What is going on at Birmingham City? 
The Blues squad emerge from the tunnel at home stadium - St Andrew's Trillion Trophy Stadium
Photo by Laurence Griffiths via Getty Images 

Birmingham City find themselves fighting yet another relegation battle in the Sky Bet Championship. However, the nervy end to the campaign, as they fight to ensure their safety in the second tier, does not just draw conclusion to a poor season, but also marks a decade since their relegation from the Premier League. A decade since that famous day at Wembley for the club - scooping the Carling Cup in a 2-1 triumph over Arsenal

Ten years after becoming one of only 13 clubs to win silverware in English football since the millennium, lining up against Europa League opposition in the form of Club Brugge, Braga and Maribor, it wrongly feels common knowledge to associate the Blues and flirting with the Championship drop zone. 

From the hopeless reinvestment of funds accumulated from player sales, to strange managerial decisions when the tide seemed to be turning. It's certainly a decade to reminisce, over the mis-management of a side that could fall into the third tier for the first time since 1995. 

Where it all began? 

In summer 2007, Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeong bought a 29.9% share in Birmingham City Football Club - therefore becoming the largest single shareholder at the West Midlands based side. 

GIH, a Hong Kong listed company, brought their shares in the club via the Hong Kong stock exchange and would eventually complete the takeover in October 2009, just months after the Blues first time promotion back to the Premier League, after relegation in 2007/08. 

Court cases and prison sentences 

The month of March 2014, was not only a hugely important month for Yeong, but also a huge one for the future of Birmingham. 

After five years of fluctuating between the Premier League and Championship, the Blues were amidst a relegation battle during their third consecutive second tier campaign. However, news from the far East in Hong Kong regarding Yeong would plunge the club into new-found complications. 

The court ruling saw Yeung convicted to a six-year prison sentence for money laundering, however, despite this surprising but crippling news, he remained the main shareholder of the club. This decision would cripple Birmingham and leave them staring haplessly at the Championship trap-door in all of their past five seasons. 

With no direct cash flow coming into the club from Yeung, Birmingham were left to fight for their Championship status on a shoestring budget. 

Managerial merry-go-round 

Stability from a managerial standpoint is hugely important for the identity and potential long term success of a club. Historically it has shown that loyalty in a boss brings better endeavours to the club. However, results have become an integral assessment from hierarchy, which has left the Blues managed by 10 different bosses in just as many years since the Carling Cup victory. 

Switches in the managerial department always bring joy or controversy, with fans opinions often divided by a new name in the dugout - it's always hard for owners to please everybody and appoint the ideal replacement. 

The sacking of Gary Rowett was one that left Blues fans and fellow fans of the sport in a state of confusion, after an abrupt dismissal following a victory over Ipswich Town

Rowett had spent over two years in charge at St Andrew's and was constructing a play-off charge - with the club in seventh position, and remarkably three points behind third. 

The Blues hierarchy deemed a big name manager as a priority and set about their options. 

Former Chelsea midfielder Gianfranco Zola was handed the reins, but left the position three games before the season conclusion after a torrid tenure. The Italian boss won just two of his 24 matches in charge and the Blues plummeted to 20th - as a season of promise, slowly week by week, became a dog fight at the bottom of the division. 

Since Zola left the club, five managers have stepped into the hot-seat at Birmingham. Harry Redknapp, Steve Cotterill, Garry Monk, Pep Clotet and current boss Aitor Karanka have managed just 171 games between them - averaging a worrying 34.2 games in charge. 

Hopeless reinvestment of funds 

Che Adams was prolific in his final years at Birmingham and the frontman's quality in the Championship was always going to alert interest to top-flight clubs. 

The 24-year-old left the club to join Ralph Hassnhuttl's Southampton side in July 2019 for £15 million and just a year later, more notably, golden youth academy product Jude Bellingham departed the club for £22.75 million. 

The Adams and Bellingham deals alone accounted to £37.75 million, but fans have seen less than half of that fee reinvested into the squad. 

Despite the astronomical fee attained for two players in the Championship, Blues fans can rightfully be bemused as to where that money has gone. 

Birmingham are currently crippled in over £100 million worth of debt and the absentee owners have failed to reduce the debts or invest the money back into the starting 11 - leaving the club worrying for their future status, both on and off the pitch. 

The future 

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed football in an alarming number of ways, from the way we view it, to income and outgoing streams at clubs, as well as the financial burden it has placed clubs under. 

Birmingham notably had struggles before last March's first lockdown, however, one further year of absent Chinese ownership has left the club in a perilous position. 

For years, Blues have skated a thin line above the drop zone and to fans dismay, once again find themselves in the same position. However, the implications of relegation could haunt the club. 

Karanka's side currently share their home stadium with fellow relegation strugglers Coventry City, however, after lending a helping hand during the Sky Blues’ issues with the Ricoh Arena, Blues now have troubles of their own at home. 

St Andrew's has been the home of Birmingham since 1906, but in an age where gates remain locked to fans and player shouts echo throughout the terraces - problem after problem continues to arise. 

The stadium is mortgaged to the hilt and remains a worry given the strict actions taken on fellow Championship outfit, Sheffield Wednesday, for their sanctions. 

The club also announced that 10 separate academy age groups would change their format and pave the way for a B and C team format - this serves as a stark contrast from the successful academy that has provided many first team talents and therefore a revenue stream for the club. 

This new thesis is to reduce outgoing funds that are associated with the day to day running of the original academy system. 

With the wretched debts Birmingham find themselves battling, this season's conclusion could have huge consequences for the long term future of the club. 

However, despite the absence of the hierarchy, each player will have an instrumental role between now and the end of the season to help claw the Blues above the dotted line to ensure Birmingham's safety for another season and beyond. 

 

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