Birmingham City’s owners arguably made one of the worst managerial changes in the history of The Championship last season as they dismissed Gary Rowett and appointed Italian Gianfranco Zola. This led to the Blues going on to win just two of their next 24 league games which forced Zola to resign from his position.
This saw the Blues drop down from being just outside the play-off places to being just above the relegation zone in a few months. The club’s owners appointed Harry Redknapp with three games to go to help them avoid a drop into League One.
The 70-year-old experienced manager won two of the three games he had to work with at the end of last season to keep the Blues in The Championship. One of these came on the final day away at Bristol City.
We take a look at five ways that Redknapp can continue to turn the Blues’ fortunes around next season and make them more competitive in the second tier.
Increase togetherness and spirit among the squad
This is one area which Rowett did a remarkable job at during his spell at St Andrew’s. He had his squad massively overachieving by being just outside the play-off places and this was largely due to the spirit and belief he had installed in his players. They had a ‘never say die’ attitude and worked tirelessly for one another which resulted in positive results.
Experienced professionals at the club including Paul Robinson and Paul Caddis respected Rowett and this is key to winning over a dressing room. A lot of this spirit was lost under the management of Zola and is something that Redknapp will have to restore if Birmingham are to progress next season.
Get the fans back on side
This is something which comes in hand with the first factor of increasing spirit and togetherness among the squad. If every single Birmingham player shows that they are giving their all for the side, then this is guaranteed to be received positively by the Blues faithful. Birmingham supporters felt they were losing their love for the club under the management of Zola as attendances dropped significantly.
However, the arrival of Redknapp last season seemed to have an instant impact on attendances. St Andrew’s was bouncing for Birmingham’s final home game of the season against Huddersfield Town as they secured a vital three points with a 2-0 victory. If Birmingham supporters can recreate this atmosphere in every home game next season, it could give them a massive advantage.
Utilise Che Adams
The 21-year-old has emerged as one of the most promising forwards in The Championship since arriving at the club from Sheffield United. He started to show what he is capable of in a Birmingham shirt at the end of last season and scored the vital goal in the 1-0 win away at Bristol City on the final day and if it was not for this goal, the Blues would be preparing for life in League One.
He scored a total of seven goals in the 40 appearances he made for the club last season and this is not a bad tally for a player making the step up to the second tier. Redknapp will be hoping that he continues to improve next season.
Need to improve defensively
One of Birmingham’s main issues last season was conceding far too many goals. However, Redknapp’s teams are always known to be sound defensively and he will be expected to sort the club’s defence out ahead of next season. It is impossible to be successful in The Championship without a solid defence. The likes of Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion and Huddersfield all got promoted last season with a strong back line.
It looks like Redknapp may have solved the Blues’ defensive woes by securing the signature of defensive midfielder Cheikh N’Doye from French outfit Angers. He will, without a doubt, provide more protection to the Birmingham defence in what will be a very tough campaign next time out.