeted as a new dawn for Birmingham City.

Many of the new players failed to deliver and Redknapp was becoming edgy. Eventually, he was sacked. One theory suggests that his dismissal wasn't purely results based with many sighting his lack of attendance at Wast Hills as a factor.


STEVE COTTERILL: 2 October 2017 - 3 March 2018

After Lee Carsley taking temporary charge, Steve Cotterill was appointed back in October. His first game was an impressive 1-0 win at home to table toppers Cardiff City. But from then on, he seemed to be stuck in a rut.

Blues managed to propel themsleves away from danger with four wins in six shortly after Christmas but they were soon back to their losing habit.

Despite being promised a transfer kitty, January came and went without new blood - one defence of Cotterill's reign.

But from playing one striker up front against struggling teams and playing players out of position to his pass-the-buck attitude - even blaming the fans for a defeat at home to Barnsley - Cotterill was evidently dangerously out of his depth. My biggest criticism of him is his stubborn reluctnace to make changes. Waiting for the second goal to be conceded at Villa Park before bringing on another attacker was criminal.

His relationship with the fans had turned toxic and there was no way back. He was sacked after a 2-1 defeat at Nottingham Forest - Blues' fifth successive Championship loss.



Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Rob Wildey
Date:Sunday March 4 2018
Time: 12:27PM


We have played with 3 attackers for most of the season and had 3 on the pitch against Villa. What we need and have done since Mark Ward is players who can pick out an attacker at the right time with an accurate pass. We could have 6 attackers on the pitch but without someone who can pass accurately at the right time they would be chasing and scrapping for balls all day long.
04/03/2018 13:12:00
Gazal - I disagree. Our wide players are often so deep they may as well be at full back.
Rob Wildey1
04/03/2018 14:05:00
I agree with both of you. Teams who successfully play with a 4-3-3 system are tactically drilled and good enough to interchange from a 4-3-3 system when in possession of the ball, to a 4-5-1 when not. Or they stay in a 4-3-3 shape but play a very high pressing game. Blues under SC didn't do either of those things effectively, resulting in Gallagher isolated up top when going forward, that's when he wasn't having to play wide that is!!
04/03/2018 16:32:00
I agree with all three of you! But our real problem was too many players effectively going missing during games, or just ineffective. So when we tried 4-3-3 it was more like a 3-1-2. And I have to be damningly honest, in too many games we may just have well as started 1 goal down given Stockdale's recent form. What I really wanted to say was thanks Rob for a really interesting summary. So at the end Cotterill's record was officially worse than Lee Clark's! And no-one in the history of pro football in any league anywhere ever will have a worse record than Zola. You can easily see the club unravelling just following that chronological summary.....
04/03/2018 17:01:00
There is a difference between a striker that can cross a ball and an a attacker that can cross a ball ...We need to score around 80 goals to have a chance at promotion many has our most picked attackers scored so far ...its a fine line between over attacking and over defending ...if you over defend and the ball is mostly in our half then the more chance the opposition has of scoring ...if you over attack and spend more time in their half you you leave our defence over exposed on the break ;but the difference is that if you lose the ball in their half the opposition has less chance of scoring according to sods law ..but we must have attackers that are most prolific at scoring ...Rowett seems to have gone over attacking at the moment as his defence has started to let goals in ...kro
David Village
04/03/2018 17:12:00
Well now we have monk we could see a 3-4-1-2 or a 3-5-2 he played at Leeds. Lets hope he can save us. And if its proves to late to save us then we don't get on his back we need too back him in L1 with a rebuild. KRO
05/03/2018 01:20:00
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