From a supporter’s perspective, it is difficult to gauge how Bury will get on in 2016/17. Based on what we’ve seen so far, it could go either way. An impressive opening day victory over Charlton Athletic provided hope that we wouldn’t be the divisions whipping boys, but the Shakers then failed to win their next three matches despite a series of spirited performances. A truly dismal 1-0 home defeat to Oldham Athletic set alarm bells ringing and things looked particularly ominous when David Flitcroft’s men went 3-0 down to Walsall within the space of 32 minutes on Saturday.
A second-half comeback followed, inspired by new signing James Vaughan, who found the net on his Bury debut. The game finished 3-3, a result which felt more like a victory than a draw. There had been talk in recent months that Flitcroft had lost the dressing room, but based on the second-half performance at the Bescot Stadium it seems as though the players are still firmly behind him.
The sale of Leon Clarke to Sheffield United has been cited as one of the major reasons for the anxiety surrounding whether the Shakers can stay up this season. The 31-year-old was the club’s top scorer with 15 goals last season and whilst his departure was seen as a necessity due to the high wages he was on, many fans were understandably worried about the gaping void that would be left behind.
The first few games of this season have seen long balls punted in the direction of targetman Tom Pope, who whilst being competent in the air, appeared to be expected to lead the line entirely by himself. This was never going to work; the former Port Vale man is limited at best when the ball is at his feet, but his strength and aerial ability make him the perfect partner for a clinical goalscorer.
It was painfully clear that a new striker was required. In addition to Clarke, Danny Rose, Ryan Lowe and Daniel Nardiello all left Gigg Lane over the summer, and whilst Chris Brown and Nicky Clark were brought in as replacements, their goalscoring records in recent years leave a lot to be desired. Finally, after weeks of watching Pope fight a losing battle up front on his own, Flitcroft moved to bring in Vaughan from Birmingham City last week.
The 28-year-old; who still holds the record as the Premier League’s youngest ever goalscorer, was on the verge of joining Burton Albion before the Shakers hijacked the move at the last minute. Some were initially sceptical about signing a player who failed to score in 20 outings last season, but Vaughan arrives with a pedigree that indicates he could be the man to replace Clarke.
After netting on his Everton debut aged 16 years and 271 days, Vaughan went on to make 47 appearances for the Toffees, scoring seven times. After loan spells at Derby County, Leicester City and Crystal Palace, the team he scored his record breaking goal against, the Birmingham-born player moved to Norwich City in 2011, but made just five appearances during his time at Carrow Road. A loan spell at Huddersfield Town followed and a record of 14 goals in 33 Championship matches was enough to earn the player a permanent move to West Yorkshire.
He looked to have finally found a home, scoring 17 goals in 53 games for the Terriers. However, Vaughan then left to join his hometown club Birmingham City on loan last season and things didn’t go well; he failed to find the net in 16 appearances for the Blues. Most of these were cameos from the substitutes bench, and, growing frustrated with a lack of first-team opportunities, Vaughan decided that it was best for him to move on again.
His time at St. Andrews may have put other Championship managers off signing him, but their loss could well be Bury’s gain. The Shakers have found themselves a player who, up until last season, has proven that he knows where the net is at Championship level and is certainly capable of reaching a tally similar to what Clarke achieved last season. Although many are expecting him to be a like-for-like replacement, Vaughan has a slightly different playing style to that of his predecessor. Both are regarded as natural goalscorers but whilst Clarke relies on his strength and can appear languid at times, Vaughan’s main strengths are his energy and speed.
Vaughan will undoubtedly feel he has a point to prove this season after dropping below the second tier for the first time in his career. His failure to succeed at Birmingham will have hurt and at 28, he will be hoping to make a return to the Championship as soon as possible. At Bury, he will now be the main man and if he can build on the auspicious start he made last weekend then a successful season will be on the cards for both club and player.
One of the most pleasing elements of Saturday’s game was how well the two strikers linked up once Pope came on as a first-half substitute. The two could compliment one another perfectly, with Vaughan looking like the type of player who may benefit from Pope’s physicality and link-up play. It must be noted that Vaughan himself is not bad in the air, so should Flitcroft opt to go with just one up front then the new man looks much more capable of playing the lone role than Pope does.
Next up in League One for the Shakers is Port Vale on Saturday. Bruno Ribeiro’s side have started the season well, sitting in 4th position after picking up 10 points from their opening five games. Bury will go into this one full of confidence following their second-half showing at Walsall and supporters will be hopeful that their new goalscorer can pick up where he left off. It may be too early to make a prediction on where the Shakers will finish come May, but the early signs are that James Vaughan will be crucial to their hopes this season.
Featured image: all rights reserved by Ben Early
Why Garry Monk and Birmingham City are crossing paths at the perfect time
The former Swansea manager joins Birmingham in what will be his fourth managerial role.
Birmingham City have chosen to appoint Garry Monk as their third manager of the season after dismissing Steve Cotterill over the weekend. It represents an interesting marriage between a club and manager who have equally struggled over the last 12 months. Both will be hopeful that their luck can change and their reputations can be repaired by one another.
For Monk, he remains at the early stages of his managerial career at the age of 38, but he has failed in each of his last two jobs. Last season, he was given plaudits for the work that he did with Leeds United. Although he did get the sleeping giants to challenge at the top of the Championship, they slipped out of the play-offs during the final months of the campaign. Given they were mainstays of the top-six until then, he will view it as a failure.
During the same season, Birmingham were one of the teams competing with Leeds. That was until they made the odd decision to sack Gary Rowett in December when the team were in 7th position. They finished the campaign fighting relegation after a disastrous spell under Gianfranco Zola.
Despite avoiding the drop by bringing in Harry Redknapp for the final three matches, the decision to dismiss Rowett remains an incredible misjudgment from the board. He had done a great job at the club and took them from relegation candidates to play-off hopefuls without a huge transfer spend. It was a gradual development and it was destroyed by the short-sightedness of the owners, who thought a change would provide the momentum needed to reach the Premier League.
The club have still not recovered from the now-Derby County manager leaving the club. Redknapp remained in charge for the beginning of this season and was given a huge budget to transform the club into promotion candidates. According to Transfermarkt.co.uk, he spent just under £16 million. In addition to the transfer fees, a lot of the players coming in would have been given big wages. David Stockdale arrived from newly-promoted Brighton on a free transfer and his reason for staying in the Championship was likely a financial one.
By spending the money that they did, it put the pressure on Redknapp to deliver a promotion challenge and he failed to deliver. He lasted until only September with Blues languishing in the relegation zone. The club were now facing another battle against the drop and Steve Cotterill was the next man in the hot-seat. It was an underwhelming appointment that suggested that lacked ambition. The board likely hoped he would lead them to safety, but as the side remain in the bottom three, it became inevitable that his contract would be terminated.
Cotterill only won six league matches out of 24 in charge and didn’t manage to get the best out of the squad available. Given the talent that have at the club, they should be well clear of relegation. It would be unfair to put all the blame on the two managers that have been in charge this season, but neither showed enough to suggest they could turn it around.
Monk is a much more ambitious appointment and there are many similarities between him and Gary Rowett, the last manager to achieve relative success with Birmingham. However, his stock was damaged further this season as he was sacked by Middlesbrough after only months in charge. They started the season as the favourites to win the league and he left the club in 9th position after 23 matches.
It is difficult to bounce back to the Premier League at the first attempt as a relegated club and Monk discovered that during his short spell on Teesside. There was a lot of talent at the club, but it is a gradual process to increase confidence levels and he wasn’t given that time. His successor, Tony Pulis, has also struggled and results have only picked up very recently.
Is this a good appointment for Birmingham?
This is Birmingham’s fifth manager in 15 months and that is a stat that suggests a lot of mistakes have been made. As mentioned above, Monk is similar to Rowett in the sense that both are considered bright, young British managers. The main difference is that he has suffered a lot more setbacks than the man now in charge at Derby County.
At the age of 38, Monk is taking charge of his fourth club and he needs sustained success with a club to consolidate his position as a promising coach. He has had encouraging periods with both Swansea and Leeds, but his failure with Middlesbrough is a concern. They underperformed under his leadership and the fact that he is taking over a team in the relegation zone shows that his stock has plummeted.
However, the squad at Birmingham have been underperforming and that makes it an attractive job for Monk. Given the lack of quality at the bottom of the Championship, he should be able to steer the Blues to safety and then he would have a platform to build on.
The Birmingham supporters have reacted well to the appointment and that should give the boost to the club at a crucial stage of the season. They are only two points from safety with 11 matches to play. The timing gives Monk time to get the club out of the bottom three and that starts with the visit of former club Middlesbrough.
It is a tough first game and one that Monk will be desperate to win given his sacking earlier this season. They then have a tricky trip to promotion hopefuls Cardiff City. The next four matches will be crucial as they have matches against Hull City, Ipswich Town, Bolton Wanderers and Burton Albion.
The next six games will decide whether Birmingham can move clear of relegation or if they are to face a nervy finish to the season like they had last season. The appointment of Monk comes at a good time and it will be an interesting period for both parties. They have each had failures and now come together at the perfect time. It will be hoped that they can repair their reputations together.
Three managers that Birmingham City should target to replace Harry Redknapp
Birmingham City are on the lookout for a new manager after deciding to sack Harry Redknapp after the team’s loss to Preston North End. Many supporters believe that the decision was a premature one, but the side had taken only four points from eight matches. The Blues are currently in the bottom three and facing a difficult task to make up the ground to the play-off places.
They have struggled since the sacking of Gary Rowett and two managers have failed since then. Gianfranco Zola was a complete disaster after taking the job. Redknapp did well to keep them up last season, but he wasn’t the right man long-term. It is crucial that they now find a good fit as they can’t afford any more upheaval. There are a number of managers in the running, with Steve McClaren, Gus Poyet and Nigel Adkins all mentioned in the media. Lee Carsley is the favourite and has been placed in temporary charge.
There are good managers that could take Birmingham forward. Here are three managers that they should target:
The former Middlesbrough manager is an eye-catching name in the betting and he would be an ambitious appointment by the club. He may have failed in the Premier League, but he showed himself to be an effective manager in the second tier. The Spaniard managed to get Boro back to the top-flight and played some attractive football in the process. Although he switched back to a more defensive set-up in the Premier League, he can coach a team to play an exciting style.
Birmingham did bring in some very talented players during the transfer window and they have the potential to make significant progress up the table with the right coach. Karanka could be the perfect fit. He will make them tough to beat to begin with and provide a foundation for the flair players to do their thing. Last season wasn’t one to be remembered, but he will have learnt from it and is a name that would get the fans on board.
This will be filed under unlikely, but the former Newcastle United and Crystal Palace manager will be keen to return to the game after nearly a year out of a job. There are a lot of negative opinions about Pardew, but he has made an impact at most of the clubs he has managed. He guided the Magpies to fifth in the Premier League and got to the FA Cup final with Palace.
It would require him to drop down from the Premier League and return to the second tier. This won’t be what he would want in an ideal world, but he needs to rebuild his reputation and this could be the perfect opportunity to do that. Birmingham have a decent squad and money to spend in future windows. If he wanted a project that had a good chance of being successful, this could be a good fit for him.
The current Burton Albion manager hasn’t been mentioned, but if Birmingham want a manager that is tailor-made for the Championship, Nigel Clough would be a good appointment. He has performed miracles at the Pirelli Stadium and knows how to get results in this division. Birmingham need to appoint a good manager, rather than a big name and the 51-year-old should be under consideration.
Clough may not be interested in a move to Birmingham as he is settled at Burton, but it would be difficult to turn down the greater chance of success. He would get respect based on his recent achievements in the Championship, which neither of the previous two managers had. It seems like players enjoy working under Clough and he would be a worthy candidate for the post.
How Twitter reacted to Birmingham City signing Jota from Brentford
Birmingham City have completed one of the deals of the day in the Championship as they have signed Jota from Brentford. The official site confirms that they have broken their club-record fee to bring him to the Midlands on a four-year deal. The Spaniard had been linked to Premier League this summer, while the Bees had rejected offers from Middlesbrough and Hull City. It is seen as a huge coup for the Blues to land him.
Harry Redknapp was delighted with the transfer and the following quotes were reported by the Evening Standard:
“There will not be many better players in the Championship than him, that is for sure. He has got great ability. We are very pleased to have got that one done.”
The Blues manager has always pulled out big deadline day deals throughout his career, but this could be one of his finest. He isn’t wrong when he says that the Spaniard is one of the best players in the division and he will provide the spark that their attack has been lacking during the opening weeks of the season.
Last season, he was excellent during the second half of the season, contributing 12 goals and five assists. Brentford had one of the better attacks after his return and Birmingham will be hoping that he can have a similar impact on their front-line.
Jota is an intelligent player, who takes up good positions in the final third and is capable of producing end product on a consistent basis. It is rare to have a player like him in the Championship and the Blues will have to be seen as one of the favourites for promotion now.
Here is how Twitter reacted to the news:
— Birmingham City FC (@BCFC) August 31, 2017
Going to Birmingham is such a sideways move for Jota. Really odd.
— harryfre (@HarryFremantle) August 31, 2017
— BrummieJoe (@BrummieJoeHD) August 30, 2017
— H. (@KingKieft) August 31, 2017
Jota's 2016-17 record:
— Goodbrand Stats (@StatsChristian) August 31, 2017
Birmingham fans were pleased with the news:
Never thought we would sign a player like him only a couple of weeks ago Prem clubs were after him #JOTA .KRO
— BigGray. (@GrahamRich17) August 31, 2017
Jota, incredible signing, one of the best in this League #bcfc
— Olly Howarth (@BCFC_Olly_KRO) August 31, 2017
— Conner (@ConnerBcfc02) August 31, 2017
Brentford fans were disappointed, but couldn’t see why he wanted to move to Birmingham:
Sold Dean, Jota, Onariase and selling Colin all within 48 hours of the window shutting. Well done #Brentford you've outdone yourselves???
— ?arry? (@HHman94) August 31, 2017
Jota taking backwards steps going to Birmingham. Much like everytime he got the ball on the wing this season #brentford
— Rob D (@bagmanbobby) August 31, 2017
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