Date: 5th January 2017 at 5:03pm
Written by:

If you think that the introduction of Zola as the manager will only impact the first team squad, then you are greatly mistaken. The reason why so much emphasis is put on the manager these days is that they have a lot of control over the club as a whole. They decide the strategy for the youth teams, they buy the players, they select the squad. This is the reason they get fired rather than the players or other members of staff. The board has brought in Zola after sacking Rowett in order to change the way that the first team play but have they thought about the knock on consequences for the youth teams?

The reason I rated Gary Rowett was for his revolution in the youth set up. I have said it time and time again but the youth system has improved so much in the last 2 years, not only are we able to bring players into the first team squad, we are also able to attract youngsters at very early ages to come and learn out philosophy. Instead of talented players going to West Brom or Villa in the local area, they’re actually coming to Birmingham City and this is a real testament to Rowett’s forward thinking.

As I have mentioned before, Rowett worked with Spooner and Beale to create a structure for the youth teams to follow. They all had the same tactics, attitudes and training exercises in order to make the transitions between age groups much easier. I noticed a definite change in the way that players moved more fluently between age groups in the time that Rowett was at the club and the style of football was certainly more cohesive from the bottom to the top of the club. Despite this, I would have liked to have seen Rowett give a few more youngsters the chance in the first team. Gray obviously shone but I felt that Viv, Brown and Harding were all ready to make an impact but they only were briefly introduced. However, he did have faith in Storer so I am not criticising too harshly, but it would have been nice to try and show this progression more.

In terms of Zola, he is much less cautious than Rowett in terms of bringing players into the first team. Cogley is the obvious example in recent weeks that Zola has trusted to come in and do a job. However, it is a risky strategy as one bad decision could mean a dent in their confidence and so it has to be managed wisely. Having said this, I am an advocate of giving them a chance so it would be harsh to say this is a real negative. What I am a bit concerned about however, is the change in youth setup.

If we are wanting the first team to play a different style of football, which is what seems to be happening then Zola will have to change the way that the youth players learn the game. The philosophy needs to be taught at all platforms of the club and this needs to be agreed with Spooner and Beale. If it is not accepted, then the integration between age groups will be none existent. It may also force these two to leave which would be a disaster for the club as they have worked their magic at youth level which is not an easy job. Either way, it is a mammoth task for Zola to take on and I do think that it will take time to get a good setup again if Zola does try and stamp his style on proceedings. We have to be patient. In particular with the young lads coming through as it takes time to implement a new way of playing for both them and the coaches all the way through the club.

It is slightly infuriating that the board make decisions like this because the task to rebuild is massive. Also many managers prefer to focus on individual skills at youth level to bring out the best in the players themselves whereas Rowett preferred a team approach. So the ideology will have to be changed probably and so it may take even longer to get more youth players to really stand out.

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