Four reasons for Birmingham City fans to be hopeful after a dismal decade

It’s been a rough 10 years for the blue half of Birmingham but things are looking up

In: Riley McGree (Charlotte FC); Ryan Woods (Stoke); Jordan Graham; Chuks Aneke (Charlton); Juan Castillo (Chelsea, loan); Tahith Chong (Man United, loan); Dion Sanderson (Wolves, loan); Matija Sarkic (loan); Troy Deeney (Watford).

For the first time in what feels like a lifetime, Birmingham City have started their Championship campaign off in pretty positive fashion.

Fittingly, this season marks ten years since Birmingham City’s last play-off appearance. And – I’ll say it quietly – five years since they even managed to muster up a top-half finish.

Sign up to our BirminghamWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The 2011/12 team was a special one, one that will live in Blues fans’ memories for life. They were not only competing in Europe but were vying for an instant return to the Premier League following relegation the year prior.

Ultimately it was a season of ifs, buts and maybes. The Europa League campaign ended in heartbreak. A 1-0 victory over Maribor in the final game of the group stage looked to be enough to send Birmingham through to the knockout round but ten-man Braga could only draw with Club Brugge, meaning the Blues missed out by a solitary point.

The tale was all too familiar in the league, too. After finishing fourth and cementing the play-off place that has since eluded them, they fell at the semi-final stage, losing 3-2 on aggregate to Blackpool.

And yet, despite the eventual disappointment of the campaign, it would certainly be fair to call it a successful one. And that success hasn’t been even remotely matched over the last decade.

The highest the club have finished since, is tenth (on two occasions) and aside from that they have found themselves floating around in the bottom half of the league table year after year. On multiple instances, barely retaining Championship status. Unthinkable for a club of Birmingham City’s stature.

But, having said all of that, now is time for hope and optimism. For the first time in 10 years there is a real buzz around the club and rightly so. It’s not necessarily full steam ahead to the Premier League just yet but there are real signs that this could finally be a turning point for the club.

Lee Bowyer

The main man himself. As a player he was loved for his passion, leadership and work rate and those traits seemed to reflect on the team during both the 10 games he was in charge last season and the initial matches of this.

As a fan, the minimum you ask for is for your players to give it everything and whilst Bowyer is in charge, expect nothing less.

He boasted a 50% win rate with a squad that couldn’t buy a win following his appointment in March and if he can reflect those numbers over the course of this season, the Blues will see themselves sitting pretty come May.

Bowyer himself has spoken recently about feeling the love from the fan base and Blues fans can be sure that that love is reciprocated.

Birmingham City boss Lee Bowyer has revealed he's still hopeful of making further signings this month, suggesting there could be "a couple more arrivals". They've signed five players on loan and four on permanent deals in a busy summer window. (Birmingham Mail)

New Technical Director

Arguably the biggest factor in the uplift in mood around the club. Former CEO, Xuandong Ren resigned from his position in May after a catalogue of errors under his watch.

Ren had held the title since 2017 and during that time span, the club has been through a succession of managers and faced a nine-point deduction among other things.

Stepping into a similar role, albeit under a different title is former player Craig Gardner. Gardner’s roles include recruitment and player development, and he seems to have made a very positive start, with the former especially.

The 34-year-old loves football and he loves Birmingham City. Fans know he will do what is right for the club. When football clubs have people that are really passionate about the game in these sorts of positions, it usually reflects in the results on the pitch. That, up to now, is certainly showing as true.

New signings

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that there were quite a few additions made during the summer transfer window.

Jordan Graham, Ryan Woods, Chuks Aneke, Dion Sanderson, Juan Familia-Castillo, Tahith Chong and Riley McGree have all joined Bowyer’s side and have all played their part in big results during these early stages.

Even Matija Sarkic who had to come in late due to Neil Etheridge contracting COVID-19 has made a really solid impression between the sticks - keeping three clean sheets in five league games.

Oh and we weren’t going to forget the final piece of the puzzle, Troy Deeney who was the last and arguably the most exciting addition of the lot.

The transfer strategy in recent years has been all wrong. Deeney himself even said during his introductory press conference that pre Craig Gardener ‘a lot of money has been spent on average players.’

But that tide now seems to have finally turned. It’s funny what difference having an actual footballing brain making the decisions can have on a club.

Fans are back

And finally, this small factor. Fans are back. Due to the ongoing issues with St Andrew’s Stadium, the Blues’ faithful have been made to wait longer than everyone else to fill their spiritual home.

But now that it is finally set to be back at capacity (for home fans at least), expect the place to be rocking - for good reason, once more.

They’ve already been travelling in their usual big numbers away from home and have spurred their team on to a number of impressive victories, most notably the 5-0 demolition of Luton Town. The twelfth man matters to this club more than most.

Of course, pre-covid, the fans were in attendance for plenty of rough rides, but they’ve always got the team over the line when it matters most. Bolton 2014, anyone?

If the team is to achieve anything this year, even if it’s just breaking into the top half for the first time in five years, this fan base will, without doubt, play a pivotal role in it all.