Tag Archives: Garry Monk

Season ticket

When my season ticket arrived in my letter box today, I realised how little enthusiasm I feel about next season. I always look forward to games and seasons with a mixture of hope and fear, but this season there is a lot more fear than hope.

I don’t know the whole story behind the rumours swirling around Birmingham City FC but it seems that departures from the club are due to a breakdown in relationships.  This could be interpreted in two ways, either Xuandong Ren must be a difficult person to get along with or it’s the people who left who were difficult, people such as Roger Lloyd, Julia Shelton, Gary Moore, Joanne Allsopp, Richard Beale, and Garry Monk.  I know which interpretation seems more likely to me.

I have a dilemma.  I want to support the players on the pitch; they haven’t caused the problems. But I don’t know how to support them without seeming to support the way Xuandong Ren is running the club. I think I will still go to games but may decide not to buy any club merchandise.

Whatever I decide, I’ll try to respect the choices made by other fans.  Togetherness is important in football. I don’t feel any connection to my club’s owners but do want to stay connected to the players and the other fans.

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SAD

SAD stands for Stunned And Depressed, which were my feelings following reports of Garry Monk’s departure. Stunned because sacking him seemed like a repeat of the mistake made when Gary Rowett was sacked. Depressed because he’d created a team and a way of playing that attracted the largest and most supportive crowds for years.

As a BBC article said, “To replace a manager at the height of his popularity is, at best, a bold move. Supporters will take a lot of convincing that it isn’t foolhardy.”

I’m not saying that Monk was the perfect manager; nobody is perfect.  But he understood that football was a team game and selected players who could play together. He also understood that fans were part of the team. As I wrote in a previous post, he  “treated us fans with respect and, in return, has earned our respect.”

Blues fans have reacted in a variety of ways. There’s been some talk about not going to games and returning season tickets but it’s hard to judge how many might actually do that. Fans want to support their team. For a boycott to succeed, fans have to be really angry or the football has to be really bad. Many Blackpool fans did get angry and their boycott sent a powerful message. This is how they described it in 2016:

“Blackpool fans are currently undertaking an ethical boycott against the club’s owners, whose treatment of supporters has arguably been as dreadful as their management of the club. This ethical protest has seen many Blackpool FC fans take a ‘Not A Penny More’ stance, which means they have chosen to not renew season tickets, and/or not to purchase match day tickets for home games, not to purchase any club merchandise and if they do go to home games, not to purchase programmes or refreshments inside the stadium. BST is also organising an ethical boycott of those businesses that sponsor the club as well as other local businesses run by the club’s owners. Quite simply, many supporters will not give the club another penny of their money and have withdrawn their custom.
This decision has not been taken lightly, but over 1,750 BST members, who dearly love their club as you do yours, felt that this was the best choice they could make in trying to rescue our club.”

The long years of protest have not been easy. “It’s hard to give up something you love” but Blackpool fans are celebrating now because the Oystons are no longer in charge of their club and their new owner, Simon Sadler, “is a lifelong fan of the Club”.

I don’t think Blues fans are angry enough to boycott games and who knows how bad or good the football will be. However, fans could show their unhappiness by not buying programmes or refreshments in the stadium. There are others who will want to support the team as usual, fans like Theo who has urged fans to  “back the manager, the players and your club.” 

I hope that all Blues fans can accept that we’re never going to agree on everything and fans that have different views to ourselves are still fans.  I find some things unacceptable, racism and violence for example, but on most issues, I believe that my fellow fans have as much right to hold their own opinions as I do.

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Thoughts on the season

I think my dad first took me to St Andrew’s about 70 years ago. I can remember the noise, excitement, Gil Merrick, Jeff Hall and a couple of games in 1956 but hardly any other details. I’m not one of those people who have the history of Birmingham City stored in their brains. But this 2018-19 season was more memorable than most and I think I’m going to remember a few things about it.

In the 2017-18 season, Blues were managed by Harry Redknapp, Lee Carsley, Steve Cotterill and Garry Monk, with Monk managing to keep us up in the Championship. So we started the season in 2018 with a manager we liked but with a transfer embargo and the possibility of a points deduction hanging over our heads. It wasn’t the most promising of starts but turned out so much better than I’d expected.  The team scored 64 League goals, the most scored since the 2011-12 season, in which we scored 78.

For me, the 2011-12 and the 2018-19 seasons felt similar.  My expectations were low at the start of those seasons. In 2011, we’d just been relegated, the manager had left and our owner had been charged with money laundering.  In 2018, we had a transfer embargo and the possibility of a points deduction. But in both seasons, we had good managers and the results exceeded my expectations. Chris Hughton got the team up to 4th in the table. Garry Monk, like Hughton, exceeded my expectations and has kept us up despite the 9-point deduction. 

I would like to see Monk stay at Birmingham City for a long time and continue the work that he has started. He has brought everyone together: the players played together as a team and fans provided great support. My impression is that he not only says that the support from fans is important, he really believes it. I went to the Player Awards evening and saw his arrival and slow progress along the ICC concourse. It was slow because people kept stopping him to talk or to take photos. He showed no sign of impatience to get away and looked happy to stop for anyone.  He has treated us fans with respect and, in return, has earned our respect.

Here’s the table I constructed to compare our seasons in the Championship. It shows end of season position in table, goals for, goals against, goal difference and points.

SeasonPosForAgGDPoints
2011-12478512776
2012-13126369-661
2013-14215874-1644
2014-15105464-1063
2015-16105349463
2016-17194564-1953
2017-18193868-3046
2018-19176458652 (61-9)
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Philosophy

In a recent interview, Harlee Dean said that a club needs a philosophy, a way of playing and that’s what Garry Monk brought to Birmingham City.  Monk has also talked about this; the Birmingham Mail published a quote in which he said:

“we felt the group needed to know what it meant playing for this club, wearing that shirt and what it means not just for them but for the fans and the community.”

Monk has concentrated on doing what he can with what he’s got. He’s focussed on getting the team to play good football and strengthening the bond between players and fans.

Many fans have said that Monk gets Blues, that he understands us.  I think his understanding is wider than that; he understands that football is not just a business and that fans are not just customers but an essential part of the game.  He also has emotional intelligence and does well at handling relationships with players and fans.  

Before Monk was appointed as our manager, the manager I would have chosen was Graham Potter, who also has emotional intelligence and understands the importance of fans.  Potter is now at Swansea and  that club is going through a hard time. The owners have sold senior players without replacing them and an article in the Guardian reports:

“Potter has relied on youngsters to such an extent that Swansea, who spent seven seasons in the top flight and were relegated from the Premier League nine months ago, are fielding a team in the Championship that, in terms of the age of their players, resembles that of a club operating on a shoestring in League Two. . .
Potter continues to diligently go about his work, refusing to sound downbeat and remaining totally committed to the job that he took on last summer. He is the glue holding a broken club together. ”

I would imagine that Swansea fans want to hold onto their manager as much as Birmingham City fans want to keep Garry Monk. 

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Transfer window

I’ve never liked transfer windows.  I’m usually irritated by the silly rumours about who Birmingham City might bring in. This window I’m worried about who might leave. I feel bad that Omar Bogle’s loan has been cut short; he scored a great goal against Stoke and I would have liked to see a few more like that.  I will feel a lot worse if we lose one of our first team regulars. If someone like Che Adams is sold, it will feel as though the team is being ripped apart.

Birmingham City are playing Swansea this evening. It’s a place that has a lot of memories for Garry Monk and Pep Clotet, who has talked about his time there in an interview.  He said:

“We are better coaches now because of the difficulties we have faced,” says Clotet. “Garry has given me a lot of insight about British football and that has helped when dealing with players. I guess I have made him a bit more Spanish too. We have made each other better.”

I’ll be feeling a lot of respect for the players and fans, outside on a cold winter evening while I’m at home, keeping warm.  I hope they play well and get a point or three. I think it will be good to follow a game and think about that rather than the window. And it will fill some of the time until the window closes at 11 pm on Thursday.  We will know then which players we have and, even if it’s bad news, we can get on with the rest of the season.

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Partisan

It feels as though the world is getting more partisan, with people divided on various issues. I have nothing against people who strongly support something or some team but the word ‘partisan’ has further connotations. It is often used when people strongly support something without thinking carefully about it.

When Birmingham City supporters sing Keep right on, we describe ourselves as ‘often partisan’ and I don’t think many of us decided to support the Blues after a long and careful analysis of the merits of different teams. I support them because my dad supported them and he took me to games; he supported them because he was born in Sparkbrook.

I have already written on this blog about the sense of entering into a more splendid life that made me love going to football matches. I won’t repeat that except to say that what appeals to me most about watching football is being a participant in the performance, supporting my team.  The sense of belonging and togetherness is what I treasure most. For others, I know that the quality of the football is more important.

What I value in football puts me at the opposite end of the spectrum to those who want to see the best players in their team. I’m thrilled to see Academy players stepping up to the first team; those who want to watch elite football are thrilled when their club buys expensive star players. I’ve just read an edited extract from The Club: How the Premier League Became the Richest, Most Disruptive Business in Sport, by Jonathan Clegg & Joshua Robinson. It describes how the owners of the top six Premier League clubs want a bigger share of the TV money so that they can compete with the big foreign clubs. To me that just seems greedy, but I am partisan. 

The loss last Saturday felt cruel but, as we have come to expect from a team managed by Garry Monk, there was effort and commitment to applaud.  There was also a great goal from Che Adams. This evening, as always, I will be hoping for a win. I won’t be going to Norwich and those that go that far on a cold winter night have my respect. Our travelling fans are incredible.

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Disappointing draw

Birmingham City’s goalless draw on Saturday was scrappy and I came away feeling disappointed.  Just over 4 years ago, I can remember watching on TV as Blues played at Wolves. They earned a magnificent 0-0 draw, which seemed wonderful because they had lost 0-8 at home in their previous game. Gary Rowett had been manager for less than a week and had managed to turn a group of demoralised men into a team that could defend.

Garry Monk has created a team that can defend and score goals. The upside to this is that he’s got the fans onside, providing fantastic support.  The downside is that our expectations have been raised and we find it harder to appreciate the value of a no-score draw and 3 consecutive clean sheets.  I also think that it’s good to be outside, look up from our screens, talk to the people around us, and feel part of a community. That feeling was reinforced by the Supporters Memorial. A list of Blues fans who died in 2018 was shown on the big screen and read out at half time.  Communities share their joys and their sorrows.

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Mind the gap

Don’t mind the gap

I’m not writing about the 1-point gap between us and a nearby team but about the financial gap between teams. According to the transfermarkt website, Stoke fielded the Championship team that cost the most on the opening day of this season and Birmingham City were 16th in that table. But, as Johan Cruyff said, “Why couldn’t you beat a richer club. I’ve never seen a bag of money score a goal.”

It’s teams that win football games and Garry Monk has created a team from a collection of individuals. He’s also narrowed the gap between players and fans. Players have been involved in community projects that help to connect them to the people who support them.  Three years ago, I wrote about a phrase, “naïve with power”, that expressed how rich and important people don’t understand ordinary people.  That may be true of some in football but it’s not true of Garry Monk; he understands Blues fans and what they want. We want to see players who work hard and give 100% and that is what we are seeing when we go to games now. There is a togetherness between players and fans that reminds me of the atmosphere I remember from my childhood, in the 1950s.

There have been times when I’ve gone to Blues games out of a sense of duty, feeling that my team was so bad it really needed my support.  Today, I am going because I want to and am looking forward to it.

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Values

On Heritage Open Day, Bournville Junior School was one of the places that was open and I was able to visit the school I attended as a child. I saw my name written in a book recording when I had started and left the school and I walked around looking at displays and posters. The poster on values listed the values that I could remember being taught by that school and by my parents. Continue reading