Next season may feel like it is a lifetime away for fans of Birmingham City. Since the club decided to sack Gary Rowett when sat in 7th position in the Championship; it has been a slow and largely forgettable campaign. Under Gianfranco Zola, the club won just two of the Italian’s 24 games in charge and the Blues have gone into a real free fall.
The former Watford manager resigned after four months at the helm and with only three matches remaining. The Birmingham City board pulled out all the stops and brought in Harry Redknapp to try and save their side from falling into League One.
Redknapp has not managed in English football since February 2015 but has already stated that he would not be paid if he fails to keep the Blues up this season – as well as outlining his plans for the following campaign should he keep the job.
The former Tottenham manager’s first time leading his side out was in the Second City Derby against fierce rivals Aston Villa. This match is perhaps not what any manager would choose as his first game in charge of a new side and the result was not what any of the Blues faithful were hoping for as their side slipped to a 1-0 defeat, thanks to Gabby Agbonlahor’s first goal in 14 months.
It was a fairly even match, which perhaps neither team deserved to lose, and Birmingham did fight bravely against an Aston Villa side that has excelled at home this season. However, football is a results based business – especially at this point of the season. This result leaves Birmingham City and Harry Redknapp two points above the drop zone with just two games remaining.
Many of Zola’s first team staff followed him as he resigned from his duties at St. Andrew’s last week, which only adds to the headache for Redknapp. Birmingham are increasingly looking like a club that needs a complete shake-up and some serious work to be done in many areas of the club just to ensure that they can once again become a competitive force in the Championship.
It is hard to believe that a side that looked very strong in the early parts of the season could collapse in the way that they have. However, the former FA Cup winner has expressed confidence in taking his new side on the route to recovery next season should he managed to keep them in the Championship this time round.
During his first press meetings as manager, Redknapp spoke of his feelings on the Championship as a whole. He said, as reported by BBC Sport, “It’s not that difficult to put together a good team in the Championship, if you know what you’re doing. You can go out and pick up players, you haven’t got to spend fortunes.”
In terms of having to spend money to succeed in the Championship, there are arguments for both sides. Newcastle have the most expensive side ever assembled in the second tier and are looking set for promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. However, the likes of Aston Villa have spent millions on players and find themselves way off the promotion battle.
Reading are a good example of a side doing well on limited funds. The Berkshire outfit were on the brink of administration back in 2014 but now find themselves right in the thick of the playoff race after two poor seasons. It will likely be this model that Birmingham will try and replicate given their own financial issues.
Harry Redknapp’s confidence when it comes to the Championship is perhaps not misplaced. If you look at the finishing positions of the sides currently chasing promotion and compare it to their finishes last season, it shows just how quickly a side can transform from a relegation contender one year – to a side on the brink of the top flight the next.
You have to feel that if the former West Ham manager was given an opportunity to work with the Birmingham squad next year that he would certainly make an impact on proceedings.
The Blues are desperately in need of a new identity and direction and perhaps Harry Redknapp is the way to go. He has experience, links to many clubs, and a personality that often leads to him getting the best out of certain players. However, the first battle for the manager once linked with the England job is to keep his new side in the division.
Birmingham sit two points clear of the drop, so their future is in their own hands – but they need to turn around their fortunes fast if they are to ensure that they aren’t caught by Blackburn or Wigan. Only when this job is completed, can we see if Redknapp’s confidence is justified or not.