Season Preview: Birmingham City
Birmingham flirted dangerously close to relegation during the last campaign. In fact, but for a last minute goal from Paul Caddis at Bolton on the final day which gained the Blues a vital point, they would be starting this season in the third tier for the first time in twenty years. Manager Lee Clark has had a massive struggle keeping the club in the Championship against a backdrop of off field chaos. One of the main issues Birmingham faced during the last campaign was the way their finances restricted their ability to bring in permanent transfers. Having signed six free transfers in the close season Birmingham were restricted to loan signings only after that. As a result 13 different players joined the club over the course of the season with that being sighted as a big reason for their poor form by Clark at the end of last season. Their home form throughout last season was shocking. Just two wins out of 23 home games was the catalyst for their relegation threatened season. Their away form was actually not bad, but playing at home in front of a half empty stadium with fans expectations bearing down on the players became a massive problem for them.
Lee Clark has done about as well as could be expected given the impossible situation he finds himself in at the Midlands club. Touted as one of the best young English coaches around when he assembled an excellent Huddersfield side in League One three years ago he found no trouble finding a move to the Championship once he and the Terriers had parted company. However, managing with both hands tied behind his back has been extremely difficult and he will need to work miracles again this campaign to keep them up again.
In: Jonathan Grounds (Oldham Athletic), Stephen Gleeson (MK Dons), Wes Thomas (Rotherham Utd), David Edgar (Burnley), Gavin Gunning (Dundee Utd), Mark Duffy, David Cotterill (Doncaster Rovers), Clayton Donaldson (Brentford), Navid Nasseri (Bury), Denny Johnstone (Celtic)
Loans In: Grant Hall (Tottenham Hotspur)
Out: Aaron Martin (Yeovil Town), Hayden Mullins (Notts County), Wade Elliott (Bristol City), Chris Burke (Nottingham Forest), Darren Ambrose, Nikola Zigic, Peter Lovenkrands, Brian Howard (Released)
I can only see another season of struggle for Birmingham. The number of experienced players at the club has again decreased over the summer with the loss of Mullins, Elliott and Burke. Their summer signings are all players who will be making a step up into the Championship this season. Unless the vast majority of those come off spectacularly they may well find this year is their last in the Championship for a while.