I wasn’t one of those who started dreaming about promotion after our win at Crystal Palace. It didn’t seem very likely and I was not sure I wanted it. For much of this miserable season I’ve been drifting along, trying to not get too excited or too upset by the various rumours swirling round the club, and not at all sure what I wanted. The uncertainly about the future of the club remains but I’m a lot clearer now about what I want to happen. I want to keep the youngsters.
A lot of things have gone wrong for us but there has been an upside; the lack of cash to buy players and all the injuries have opened the door for some of the young players. It’s been good to see some of them on the pitch, including teenagers such as Jack Butland, Ravel Morrison, Nathan Redmond, Will Packwood, Mitch Hancox, Callum Reilly, Reece Hales and Koby Arthur.
I think that there’s something special about our group of young players. There is a core of young men who have come up through Blues Academy and have been with the club a long time. Some of these came to the club at a very young age: Callum Reilly when he was seven; Nathan Redmond, Mitch Hancox and Josh Hawker when they were eight. Josh, who has a squad number but no appearances, is the son of Phil Hawker, who played for the club in the early 1980s. If my memory serves me right (and it doesn’t always) when Nathan Redmond scored his first goal for Birmingham City in the Europa League game versus Nacional, he rushed over to celebrate with Mitch Hancox, who was on the bench that night. I get the impression that our young players are a band of brothers. That’s why I want to hold on to them and watch them develop together. Our financial situation may make that difficult. I was sad to lose Jordan Mutch last summer and to see him playing for Cardiff on our pitch on January 1st. When he and Jack Butland walked off together at the end of that game, it seemed like a symbolic prediction of a possible nightmare to come with our talent walking away from our club.
If we gained promotion to the Premiership, which is mathematically possible though highly unlikely, we wouldn’t see our bright, young prospects playing in the first team. If the financial problems continued we’d be selling our good players in the summer. If rich new owners came, they would want to buy more experienced players. Whether we are broke or rich, we wouldn’t see so many youngsters playing in the Premiership.
It is also mathematically possible that we could be relegated. I fear that would lead to financial meltdown, the sale of all our half decent players and maybe a plunge down to League 2 the following season. I really don’t want to think about that possibility too much.
I think our best chance of keeping our young talent and continuing to develop it would be to stay in the Championship and get new owners who believed in sustainable progress rather than a quick fix. So that is what I’m hoping for.