Often Partisan


So, the big news at St Andrews today is that Roy Aitken has (or is about to) walked. He’s off to join his old compadre David o’Leary who has just taken the managerial reins at Al-Ahli, in the sun-drenched huge Meccano kit that is Dubai.

I’m assuming that the lure of some tax-free UAE Dirhams contributed to Roy’s decision to leave, and for that alone I don’t blame him. Football is a fickle old world, and I think it’s his duty to himself and to his nearest and dearest to make as much do-re-mi as he can before he has to retire, or fired.

I’m interested to see the reaction of Birmingham City fans to Roy going. When we weren’t doing so well, a lot of people blamed Roy Aitken for our failings – mainly due to his past associations with that lot from across the expressway. Even as we ground our way through the Championship, people bemoaned our lack of style, guile and goals and I do recall many people making reference to “Fatty” Aitken and how he was ruining us. Fast forward to now, after finishing our highest for God knows how long, and has that undercurrent of feeling changed? Are people now going to be disappointed now he’s gone? Will he get the same elevation to demigod status that Mark Bowen (unfairly I feel) got? I don’t think so – I thnk his vile connections always stood against him – but I do believe that unless you go to watch the training every day you can’t really know just how good a first team coach he is (note not assistant manager, McLeish has never had one).

The departure of Roy leaves a big wide open space in our infrastructure though, and I guess the race is on to replace him. I’ve seen suggestion (from IPF on the smallheathalliance board) of Steve Clarke, who was until recently Gianfranco Zola’s number two at the Boleyn Ground. As an ex-Scotland team mate of Big Eck, surely they’d know each other? I think it’s a possible for starters – and as I rack my brains trying to think of other possible new first team coaches/number two types, I think it’s important to take into account what Blues will be looking for.

Firstly, and most importantly, it’s got to be someone Alex McLeish trusts. It’s easy enough to point at people he may have played with over the course of his career, and it’s a good enough starting point but it’s not a guarantee that he knows the other person well or trusts them. The chemistry has to be right – after all, this is the guy on the training ground who will be instilling the players with the tactics and general ideas on how Eck wants us to play.

Secondly, it’s got to be someone that the players will respect. I’d like to see someone taken on that has been there and done it; who knows all about how to coach players to a higher level; how to get the best out of the team and how to change things about if needed. Look at the people Ferguson has picked over his tenure – Queiroz, who went on to manage Real Madrid and Portugal; McLaren who went on to manage England and FC Twente to their first ever Dutch title. I’m not saying we can get someone of the same calibre, but it’s evident that a good assistant manager can go on to be worth their weight in gold.

Finally, it’s got to be someone to help capture the imagination of the supporters. I think that expectations are going to be much higher this season, and most blues fans are going to demand that we bring someone in who is going to help take us to the next level. This is going to cost money, and I’m hoping that the investment currently shown by the board will continue to allow this.

So, it’s so long Roy. I hope your stay out in the millionaires playground that is Dubai is long enough for you to get some decent money in; just watch o’Leary and his texting.

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