So last night the club confirmed what we thought was coming, Cotterill has been sacked. While it has been a poor tenure, I can’t help feeling sorry for him. Before anyone starts throwing rocks at me, let me explain. However I want to set the scene and to do that I need to go back. I do want to address a bigger issue too – but I will do that later in the blog. Firstly let’s look at management issues.
Let’s rewind back to December 2016. We were sat in the top half of the table, just outside the play off places, then we hear that Gary Rowett had been sacked. At the time it seemed an extraordinary decision. There seemed no football reason to sack him. So whether is was something behind the scenes that caused it, or it was simply the board deciding they want a new person – we don’t know.
If it was the latter, it was an incredibly brave decision. If Zola had led us to promotion, then it probably would have been described as an inspired decision. If it was the former reason, then who are we to criticise on matters of employment. However, unfortunately, the Zola appointment was a disaster. If it wasn’t for a 3rd appointment of Redknapp assisted by Cotterill, we would have gone down.
People now are saying that we should never have sacked Rowett and think where we would have been if we hadn’t, but as I have already said, we don’t know why and it may have been for a good reason. I would also say that at the time he left, there was a lot of criticism for the way we were playing under him. Something that people seem to have conveniently forgotten! So am I saying I’m pleased we sacked Rowett? No I’m not. I will support whichever manager we have, actually there maybe 1 or 2 people I might not – but I’ll leave that for now! The point is that Rowett left and that period ended.
So looking at the Redknapp / Cotterill tenure. Although short, it did what it needed to. At the time there was a lot of positivity and when Redknapp agreed to stay, I think it’s fair to say – the fans were positive about what might happen. However it didn’t turn out that way. For me, the big gap was the fact that Cotterill decided not to stay as Harry’s assistant. He clearly had a really positive impact with the players. I think that although the results weren’t going well, sacking Redknapp seemed madness. He had only had a few weeks with a whole new side, and I am convinced if he had been given to Christmas he would have turned it around. So again it makes you wonder, was the sacking results related, or something else?
So we then enter the period under Cotterill. There were mixed views on his appointment, which I can understand – but from memory, it appeared that people weren’t exactly rushing to get the job! He came back to the club where there had been a lot of changes to the squad, and that can’t be easy for any manager. The injuries to Adams and Vassell also cost us dear, which didn’t help him.
However there were some issues too. Firstly he seemed to play players out of position, especially forwards and defenders. While there may be occasional reasons to do so, it seemed a regular occurrence. I suppose the one obvious example is Gallagher. He played him wide and he seemed to struggle to have an impact. When he put him up front, we went on the best run under his tenure of 4 wins in 6. Also to be fair to Cotts, we had a pretty unchanged side at that time and then when Grounds & Maghoma got injured – it all went pear shaped again. So was that the manager, or just unfortunate circumstances?
The other point to note is that Cotterill didn’t bring anyone into the club in the January window. Was this down to him not finding anyone or the board not sanctioning it? I’m not entirely sure, but my guess would be the latter which of course makes it even more difficult for a manager especially if he has identified an area that needs strengthening.
I guess the point is, we as fans can be critical of what we see on the pitch, and fair enough – it is ALL about results. Cotterill’s record of averaging less than a point a game isn’t good enough, but I can’t help feeling he was partly a victim of circumstance. The guy seems a really nice bloke, and people I have spoken to who have met him, back that up.
So we have had a manager merry-go-round since December 2016 and we await the new victim, err sorry, manager. At the time of writing the favourite is Garry Monk. We wait and see. The first thing that does need to be fixed though, is how to cross effectively!
However there is one final point I want to make on this, because there is another part of this that I have alluded to but not specifically mentioned. That is the owners / board of the club. I have absolutely no idea who is running the club. It was clear from Steve’s interview that he hadn’t really spoken to them either, and Redknapp indicated the same when he was at Blues. Under Carson Yeung, there was a clear structure and there were people representing him here in the UK. Yes I know things didn’t end well, but he did get that right.
So I appeal to the owners / board as a fan of over 40 years, please set up 2 or 3 people who the manager can be accountable to, that the club can be a point of reference to, and that fans can see making decisions. This disconnect we have at the moment is not helping anyone, and in my opinion, until dealt with – we will not be able to go forward as a club.
I am sure that representatives of fanzines like ours and supporters clubs would be willing to meet with representatives of the owners to explain how improvements for better connectivity with us could be made. With that request, I am not criticising the existing forums that happen – but they deal with the every day running of the club. I think a conversation about structure could be really useful to help the owners understand things from a fan’s perspective.
I make this request in a respectful way. Football clubs aren’t just businesses, they represent communities and there are emotional ties to them. We as fans are the one constant in a club, and to move things forward, that connectivity needs to be there. So I would ask the owners to reach out to us. We want the same thing, that Birmingham City becomes a successful club on and off the pitch.