From Small Heath to Saltley, a black cloud has descended over half of Birmingham. I, of course, I'm referring to Chris Hughton's departure as Birmingham City manager rather then the appalling British summer.
In the view of some Hughton's exit signals the end of the Blues, that the loss of the Messiah will result in certain relegation. As a naturally cheery soul I am not willing to join the harbours of doom. While few would doubt Hughton's qualities as a human being - his dignified softly spoken approach is a refreshing change to the hype of modern day society - I do have doubts on his managerial abilities.
Before I am consigned to the gallows may I take to the stand. Hughton's entire reputation is based on his firefighting attributes. On the surface he extinguished towering infernos at Newcastle United and Birmingham City, but closer inspection reveals two large bonfires were raging.
At St James' Park, Hughton inherited a squad containing Kevin Nolan, Steve Harper, Andy Caroll and Jose Enrique. Little wonder these talented performers thieved in the second tier. It was a similar story when the ex-Spurs defender arrived in the West Midlands. Scottish internationals Chris Burke and Steven Cauldwell plus proven goalscorer Marlon King were already on board. All three were signed by the much maligned Alex McLeish. Experienced performers Stephen Carr and Keith Fahey supplemented the emerging talents of Jordan Much and Nathan Redmond.
Hughton also had giant Serbian striker Nikola Zigic at his disposal. The Blues had shelled out six million to land the former Valencia forward the previous summer. Indeed Zigic cost more than the staring elevens of Southampton and Blackpool. Despite this the Saints claimed automatic promotion while Blackpool beat Bimingham in the play-off semi-final.
Now the Hughton camp will point to fatigue. Due to European commitments and a prolonged run in the FA Cup, City played more than sixty games last season. However, on countless occasions the St Andrews chief opted to rest Burke, King and Zigic for those cup ties. He virtually wrote off the Europa League and sacrificed the chance of progressing to the knock out stages. He also opted to field a second string against a fragile Chelsea in the FA Cup.
Tiredness didn't look an issue as the Blues bombarded the Blackpool goal at St Andrews. Thee goals down on aggregate, the home side looked the stronger as goals from Zigic and Curtis Davies threatened a remarkable comeback. Hughton's side were hardly running on empty in the closing stages, but the truth is that Ian Holloway outfoxed his counterpart for three quarters of the tie. Olly's decision to outnumber the Blues in midfield left Hughton perplexed. But for wasteful finishing Blackpool could have have scored five in the first leg.
In the eye of the storm the Birmingham manager failed to react. No plan B seemed evident as the boss rested the need to change personnel. Contrary to popular belief, Hughton had mixed fortunes during his brief stint as a Premier League boss. Newcastle did thrash Villa and Sunderland, but Villa were reeling from Martin O'Neil's resignation while Sunderland were struggling under Steve Bruce. Meanwhile Stoke City and Blackburn Rovers won at St James' while the Toon were hammered 4-1 at Bolton. Indeed Newcastle had gone five games without a win before Mike Ashley wielded the axe.
Ironically, Holloway is now being touted as Hughton's successor. I can certainly see the attraction is recruiting the charismatic Bristolian. The Tangerines' football is a joy to behold with the emphasis on ball retention. But Holloway is no one trick pony, the pace of Matty Phillips and Thomas Ince would trouble most defences. Doubts remain at the other end of the pitch. During their Premier League adventure the Seasiders threw away several commanding positions. The refusal to shut up shop proved costly when Holloway's men were relegated by a single point.
MK Dons manager Karl Robinson is another contender for the St Andrews hot seat. The young and up and coming Robinson is another exponent of the beautiful game. The same criteria applies to Lee Clark. All three would need to see an improvement in Birmingham City's dire finances before agreeing to take up the reigns. But with a rumoured takeover in the background this could be the perfect time to become the Blues boss. The King is dead, long live the King.
Article by Steve Coulter
Calling all Birmingham City fans. Do you agree with Steve? Are you convinced that Chris Hughton was not as good as people made him out to be or do you think he was a top class manager? How do you think he will get on at Norwich? Who do you want as your new boss? Whatever your views we'd love to hear from you.