When Birmingham City’s owners gave Gary Rowett the bullet yesterday they didn’t just get rid of the manager. They also blew the soul of the club to bits, in one foul and completely unnecessary swoop.
It was as shameful a dismissal as I can remember in a long time. Borderline idiotic.
Rowett, along with coaches Kevin Summerfield and Mark Sale, are all former Blues players, with a genuine affinity to the club. Ordinarily that’s a positive even if it doesn’t count for much, but these guys also happened to be good.
Inheriting a listless group of players in October 2014 that had just been smashed 8-0 at home to Bournemouth, the St Andrew’s stands were emptying fast, and the mood was grey. Two victories in 14 Championship games saw to that.
With the side dispirited, fans fed up, owner Carson Yeung in prison for money laundering, and accountancy firm Ernst & Young managing things, looking to find new investors; everything screamed ‘don’t take it’.
Yet they signed up for the long term anyway.
And through a professional approach, hard work, a vast knowledge of lower league football, and tactical intelligence, Rowett and his staff turned Birmingham City around with the minimum of fuss.
Recovering well to finish 10th in 2014-15, they retained that position last term on a shoestring budget, and right now – spending a fraction of what their rivals have – the Blues are 8th, just three points off third.
Getting the push by the club’s new Chinese majority shareholders, Trillion Trophy Asia, was a bitterly unjust reward for their efforts.
Reaction on social media tells us the supporters are fuming. The players will be just as upset.
Just when it felt like they were on the verge of achieving something together, the rug has been pulled from beneath them.
Footballers are pretty resilient by nature, but if results go badly in the coming weeks, it won’t take much for the spirit inside the dressing room (and stands) to crumble.
TTA’s logic in choosing Gianfranco Zola as a better bet than Rowett, is a hard one to fathom.
While the likeable Italian was on a different level to the ex-Derby, Birmingham and Leicester City defender as a player, the bare facts suggest Rowett is a superior, better-suited coach.
Guiding Burton Albion and Birmingham through almost entirely positive spells, without ever having a big transfer kitty, his win percentage as a gaffer stands at a healthy 42.3%.
Young, hungry and with extensive knowhow on players across the EFL, he was the dream ticket for a club without the financial muscle to compete with others in the Championship.
In my view Rowett was a bigger asset to Birmingham than any of his players.
While Zola is a lovely guy, he failed as boss at West Ham, Watford, Cagliari and Al Arabi, and has a modest 35.6% win rate.
Lasting just one season in Qatar, he only just made it past three months in his native Sardinia, where he’d once been a hero as a player.
You have to say he was only headhunted because of his name.
Have the problems experienced by Midlands’ rivals Wolves or Aston Villa not taught the Blues anything?
They parachuted big name ex-players in from overseas, who didn’t have a deep enough understanding of the league or the players needed to succeed in it; and it’s costing them time and millions to repair.
I’m not worried about Gary Rowett. It will be onwards and upwards for him. He may not be the biggest name, but the 42-year-old is a natural in management. He’ll succeed elsewhere.
As for the Blues…
Having savagely dispensed with their driving force, a man that successfully united a fractured club, I fear the only way is down.
And when it does go wrong, they will have no one to blame but themselves.