Written by Tom Hatton
As I sit here typing this, the most exciting player that Birmingham City have produced for 40 years, Nathan Redmond, is being sold to Norwich City for a paltry two million pounds. It’s the latest in a sickening conveyor belt of insulting sales that have been borne out of a calamitous financial situation at the club I support.
Most people will be aware that the President of the club, Carson Yeung, is on trial for alleged money laundering in his native Hong Kong. Most people will also be aware that the club is paying Nikola Zigic upwards of £60k per week. Few will fully understand just what is going on behind the scenes, myself included.
There has been some excellent detective work done by supporters and journalists alike who are desperate to uncover the full intricacies of the club’s finances, work that I won’t repeat here in order to preserve your sanity. However, the headline is that the club has been horrifically mismanaged on a financial level and is absolutely rotten to the core.
Made a Deal with the Devil…
Some of the brightest talent the club has produced for a generation have been sold off for peanuts. Jack Butland, an England cap with a massive future has been sold to football powerhouse Stoke City for three million pounds. Jordon Mutch, a classy Carrick-esque central midfielder was jobbed off to Cardiff City for three million pounds, now Redmond is being forced out of the door. For supporters, losing Redmond is the hardest blow. It’s losing one of our own. He’s a young lad from Birmingham who’s been at the club since he was a kid, the supporters have taken him to their hearts. Redmond is an absolute hero to the younger supporters of the club. All three of these lads have got buckets to learn and lots of improvement to come but still, the potential is obvious for anyone to see.
The sale of the youngsters is the most crushing blow in the decimation of a football club that won its first major trophy just two and a bit years ago. On that day in February 2011 the club made a deal with the devil and traded in a 136 years of bad luck for one glorious deflection off Wojciech Szczesny, igniting scenes of hysteria from supporters who don’t know how to celebrate success on a major scale. However, not even the most pessimistic of fan could see what the future was going to bring. The rest of course is history, the subsequent relegation, the admirable fight across Europe and falling at the final hurdle in the playoffs.
There was pain during that first season back in the Championship. Roger Johnson, Liam Ridgewell, Scott Dann, Ben Foster, Cameron Jerome etc all left the club for the lure of Premier League football. It didn’t hurt like it does now, we were distracted by attractive football and a camaraderie that had been missing during our whimpering exit from the top flight.
Now though, every single asset of worth has now been sold. We find ourselves in a position where we are signing free transfers from the lower leagues, taking punts on SPL bosmans and loaning kids from Fulham. Season ticket sales are at a low level not seen since the late 80s. The club is dying and is rotten to the core. Nikola Zigic remains, everlasting, always earning.
Whilst this may not be to everyone’s interest, it carries a stark warning for all football fans. The casual fan cares not for a Championship club in the Midlands, we haven’t had the press of Pompey. However, think twice before you wish for foreign ownership or the rich sugar daddy from the Far East. The grass isn’t always greener.
Carson Yeung passed the fit and proper persons test. Nothing was known about Peter Pannu and he’s now the puppet master of a financial comedy. The FA don’t do enough to protect the clubs and ultimately protect the fans, for it’s us that really suffer. For every royal family from the UAE there are former hairdressers from Macau. What’s happening to Birmingham City has put the club back 20 years. We are desperate for someone, anyone to come in and save the club from administration. Some fans however accept that this is the next, inevitable step towards redemption.
If you stopped and asked an ambitious football fan on the street whether they’d love to be bought out by a billionaire, they’d say yes. A recent survey taken on Blues fans showed they’d rather someone local come in and run the club as a steady ship. If there’s one thing that the Chinese ownership at Blues has taught me, it’s be careful what you wish for.
So now, we face the upcoming season with record low season ticket sales, a squad you’d walk past at the bus stop and poisonous apathy coursing through the concourses infecting any optimism remaining. It’s going to be a long twelve months. We’ll be there though, supporting the club, keeping it going. We’ve learnt our lesson, we just need the FA to learn theirs.