Blues Net Kapo!

I said we were in for a nervous wait. It just goes to show you how wrong I was, doesn’t it?

Yesterday afternoon, Tatts reported in the Mail that Blues could possibly tie up a deal for the French international at some point next week. However, it started springing up on sites that we’d signed him and then, upon checking my email, I found a comment via this very blog that linked to an article on the Blues site saying that he was now officially a Blues player.

Fantastic!

Fulham and Everton supposedly made late bids but ultimately, they were too little, too late.  The link to Kapo only sprung up a few days ago and already a deal is done. The board and club need to be commended on keeping a potential deal quiet and then wrapping it up with frightening efficiency. Hopefully we’ll see Flamini, De Ridder, Ridgewell and Konchesky arriving in the same way soon!

After so many weeks of Blues fans being down in the doldrums, it finally feels like we’re beginning to assemble the side that we want to be nearer to starting with at Chelsea in six weeks time. The squad report back for pre-season training this week (Wednesday I think) and all of a sudden, it’s looking a lot more cheery than it has been. I think some of the cynics – myself included to a degree – owe the board an apology, especially if we carry on in this vein.

So far, we’ve had to lash out £5m in promotion bonuses, committed £4m to Muamba, £3m on Kapo and £2.7m on O’Connor. It’s good business and I’d be guessing that a lot of our rivals will be wishing that they’d signed a couple of that lads that we have.

I’ve started a new poll on the right hand side… are you happy with the board’s dealings so far this summer? I suspect this might’ve gone a different way had I done it last week.

The last poll saw over 210 votes with 49% saying they wanted Yeung to take over at Blues, 35% saying they were unsure and 16% saying that they didn’t want him here.

Oh, and before I forget, you can view some vid’s of Kapo in action by clicking the following links [#1, #2, #3, #4] – Thanks to Steve T.

Shaping Of The Squad

Yesterday I said that I had three blogs planned. I did one last night, I did one earlier today (thanks for not picking that up, Newsnow!) and now I’m finally getting around to the third one.

Basically I wanted to examine the squad a little and see what we’re doing to solve problems as well as deciding on whether the targets that we’re going for are up to scratch or not. I’ve done plenty of transfer digest posts over the last few weeks but I’m yet to look at the squad as a whole. It’s difficult to do when there’s still so much buying and selling to be done but the links are now coming thick and fast and a lot of deals have been given credence by certain outlets in the local media.

And that leads me nicely onto Garry O’Connor who officially signed for the club yesterday. There’s been some nice quotes attributed to him since he signed and he’s clearly up for a challenge and relishing the chance to play against the likes of Chelsea when the season starts in little over a month.

In another piece on .com, O’Connor talks about his time in Russia and how it’s helped him mature as a person and as a player. Eric Black also gives O’Connor a ringing endorsement and O’Connor reveals that there was quite a bit of interest in him before he signed for Blues. All in all, I’m over the moon that he’s here.

I think initially people were a bit disappointed. All we kept hearing about was how this player was too expensive, how we were baulking at asking prices and wages and it seemed as though we’d never actually sign anyone. Then O’Connor was mentioned for under £3m and Blues fans seemed underwhelmed by the idea of a player who, on the surface of things, looked a trouble maker and didn’t have a fantastic scoring record.

It feels as though the more we’ve learnt, the more excited we’ve become and already he seems to have been elevated to a starter’s position and the talk is of who will play next to him, if anyone at all. O’Connor seems like the type of player that Blues fans will love, always willing to give it a go and always willing to learn. He sounds like he’s up for it and so all that remains is seeing if he can walk the walk as well as he can talk the talk.

Young and hugnry : Check!

And speaking of new signings, the news is in today that Blues expect French international midfielder Kapo to sign from Juventus for £2m next week.

I said yesterday that it would be a nervy wait. I’m still not crowing from the rooftops but if the Mail report something like this, it’s usually pretty reliable. I won’t be completely satisfied until I see it in official on the Blues website, however. The use of language in the Mail site is interesting…

But Kapo decided to pin his faith in Blues, who believe he can re-ignite his career with them in the Premiership as their key playmaker after it stalled in Turin.

Hmmm! To me, “key playmaker” suggests a role in the middle of the park. Something which our esteemed manager has not really been keen on in previous seasons. We’ve had attack minded players – albeit not in the same class as Kapo – but Bruce has either stuck them out wide or not played them at all. Jarosik was perhaps the only exception when he played him behind a main striker for a period. It didn’t exactly work. It’ll be interesting to see where Bruce fits Kapo in. I can’t see him being happy at being back up to Clemence or Jonty!

Matthieu Flamini of Arsenal is another name we’ve been linked with and if we pull this signing off, it will be a definite sign of intent. He’s a classy player and would wholly improve our midfield. He doesn’t panic in possession and would, in my opinion, progress even further than he has at Arsenal with a regular run, in a good side, in his favourite position.

The problem might be this… where are we now going to accommodate Muamba? Well, let’s just for a second assume that such a problem exists. There’s a few options. Either shunt Kapo onto the left (where I’ve read that he’s at his best, very much in the McSheffrey role, supporting the main strikers) and move McSheffrey up front.

Or play a 4-4-1-1 with Flamini and Muamba sitting behind Kapo supporting O’Connor up top on his own. Possibly add De Ridder onto the right and you have a completely transformed midfield.

Or even play Kapo on the right – if we don’t get De Ridder – and leave McSheffrey where he is with O’Connor partnering the much fancied to do well next season Cameron Jerome up front?

Other bids are still going in for players and I’d be very excited at the prospect of Konchesky from West Ham United and Liam Ridgewell from Aston Villa. The back line is worrying me because even at Championship level, Tiny dropped the odd clanger and Jaidi was sent off more times than is acceptable. That yard of pace that he’s lacking could be two at the top level and it’s scary to think about… although by Jaidi’s own admission, the Championship was a different kettle of fish for him so maybe I’m doing him a disservice.

I don’t think too many of us would be comfortable with just Sadler as a recognised left back next season. I’m hoping that we step up our interest in Konchesky sooner rather than later. I don’t like the idea that we’re leaving it quite late. Kelly cannot play left back (I’m amazed by people who think he did well – he did, under the circumstances, which is a right back filling in at left back but not as a serious contender to the left back berth) and off the top of my head, I’m struggling to think of anyone else who could cover should Sadler suffer an injury or run out of steam as was reported last season.

Konchesky fits the bill perfectly of what we need and the more I think about him in a Blues shirt, the more I think I want it to happen. He’s a good player who – like so many others who seem to be joining – could quickly revert to his best if we provide him with a happy home and a good start to the season.

Ridgewell would make me nervous originally but we desperately need cover at centre half. If not Ridgewell, who? We were linked with a US international a couple of weeks ago but I know little about him and haven’t read anything since. Ridgewell seems to be the number 1 target and like Konchesky, if we’re going to get him, let’s get him and get him in at the same time as everyone else – let’s all start the pre-season together. Djourou of Arsenal seems to have gone quiet so I’d very much doubt him coming here now…

Midfield, defence… finally, strikers. Mikael Forssell, Cameron Jerome, DJ Campbell, Rowan Vine and Garry O’Connor. I can’t make my mind up about this list. Out of all of them, Cameron Jerome is the guy tipped to make a splash next year and I can see why. He’s the only real powerful and pacey forward that we have who genuinely looks a threat when on song.

DJ will do a job if he can continue his habit of being in the right place at the right time and we’re still yet to really see what Rowan Vine is capable of. Still, he showed signs of quality last season and this will be a big ask of him. Not only the step up but also forcing his way into the first XI. If I’m honest, I can’t see him being here beyond January. Mikael Forssell… well, who knows what the story is with him any more? I’m tired of typing “If he can get his form back…”

O’Connor seems to me to be the only striker we’ll be signing. Kamara of West Bromwich Albion and Harewood of West Ham United were deemed too expensive and we’ve heard nothing of Mido coming from Tottenham Hotspur in almost a month now. Me thinks the striking department is done. I think Bruce is thinking that McSheffrey can always play up top and for me, he can be last season’s Bendtner, doing the unexpected and bringing us points when it looks like we mightn’t get any.

So what if all – or most – of these signings come off?

One of the key reasons we were relegated was our inability to hold onto the ball. It’s almost as if the defence didn’t trust the midfield. They’d be a bit of knocking it backwards and forwards 10 yards and then it’d end up being launched up field with no hope of getting it back any time soon. Our opponents could play, we couldn’t.

The players we’re being linked with look as though they have the quality to be comfortable in possession and with that comes the ability to be much more probing in the way we attack. We’ll know a bit more about our strikers next term if this sort of signing comes off. After all, we could’ve had Thierry Henry, Andriy Shevchenko and Ruud Van Nistelrooy during our relegation season and we still wouldn’t have scored a goal… judging our strikers would’ve been very harsh.

The players being linked are all young, hungry and will improve the side. This can only be a good thing and even more pleasing is the fact that we’re looking at the type of player to fit the gaps that we have now or that we had in our last Premiership season.

We didn’t have width last year, we didn’t have a “key playmaker” in our last season in the Prem, we didn’t have competition for places all over the park, two players for each position, players who retain position and exploit space, attacking outlets. Gone are the players here for a pay day, players who cannot stand up to the rigours of a full campaign, players who think they’re better than they are.

Of course, with such change comes casualties and players such as Tebily, Gray and even Neil Kilkenny (maybe, sadly, even a Clemence or a Johnson?) and some younger reserves might have to leave. It’s the price of progress and one of these players could go on to be a big star. But can we keep hold of them knowing that they will probably not get a chance in the first team at this moment in time? More to the point, would they want to stay? I sincerely doubt it.

The whole edict has changed and it feels like it’s really started to roll over the last few days. The most important aspect that I can see is variety. When we were relegated, we were terribly one dimensional and had one tactic. The squad – if it all comes together as the board and Bruce are seemingly planning – will have options, depth and variety.

If it doesn’t work, it can be changed. If players get injured or suffer a loss of form, there’s someone there to take his place. Players want to play for Blues and want to do well and with six weeks to go until the season starts, it feels good to be typing – and feeling – such things.

At the moment, all we have is a bunch of newspaper articles claiming that these things are happening. But Muamba came from Arsenal almost out of the blue one day and now Kapo and O’Connor have done the same. Would you bet against the likes of Konchesky, Ridgewell and Flamini doing the same?

At the moment, I personally wouldn’t.

The Takeover

The takeover has been a bit of strange episode for me. I’m so used to blogging most things that happen with regards to Blues and thus far, I’ve managed to steer clear of any such talk thanks to a succession of brilliant articles [#1, #2, #3, #4] by Grimes.

At the moment, Grimesy (to give him his full title!) is busy with a new baby and one or two other bits and pieces. We’re hoping to have his next article up over the next 24-48 hours.

Since there’s been some developments, I figured I’d have a go at writing something whilst, at the same time, trying to work out how I feel about any potential deal that may or may not end up happening.

I first heard of actual news a couple of days ago when my brother rang me up to tell me that Yeung had purchased 30% of Blues and that he was now the single biggest shareholder. My initial reaction was to hightail it to my PC and check what was what since my brother is often easily confused!

This is what I would’ve done except that I was in the middle of a very important golf game (yes, on the Nintendo Wii – they’re great fun, go get one.)  Plus, we had guests. It would’ve been rude to simply run off and ignore them. So I considered what it meant, without knowing all the facts.

The business world to me is a complete mystery. I do not understand the phrases used, the stock market or shares. Basically, anything I know about this deal has come from painstaking reading of every single article available. And that’s a lot considering that some get it wrong and some just repeat what other articles are saying. Hence, I’m not going to cite any sources here. I’m simply going by my understanding of what’s happening. If I get it wrong, I’m sure someone will correct me… and Grimesy will sweep it all up this weekend.

So my understanding at the time was that Sullivan and the Golds owned about 75% of the club – a few months earlier, Sullivan had done some hocus pocus with his shares meaning that if he ever wanted to leave, the Golds could effectively buy him out – this hadn’t been possible before.

And so there I was, stood in my living room – about to tee off on the demanding eighth hole in 14 M/S winds, a shot off the lead – trying to do all sorts of basic sums in my head to work out how he could possibly own 30% of the club with Sullivan and the Golds still there.

Eventually I got around to doing a bit of research for myself. As I now understand it, Yeung has purchased the right to 29.9% of shares in the club for around £1m? He needs to purchase these shares within the next couple of weeks. They’re made up of mainly Sullivan and Golds shares (totalling around £15m – that won’t go into the club) with Karren Brady and Roger Bannister also selling some to Yeung.

If Yeung gets 30% of shares, he’s then legally obligated to launch a formal takeover although Sully and Gold do not have to sell… as it currently stands, Yeung will become the biggest single shareholder at Blues with around 30% whilst the Golds and Sullivan will have around 23% each. This, in essence, puts Sullivan and Gold in charge since anything that Yeung might want to do could effectively be outvoted.

Right, I think that’s where we’re at. Like I say, feel free to correct me if you feel that I’m wrong. It’s my understanding of the current state of affairs.

Now I’m trying to work out how I feel about that. Well, first of all, I’m very appreciative of David Gold. According to an article in the Mail, Sullivan was willing to sell his shares but Gold convinced him to allow himself to sell the same amount so that overall, they still have the majority of shares between them.

That’s safeguarding the future of the club should Mr Yeung not be all that we’re hoping he will be. One thing’s for sure, David Gold has put almost 15 years of graft into Blues and he’s not about to let that slip at the drop of a hat. I really cannot put into words how much I appreciate him trying to look after us like that. The man is a star.

A few days ago – before we were linked with Kapo, Flamini etc – I went into confident mode. I can’t help but think the future is bright. All the way through this summer, I’ve been cautious about our return to the Premiership, the prospects of staying up, the idea of a takeover after so many years of eager stability with the Golds and Sullivan.

With Yeung possibly coming in, there’s a chance for a fresh start. I hope he’s genuine about keeping the ’spirit’ of the club since it’s been somewhat eroded in the fast moving, got-to-get-on nature of the modern game. Maybe change – no matter how subtle – is what is needed to perhaps breathe some new – less cynical – life into St Andrew’s.

I sincerely doubt that Yeung will come in and pump million after million into the club. Indeed, there’s a lot of cynics on message boards out there who wonder what the point is in having him take over if he’s no more wealthy than the current board. I happen to think that most things in life have a shelf life and for the good of the club, the current board – after doing their final kind act of making sure that Yeung is willing to do what’s best by us – need to realise that they’ve come to the end of theirs.

It’s been a remarkable 15 years and I’ll perhaps talk about that if and when Yeung takes full control and we wave goodbye to the current board. Change is a frightening prospect and as it gets closer and closer, the anxiety among fans is palpable. That’s the price of progress, maybe.

Yeung is still a mystery and still no-one seems to quite know how much money he has. The talk of personal wealth and business assets has become the talk of many a forum and excitement over a potential takeover has cooled considerably since Mr Mittal stopped being linked.

I don’t understand why that should be exactly. None of us know much about Mr Yeung or what his plans might be for Blues. Bearing in mind how well the board have done to safeguard Birmingham City over the last fifteen years, the fact that they have spent three days face to face with the man and are willing to trade fills me with confidence.

After all, David Gold has stated many times now that he would only move on once a buyer came along who could do a better job. And if David Gold says he can, I believe he can.

Next Page →

Explanation!

You have arrived at the archive site of the Birmingham City blog Joys & Sorrows. If you were looking for fresh, meaty stuff then this way, please.

This section of the site covers the blog portion of J&S from 26th April 2006 - when the site returned after a catastrophic hosting failure causing the loss of over 500 articles - to 28th April 2008 - when I decided to have a prolonged rest from the site.

Here, if it so takes your fancy, you can find every single article, totalling over 1,000, written by myself and many others over that two year period.

Unfortunately, the formatting on some of the posts is a little rough but since this is an archive, it doesn't matter too much. Nothing is unreadable although a great deal of the links will now, sadly, be broken. So internal Joys & Sorrows links will lead you to 404 errors.

I decided to archive them in this way because I wanted to start something fresh for the main part of the site. Hopefully you'll be able to see that up on the main portion of the site now.

Commenting for the archive section has obviously been switched off. You can flick around the archives by using the 'Find It' function in the middle column or the respective 'Categories' or 'Archives' headings in the sidebars

- Aff, 03/08/08.