Regardless of how catastrophically-bad the previous season went, at the start of every new season fans seem to always be optimistic and hopeful. This is not based on logic. Your side could have lost its entire starting 11, be 1/500 to be relegated, and in complete financial ruin, but fans will still find a reason to stay hopeful.
I feel like I may be one of those slightly-deluded fans, because not too much from the previous seasons has even slightly suggested that anything but a relegation scrap is in the cards for Blues this year. And yet, I still feel like this season won’t be as bad as what we’ve seen before. For a start Monk has got us playing as a team. This leads to secondly that we are playing much better than I have seen us play for a long time.
A recent (disastrous) history
Harry Redknapp came in the season before last, and after keeping Blues up on the last day of the season, there seemed to be a turning point—the moment where fortunes improved for the better. It seemed like a great opportunity to really rally the players for the following season and propel City up the league. Redknapp’s spending at the beginning of the 2017/18 season, acquiring Jota for £6m in particular, showed real intent to kick on and get out of this division. The signings, combined with Redknapp’s acumen as a top-flight manager, looked to put us in good stead, but given that our ‘saviour’ was sacked in September 2017, it is safe to say it didn’t really go to plan.
Although last season wasn’t such a “squeaky bum” situation with a lot of permutations having to go against us, we did have another last-gasp survival mission to clinch Championship safety. Cup competitions have not offered any respite either. We haven’t got past the fourth round of either the F.A or EFL Cup in six years. It is not where a club of this calibre—a team that featured in the Europa League in 2012—belongs.
Reasons to be optimistic
So, yes, the past few seasons have been painful. But there is genuine reason to be somewhat hopeful this season.
Firstly, we have possibly the best manager at the helm since the Chris Houghton days. Albeit, Redknapp seemed like a decent appointment at the time, Gary Monk has a different feel to him. He is younger and looks more determined and clearly knows what he wants, (unlike one or two recent appointments!)
Monk did wonders with Swansea before taking Leeds to their highest finish in their recent Championship history. Many fans around St. Andrews believe he is the real deal, and who else would have better chance of guiding Blues back into the Premier League?
Another reason to remain hopeful this season is, despite the transfer embargo situation, we still have some top players at the club. Blues were recently linked with Lewis Grabban, one of the favourites to be the top goal-scorer in the Championship this season. He would have been a great bit of business in the transfer window, but the move did not materialise.
Monk, though, can perhaps get the very best out of the players we do have. The likes of Jota, Mags and Vassell, when he returns, show that we have quality throughout the team. It just needs to be utilised effectively to get the best out of the whole squad as a unit.
Finally, this is the Championship. This is not the Premier League where you know who will be challenging for the title, who will be going for Europe, and who will be fighting relegation (excluding the Leicester City-winning season anomaly). When has there not been two or three surprises in this league? When have the favourites for the title, promotion and relegation all actually ended up where they were predicted to be? Bring all the underdog footballing clichés out, because they really are relevant in this bizarre and unpredictable league.
That being said, I am under no illusion that Birmingham City will be up there mounting a strong challenge for the league title. We have been very unfortunate not to beat Norwich, Bolton and Swansea.
Not to put too much blame on it, but the transfer embargo has clearly hindered much of the business the club intended to take part in this summer. That being said, our squad is not as depleted as some might have feared, the issue we have is depth of the squad.
England managed to reach a World Cup semi-final this summer, proving you never know what’s going to happen in football. I honestly believe that if we gain a bit of momentum, Monk can take Blues to the play-offs. A top-half finish is what I believe the goal should be for this season, and that is definitely achievable. Therefore, I will go for Blues finishing 8th and maybe knocking on the play-off door.