Here we are again. Staring down the long slope of the Championship with not a foothold insight, Blues are once again spiralling towards oblivion with little hope of certain change. After 1 win in 12 games, no wins in the last 6 and 13 goals conceded in the last 4 home games, things aren’t looking too peachy for Pep and his merry men.
For the first time since Steve Cotterill graced the hallowed grounds of St. Andrew’s, boos rang around the stans, not for an ex-V*lla player or a certain greasy-haired cheat, but to signify the home fans were finally and firmly at odds with what they were seeing on the pitch.
Thus the events of the past have found new form and we are once again in complete disarray with regards to the management both on and off the pitch – and not for the first time under the reign of Trillion Trophy Asia.
The first third of the season proved a mixed bag for Blues, with a handful of wins being tempered by some frustrating losses. Then, at home to Middlesborough, Pep’s team seemed to have finally clicked into their ‘Dong ball’ duties and dominated what should’ve been a cakewalk match (with the scoreline being rather dishonest thanks to Darren Randolph).
Following convincing wins against Blackburn and Luton, Blues went on to steady the ship, putting in some good performances deserving of more points.
It seemed, though slowly, there was some sort of football philosophy breaking through. With a revitalised midfield no one could argue our build-up play hadn’t been this exciting for a long, long time. But football is a game of results and in a packed festive period with injuries and frequent fixtures, the lack of recruitment for the forward line as well as defensive limitations saw Blues fail at both ends of the field and fall to humiliating losses.
The football that was promised to us in the summer has only been shown to us in glimpses, and it seems that when we’re tested by teams that don’t just sit back and ask for a beating – we have no answer and collapse like a house made of cards.
It’s widely believed that Pep Clotet, former interim-head-coach-turned-permanent-but-not-really, didn’t have much of say in the transfers conducted back in June and July, with CEO Dong overlooking much of the business. There is, of course, also the frequent rumour that Pep is heavily influenced by Dong in his team selection, limiting his role to even the last minute before kick-off.
All of this aside, though, it’s hard to argue how poor of a game manager Pep is, with questionable subs and no change of system when we’re under pressure in testing matches. At the very least, fans like to see someone on the sidelines ripping into players who aren’t performing or shouting instructions, but Pep is his quiet reservedness often finds himself in the dugout at these moments.
For these reasons I don’t think Pep is the man for Blues going forward – as nice as the bloke is. But just as with Zola and Cotterill the process of replacing the man at the helm is merely the first step in a long road of changes that have to be made.
Cutting the roots
The Blues hierarchy is like the Hydra of Greek mythology, cut off one head and two more grow back in its place. There may come a small victory in seeing the monster react, but in reality, it’s the body that must be tackled first for success in the long term.
This is where the Blues board stand, a relentless force that doesn’t let up with their iron grip on the club, no matter how good or bad things are getting.
At the very top of the pyramid sits Xuandong Ren, a man that’s become so vilified at Blues it’s hard to see how he still garners the faith and trust of his superiors. Ren has overseen many of the questionable decisions at Blues in the time since TTA took over, with the stubborn resistance to fire both Zola and Cotterill during their awful spells as managers, the decision to sack Garry Monk over what remains dubious reasons and the current uncertainty of whether he’ll repeat history with Clotet.
Well, I say uncertainty, but it’s pretty obvious Clotet is his man and he won’t want to sack him anytime soon. Much like replacing Cotterill with Monk, the sacking of Pep won’t come from Dong but from the powers above him – leaving the fans with no idea or expectation of what to come.
Those that say TTA are the problem aren’t entirely wrong, but I think it’s easy to blame the body behind Blues’ running when they’ve invested a lot of money into the club. The incompetence comes in their stubborn attitude to not recognise that the people running the day-to-day operations at Blues are incompetent and need replacing with more football-savvy individuals.
Getting rid of Pep would be a benefit, but it would only be a small victory in the short term as long as the people making decisions for the club’s welfare remain in that very position.
What happens now?
To be honest, the abysmal run of form couldn’t have come at a better time for Pep. With January upon us, the transfer window is open and there is a massive opportunity to address the problems on the pitch with more recruitment. As I said before, no amount of money is going to change Pep’s inept game management, but at the very least we may be able to get in strikers and defenders to complement our decent midfield.
Even if this happens though, the root cause of bad blood between the fans and board us still there and the fans won’t quickly forget how both Cotterill and Zola also had the January window to fix things – and we all know how that went.
If Pep does go, who want come?
People dread retracting to the football offered by the likes of Tony Pulis, but I don’t think we need to worry about that when a personality like Pulis’ would surely not work with Dong. Slaviša Jokanović is another name being thrown around with his old assistant, Alberto Escobar, having been hired recently – though I honestly don’t know if managing Blues is more appealing than the Qatari league right now.
A lot of us seem to forget how much time our inexperienced Spanish friend Xavier Calm has been spending in the dugout with Pep, the rumour mill of course sometimes circled around his possible poised appointment back when Pep was still an interim coach. I doubt that would prove much of a change for Blues fans as well.
The bottom line is, as long as Dong and co. are running the club, the cycle of poor decisions and uncertainty will continue, no matter how many attractive players we purchase. But this isn’t some new radical idea – we’ve all been saying this since Rowett was given the boot.
Around and around we’ll keep going until major changes are made – because at the moment it’s like Groundhog Day at Blues, and unless Bill Murray is thinking about investing in English football clubs, we’ll just keep waking up to the same sad song.