Season Preview 2012/13: Birmingham City
HAD IT not been for the additional pressures of the Europa League, off-field going's-on regarding the club's owner and a late-season transfer embargo, promotion might have been achieved at Birmingham City.
However, the culmination of all that and a wafer-thin squad prevent Chris Hughton's side from returning to the top-flight at the first attempt; a 3-2 Play-Off Semi-Final defeat by Blackpool condemning the Blues to a second season at this level.
Despite the summer departure of Hughton, Birmingham City supporters will have every reason to be positive with former Huddersfield Town man, Lee Clark, appointed in his place.
A highly-rated young manager, Clark left the Terriers in the Play-Off places last season when he was sacked following a poor run of of form.Strengths:
The core of last season's squad remains, and that continuity could be crucial in the final reckoning.
Last season the Blues were setback heavily by the number of senior pro's who moved on after relegation. This year it's a different story altogether, and although Ben Foster ha s departed, Jack Butland is ready to step into the No.1 jersey.Weakness':
Squad depth does however remain an issue for City who have added just three outfield players to the squad this summer.
On paper, the first XI looks good enough to mix it with any side in the division, outside of that though, and it's kids or development players only for Clark to choose from.Best business so far:
Offloading Foster - whilst undoubtedly a terrific 'keeper, the former Watford loanee was signed on Premier League wages that the club could no longer afford.
On top of that he was blocking the path to the first team for England and Team GB 'keeper, Butland. With Foster gone, Butland should assume the club's No.1 jersey and continue to thrive.Star man:
Creative midfielder, Keith Fahey.
Should play a big part in any success Brum enjoy this season, the cultured 29 year-old went to the European Championships this summer with the Republic of Ireland and has 15 full caps.
Plucked from the obscurity of the Irish league in 2009 by Alex McLeish, Fahey has made over 100 appearances for the Midlands outfit.In:
Darren Ambrose (Crystal Palace) Undsic, Hayden Mullins (Portsmouth) free, Peter Lovenkrands (Newcastle United) free & David Lucas (Rochdale) free.Out:
Jordon Mutch (Cardiff City) £2.5m, Ben Foster (WBA) undisc, Luke Hubbins, Caleb Folan, Cian Hughton, Ashley Sammons & Enric Valles (all released).Prediction:
Play-offs - good manager, new signings surely a certainty, should be top six.