For months there was finally a buzz of optimism surrounding St Andrew's on Saturday. Home of Birmingham City and their long-suffering supporters, the Bluenoses were still coming to terms with the news that manager Lee Clark’s contract had been terminated. Yet for many, this was considered something to cheer.
The Blues were on a horrific run of form, and had slipped to within one place of the relegation zone in the Championship. Couple this with only two home wins in a year, Clark had begun to push his luck a little too far in the eyes of the board.
The opponents on the day were Bournemouth- with Eddie Howe’s men on a great run-of form and vying to enter the Championship play-off places with a result.
On paper it looked like a dead cert for Bournemouth and that’s what it turned out to be. Birmingham crashed and burned like never before, with the final score ending 8-0 to the Cherries.
What next at St Andrew's?
Pictures emerged following the game showing home fans ripping up season-tickets and storming the pitch demanding change. The problem lies with the un-interest of BIHL, the parent company owning Birmingham.
Their addiction to selling off key assets, whether it be players (The likes of Ben Foster, Nathan Redmond and Curtis Davies spring to mind) or managers (Chris Hughton) was always going to be a problem. Couple this with signing only free-transfers and short-term loans Clark was always going to have a tough job. But his record was dismal and it seemed like change was necessary.
Manger-wise because of the aforementioned reasons Blues cannot afford to pay compensation for a competitive manager. Those in the picture were all out of work or were at smaller sides who wouldn’t demand the high compensation fees.
So those left in the frame were Mike Phelan - well known for his work alongside Sir Alex Ferguson during his time at Manchester United. Also in the picture was Owen Coyle- a manager that lots of Championship experience with the likes of Burnley, Bolton and most recently Wigan.
But the front-runner that was fast emerging was Gary Rowett. The former Birmingham player had been linked with the job following a fantastic first season as head coach at Burton Albion. The former Bluenose had worked as an assistant at the club first before taking the reins and almost leading the Brewers to promotion last season. The Yellows fell just short in the play-off’s but credit to Rowett’s team was necessary: his side had been originally touted for the drop.
So with Rowett favourite to be appointment, what can he expect when he takes over? A small budget- most likely. The financial situation hasn’t improved in three years so Rowett will be restricted from the off. A squad that is languishing in the Championship relegation zone, with the worse goal record in the league? Yup, he can expect that too.
However, it seems that the fans backing is one thing Rowett can call upon. The job will be difficult and Blues fans’ expectations have never been lower. But if the young manager can show passion and pride, and transfer this to his players in such a way that Lee Clark could not, things may begin to change, albeit one day at a time.