Last summer was full of hope and optimism. With Harry Redknapp at the helm and money at his disposal, Blues fans had high expectations.
After escaping relegation (again) at the end of the 2016/17 season, there was a belief that Redknapp may be the saviour.
Heck, we were truly in drooling over the players Harry was able to bring in.
My friend, Brummie Joe, even pledged to get a Redknapp tattoo on his backside if Jota signed from Brentford… Redknapp duly delivered.
Unfortunately, performances on the pitch served only to dampen the optimism.
Pre-season was a bit flat and, although I admire his personality and character, I questioned free-transfer capture of Cheikh N’Doye from the moment I saw him against Oxford United.
My adopted nickname for him is “Bambi on ice”, reminding me of a new-born foal who can’t exactly walk, or in his case, kick a ball properly. Everything looks a bit clumsy when he is on the ball.
The season began at Ipswich Town on 5th August. I was, frustratingly for me, sat on a sun lounger in Barcelona as my parents don’t seem to care about the football season. My mother also thinks every stadium I go to is St Andrew’s, and to our amusement, James, my father and I have to correct her. James was there though, and I remember him telling me how impressed he was with Marc Roberts and that we should’ve won…
Unbeknown to us at the time, that defeat set the tone of how our season would pan out. We had the ability but there was something desperately lacking.
Our next two results were better – a fantastic 5-1 win against Crawley in the cup was followed by a comeback win against Bristol City giving me bragging rights over my Bristol-supporting Father yet again. (I am a converted Brummie and following Blues was the best decision of my life).
Our home clash against Bolton Wanderers was the start of our downfall. A win was expected but the game was flat and even Redknapp said in his interview after the match that he never saw us winning that game. He also hinted that if things don’t change, another tough season was in store.
After that, our results consisted of six consecutive defeats, including one in the cup against Premier League Bournemouth, and that was the end of Harry Redknapp at Blues.
The demise continued. Lee Carsley took over as Caretaker Manager and we hoped he would steady the ship. Things seemed to be looking up with a draw at Derby and a 1-0 win at home against Sheffield Wednesday, who had been in the play-offs the in the previous season.
However, it all came to a crashing halt at Hull City where Blues suffered their heaviest defeat of the campaign – a 6-1 thrashing.
This was a surprise result, as although Blues were poor, Hull weren’t fairing much better.
It was a very unfair result on Lee Carsley who had done so well in the previous two games and very much had the fans onside.
Enter Steve Cotterill.
Many fans were cautious from the word go, thinking he had little experience at this level. I personally thought he was a decent appointment at the time. He had done well as Redknapp’s Assistant Manager at the end of the previous season and achieved the League One and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy double with Bristol City.
Ultimately though, I have always been too positive. Maybe I expected too much from Cotterill. The less said about his reign, the better.
He alienated the fans and blamed everyone but himself for his lack of success. I used to like Cotterill but the manner in which he acted was unprofessional and plain stupid.
As a manager, once you turn on your own fans you might as well just walk out the door.
Cotterill’s (painfully long) tenure as Blues manager lasted 24 league matches with six wins and a staggering 14 losses. Shocking.
The fans started to turn against Cotterill at Fulham, and rightly so. His failure to acknowledge the travelling fans was met with chants of ‘we want Cotterill out’.
Honestly, it was justified. Our club had the players to be pushing for mid-table at least and there we were, yet again, battling against relegation. It wasn’t good enough. His tactics and substitutions were awful and the team set-up was questionable – and he really liked playing Gallagher as a winger… please explain that one to me.
After losing at Nottingham Forest, Cotterill was finally sacked. A sigh of relief all round. If Cotterill’s spell continued much longer, there was no way Blues were going in any direction except south.
League One football was inevitable.
In walks Garry Monk, a manager who has proved he can do it in the Premier League and Championship and is still worshipped by Leeds fans. Almost instantly, the feeling of resignation changed to one of belief.
The turnaround was on.
We were unlucky not to get anything Middlesbrough in Monk’s first game in charge. We had our chances and could already see the changes Monk was trying to implement. The future was looking bright.
Another loss against Cardiff didn’t dent our hopes of survival as we scored two in the second half to finish the match 3-2. Both of Monk’s first two games were against teams battling for promotion so we did extremely well, taking into account our situation.
Overall, Monk led Blues to five wins from 11 games. That was one less than Cotterill had managed in 24 matches.
Under Monk, we felt alive. The flame was flickering but was reignited by the exciting football Monk and his backroom staff helped to achieve. The players suddenly had confidence and were playing football we always knew we were capable of. The club had a sense of togetherness again, something that was torn apart by Cotterill and his negativity. We were united once more and, once again, we survived.
The Championship is a funny league. There is no other like it. It can twist and turn in a matter of games and it is very unpredictable. But what is predictable is that Blues will Keep Right On no matter what is thrown at us and no matter what dross we endure along the way.
We’re are Birmingham City, we fight ’til the end.