Often Partisan

Wages and Ambition

Birmingham City have added to their ranks this summer so far with ten players having come in during the close season; of those eight have come in on free transfers with a further two on season long loans. Blues haven’t paid a fee for a player since Darren Ambrose last summer and have not paid a fee in excess of £1million since Curtis Davies in January 2011.

There’s been a lot of talk online about the kind of players Blues have brought in, and the changes in the perceived marketplace that Blues are looking for players. With a salary cap rumoured to be around £5,000 per week for any new player Blues have been forced to look for players lower down the leagues who could potentially make the step up along with players from clubs north of the border. It’s a far cry from the days of offering Nikola Zigic £50,000+ a week for four years and taking on a rumoured £64,o00 per week of Aliaksandr Hleb’s wages.

However, it’s got me thinking. Whilst we’re still waiting for it to happen (as we have been for some time), a takeover of Blues is inevitable in the future – the length of time it will be is up for debate, but it will happen eventually – and one would think that would bring in an injection of funds. Should Blues make it back to the top flight, are their lessons to be learned from this period to ensure that we don’t go through such travails again.

In my opinion there are. Despite what some people might say or think, I do not believe Birmingham City is a “big” club. There has always been potential – we are the second city in the country after all – but it has never been realised and I think until there is a period of sustained success – like five to ten years of good finishes in the top flight – it never will come close to being realised. With this in mind, I think it’s imperative whoever takes over Blues does so with a sustainable model that looks to build an infrastructure to make money – something that seems an an anathema in modern football.

That means despite us fans wanting to see big transfer fees being paid out for big name players, I don’t think Blues can do that until the gates and commercial side warrant it. Imagine the trouble Blues would have been in the last couple of seasons had they brought in two or three players on Zigic’s money with the same success – two or three players on wages in excess of £2mil a year in the Championship – and how that would have crippled the club. It could have happened – Zigic was by no means the only player we were after that summer and I think we have to realise whatever the ambition of an owner wanting marquee names Blues just can’t do it until the club is on a much firmer footing.

One thing the worries of the past couple of years has improved is the academy – having to rely on younger players has had the knock-on effect that applications from younger talented players to join the academy have soared and the consequence of that is that the quality of players coming through is steadily rising. Again, it hurts to see academy prospects sold on but if Blues can get to a point where we can build them up and hold on to them for a little longer then the amount of revenue that should be able to be generated will also contribute to making the club more stable.

Whilst the money woes of the last two years have hurt us they needn’t cripple us in the long-term. I think there may come an opportunity for the club to actually rise from the ashes of the Carson era stronger and in better shape – if we heed the mistakes that have been made.

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63 Responses to “Wages and Ambition”

  • Dean says:

    Once again, OP tells it like it is with a sensible approach.

  • Dan H says:

    My thoughts exactly, look at Leicester, Swansea, Southampton, Crystal Palace all clubs that a few years ago were close to going out of business, they hit rock bottom and re-built.

    Much like Germany and Japan’s industry after WWII, when you have the opportunity to start from scratch you can instill a new approach and culture that leads to success

  • andy says:

    It’s a view that is totally unpopular but necessary.the days of rich sugar daddies are surely gone. Football is a business and the club must make a profit to survive. I’m going to get slated for this but at least Sullivan, Gold and Brady were sensible business people. So they didn’t invest tens of millions of their own cash, but they did make us a club worth tens of millions of pounds, and their foundations brought us years of perm football which led to a trophy and Europe. That’s what we need next above all else, a businessman who knows what they are doing, not a wannabe with promises of cash.

    • KeepRightcroydOn says:

      I agree Andy. My one gripe with them is that they neglected the academy.

    • Pete Flamingo says:

      I have another gripe with them. They promised that they would leave the club in safe hands. Rather than doing what they said they would do, they took the money and ran…not saying I blame them for that , who wouldnt, just don’t give us the crap that you would put the club first.

    • bluenose08 says:

      You wont get slagged off by me totally agree with you its just sullivan rubbed a few fans up the wrong way !!

  • KeepRightcroydOn says:

    Spot on Dan. It’s the kind of approach the Baggies adopted. It took them a couple of promotions and delegations to get to where they have arrived, but always done with a sustainable strategy in mind. When sensible new owners, there’s no reason why we can’t emerge stronger from the current mess we’re in.
    Further development of the academy had to be the way forward, and we can reap the benefits of this when fair play rules kick in. Young home grown talent can be the catalyst for generating revenue. What we need is a new owner with a long term vision and a strategy to realise that vision. He’d have to be patient, and us fans would need to be patient too, to build season on season.

  • Lee says:

    I agree, to a point, so tell me where has all the money from the sales of players since relegation has gone, Ben foster was on 50k a week and was sold as he is saleable, zigic is awful and whoever offered him that contract should be up in a court of law, unbelievable decision on a player that couldn’t even get in the side he was at, we have sold players for millions of pounds since relegation, parachute payments from the prem for millions of pounds, the money has gone somewhere and I don’t care what anyone says, we should not be looking at free and loan signings to get by with all the cash gone into that club, yeungs (ahem) ‘loan’ to us was to buy players, foster, Johnson and dann, well they’ve all gone for good fees so surely he’s had that back in abundance, it makes me laugh how it’s accepted that the club can be in this situation when clearly it just shouldn’t be and it’s not about bad decisions, it’s not about poor management, the only way to turn an 80million pound investment into what it is now is because that was the plan, delete this if you like but this has been no accident, no one could be this foolish

    • Alex T says:

      Lee, I agree 100%. I dont think Carson cared about what actually happend, as long as he could pump money into the club and get ‘a percentage’ of it back clean (IMO!)

      secondly, has your contact at the club apologied prefusely for leading you up the garden path? Or have you got an update?

  • utbb says:

    tom ross has been going on about a takeover – says he doesnt understand what the hold up is – says just awaiting PP / BIHL’s approval (his words on twitter) – is he talking crap? I mean how could he alone know about this when no one else has a clue??

  • Dave says:

    Got to remember lots of clubs get relegated with big earners on there books. The problem with our club is the clowns running it. The sales from the past two years must have brought in 30m maybe more and were still in a mess.

  • Tony says:

    Tom Ross keeps going on about a deal being completed, I like Tom I think he is genuine, and a blues supporter. But does he intend to keep going on like this until we are sold however long that may take, then he can turn around and say I told you so? if so we could all do that.

  • Chris Walker says:

    Lee Clark has done exceptionally well knowing the restraints he has had to work with; this season he has gone about the task of re-building assiduously, without a single public moan.
    Hopefully these young guns, along with the, still young, experienced players can bring success to St Andrews this season, by that I mean attractive, attacking football and a decent top half finish. Though the play–off would be nice, unless we have new owners promotion would be too much to ask this season.
    Personally, I think we will have one of the best season’s footballing wise we have seen for a long time, causing a few upsets as we go too. I am really looking forward to it more than in the past couple of seasons.
    On the whole I agree with your comments regarding the wage structure, the only point I raise is: If we had taken another couple of players on Zigic’s wage structure and not off loaded would we have been rid of our current owners sooner?
    It is sensible business acumen to have a long-term wage structure, something Yeung and his board seemed to lack. However, saying that, if the court case had never happened would he have invested.
    It is obvious that bringing on the academy players is another channel to generate income along with advertising, shirts and season tickets. We have always been a selling club and developed many stars over the years, some we kept for a few seasons, Bob Latchford and Trevor Francis spring immediately to mind others went before we had a chance to see them mature Jack and Nathan recently.
    I think the biggest worry now for Birmingham City FC is the missing supporters, many now will have found other match day interests and may never return, others are showing their criticism with their feet, we need something to get them excited again and I think LC is going to do that this season.
    I for one was highly critical of LC last season and really did want him out but come January he turned the corner made some excellent loan deals and got the team structured and earned some brilliant results, who cannot forget Crystal Palace away.
    The sooner new owners are in situ the better but it will still be a long haul to recover from the present regime.
    KRO

    • Pete says:

      Think the squad he had last season should have done better. IMO this squad was better than a 12th place finish. He has done nothing this season, except buy some very cheap players within his new budget- whether he has unearthed gems remains to be seen.

      I WILL be delighted to give him credit for his performance- BUT only when his performance deserves it. IMO last season he was very lucky, to be working for a club that could not afford to sack him. I hope he gets it right this year and the key to that is getting the players to be organised at the back and look like they have met eachother and then learn the best system. I suspect he might well be doing that this time around.

      • Chris Walker says:

        I agree with some of your points.
        Last season when LC arrived he had very little time to evaluate what he had or work on his formations so he was having to work on them during the season.
        Although it was never documented, and I can only go on hearsay and attitude, I believe there were behind the scenes problems within the camp with some of the experienced players that caused bad feelings, this forced LC to play use of the academy players, he also made some shrewd signings in the January window.
        This season he knows what he wants and with due diligence has achieved that, he has also worked on a new system, which I believe he tried to last season without the cooperation of some players, some have now gone and others have been released.
        This season fills me with excitement with LC’s attitude to the whole sorry state he is working round.
        I was vocal and totally anti LC last season, but think he deserves the backing of all Bluenoses thids season and hopefully he has collected and bag of diamonds.
        KRO

  • StaffsBlue says:

    Tom Ross is a genuine bloke and a genuine Bluenose and obviously believes what he’s been told. Doesn’t mean it’s true. I hope it is though, for his sake.

  • Lee says:

    Don’t take long to work out a simple maths equation well over 50million has gone into that club through sales and parachute payments alone, probably a lot more than that, so why can’t we pay 250k for caddis whilst our acting chairman is on 13k a week, not to mention talk of yeung wanting 20million for the club plus his 20 million he put in, so who pays the 8 million loan for bihl secured against St. Andrews? Bear in mind 95% of bihl’s turnover is through bcfc. I don’t care what anyone says, blues where bought to do this to, no way is this poor judgement

    • almajir says:

      Lee

      Player wages.

      25million in the first season in the Championship. 34 million in the relegation season.

      I keep saying it, and people don’t seem to grasp it – it’s only gone one place.

      • chas says:

        I don’t know why you bother, Dan. Lee has this idea fixed in his head and wont believe anything else. It wasn’t Yeung who was the cause of our Relegation, it was the Players who fecked off on holiday at the end of Feb . , then buggered off again as soon as they could .

      • Quokkasskip says:

        agree with the wages being a big factor, but also is repaying Carson’s loan that he bought the club with….
        no cashflow statement so no-one can be 100% clear

  • Evesham blue says:

    I think we we are starting to turn the corner now even. A competitive championship team. The playoffs is a chance that is not beyond us. Then end of next season – zigic and all the other freebie high earners will finally be gone. assuming cash flow doesnt deteriorate still further – more player sales to tide us over?

    The Phoenix will rise again. The infrastructure and management team is there for it to happen.

    One of the things which seems at odds is we are hard up but we are still signings players and loans? They are not free

    • Pete says:

      Evesham- hope you are right. But this keeps bugging me, who says we are competitive. We are going into the season witha young unknown and untested squad who are mainly loan and free signings not up to the grade where they have been before. I will support them every inch and I feel it could be a magical season with a new dawn BUT the expectation on players should be just to give their all and see whatever happens in my opinion.

  • Thaiblue says:

    Once we have good,reasonable owners it is of vital importance that we also have a team/football manager who can look at a player and say…hes right for us.Mutch like LC is doing for us now.Not every club have paid over inflated prices for players to get a level of success that is needed to at least, compete at the top table.We all know players come and go so picking the right manager is vital if we are going to move forward.To date we just can not moan at LC.Last season was last season lets hope all the good work LC and his staff have put in pay off and that the players they have picked are the right ones for the situation we find ourselves.I know we all want them to succeed.Good luck and I cant wait to see these young guns do their stuff.KRO

  • Tony says:

    Excellent piece, one question you say Curtis D was the last signing for over a million, are you sure? I thought we wasted £1.3m on that useless lump Ibanez. Am I wrong? Also, once Pannu and Zigic are off our wage bill the club will be approx £6m better off per season, which must help.

    • Pete says:

      We did not even spend a 5th of that sum on him. For my point of view he was unlucky not to get more games and I thought he should have been playing a lot more last season.

  • Oldbluenose says:

    Almajir;, I am in full aggreemnt with the whole of your article, !!.

    As said earlier, in the reply’s, Sullivan, Gold,Brady, all applied good management, [ Yes, — Thet did neglect the Acadamy ] but in all else they kept us solvent, !!.

    Please god, Our next owner[ s] , Follow the same vein and re-build us ground up, with stability, !!.

    We would all like to have Messi from Barca, but we must safeguard our future and not live in dreamland, !!!!.

  • JimmyP says:

    I personally think we got relegated from the Premier not due to a lack of funds, but because we had far too many loan/experienced players, all getting paid too much at the twilight of their careers and not caring where the club goes next given they’ve made their money and had ther day in the sun. Hleb, Bentley being great examples.

    Regardless of whether we were in the financial mess we are now, I’d still support the current startegy that seems to have emerged this season under LC’s tutelage – giving an opportunity to either youth or players who have battled in the lower leagues and deserve at least a chance to make it. After all, compared to seasoned ‘veteran’s’ they have a reason to fight.

    Last season, I think LC fell into the same trap as other Championship managers – Paul Jewell and Ipswich are the best example – of buying seasoned pro’s with the hope they would hold onto their quality despite their years. I think he’s come to his senses now it won’t work.

    Regardless of what the strategy is I’ll be there every home and cup game, ignoring those who seem to believe being a Blues fan is only to go to the occasional ‘top of the table clash’ or cup run, and getting cold shouting for the lads.

    KRO.

    • KeepRightcroydOn says:

      Part of the problem LC faced this time last year was he had very little time to assess young players so had to go for the tried & trusted. This time round, he.& his scouts have had time to scour the lower club and higher club reserve games. “Due delligence” carried out quietly with the minimum of fuss and no mention of the two words.

  • StaffsBlue says:

    A horrible thought just popped into my head…. that Yeung/Pannu are stockpiling funds, in order to buy the club outright if and when he gets found not-guilty in court. I just want it to pop out of my head again.

    • chas says:

      Personally , I truly hope you are right. You aren’t , but I hope you are.

      • KeepRightcroydOn says:

        Why Chad? If PP/CY buy outright we’re well and truly in the deep doo doo.

        • chas says:

          I will no doubt be told I am wrong and I may well be, but I firmly believe that in the beginning Yeung was good for the Club . He did put money in and no-one could have seen what happened to us in the latter half of that Season. That, as I keep saying, was down to the Players and not CY. There is no reason to believe that he wouldn’t have kept putting money in, but for the cycle of bad news that overtook him and us. One of the biggest pieces of bad luck was the Chinese floods that washed away the Factory making the replica kit , no-one could have foreseen that. He has dropped bollocks , admittedly , but he has had some terrible luck as well.

          • almajir says:

            I’d agree to a point – except I think they overspent on players without the money to back it up – Carson had to mortgage his house to put money into the club even before we were relegated and it was painfully obvious that the money had run out by April 2011.

  • stu123456789 says:

    It’s quite simply really. You sign big name players on big wages with relegation clauses where their wages drop.
    i am sure every professional footballer will battle to the end if they are in danger of having their wages halved.
    i believe that the Gold’s implemented this policy quite well and under them we would not be in this situation

  • Fange says:

    Whilst I agree with most of what you say, I don’t necessarily agree your ‘big’ club comment. I think we are a big club, and this is without sentimentality. A big club is not what success you have achieved, or the division in which you participate, but the surely the size of your fan base. Internationally, look at England as a Big club/country; only one trophy, realistically unsuccessful, but a huge ‘club’ nevertheless. What makes us huge? The fan base.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      Surely where fans are concerned, it’s based on how many go through the turnstiles. Last season it was 15-18,000. Not huge really.

      • Fange says:

        Agreed, but we could also have filled Wembley three times over in 2011.

        • StaffsBlue says:

          Not all Bluenoses at Wembley I would hazard a guess. I think, in good times (not special occasions,) we could probably cram in 22,000-25,000. Can you really see us getting anymore than that.

        • chas says:

          But where did they all go a few weeks later ? We are a moderately sized Club , nothing wrong with that .

    • Pete says:

      What as our attendances like compared to other champ clubs last season OR season before? Also, I dare say all other champ clubs could pretty well sell out for Wembly. We have part time fans who claim to be real. IMO that is how it is.

  • meziney says:

    So in summarising your saying the club should be run in the manner that David Sullivan ran the club-using the basics of sound business accumin, don’t spend more than you earn!. If i remember rightly we ran that bloke out of the club? I thought this was a great article that reflected the true state of the club-we are a mid size club from the second city with potential but nothing more.

    • almajir says:

      Not strictly true. Had we not gone up in 2008 we’d have been boned.

      I also think that there is more to it than that, Sully etc turned fans into customers. To run a club properly you need the fans as part of it.

      • Meziney says:

        I see your point and at one point i would of agreed but i think who ever runs the club should be removed from the emotion of the fans and adopt a business model that services the needs of the business because ultimately thats what the club is now. Fans entering turnstiles are just one input to a successful football club in this day and age, Sully got it right and that is being proven. On a personal note i didn’t like the guy but you don’t have is personal wealth by being an incompetant in business and ultimately its not popularity contest. I always found it intersting though that the average fan down Stans thought that SUlly and Golds were obliged to throw all their personal wealth in to the club

        • Pete says:

          I have jsut a big an issue with Golds as Sullivan. They rana good business, but all went when a £ was put in front of them Fair enough, but it was Gold declaring undying love for the club all the time NOT Sullivan.

  • SteveC says:

    Tell me Almajir WHY you are routinely deleting my comments ..?
    Casting doubts on the auditted accounts is hardly libelous is it ?
    How ridiculous !

  • SteveC says:

    Enjoy !

  • brumbie says:

    Good article making a lot of sense we are not and never have been a ‘big club’ I have been brought up with the myth about our so called huge support but it has never been reflected in our average gates. Our fan base is on a par with the likes of wolves and Liecester nothing more. There are other midland clubs with.bigger fanbases than us but like any club with a period of relative success would see it grow. That said we should be in a better situation than we are but really are in need of a takeover.

  • fletch says:

    the club is being asset stripped…. no body will buy at inflated prices while the diamonds are being sold .. people talk about wages king was at coventry so the wages can,t be as high as they want us to believe.

  • Michael says:

    BCFC would be a great investment. We are a club that can sell out when we are in Europe. Do the maths. You buy the club, invest, get some silverware and you will be in profit.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      Even with the crown jewels sold off… we’re still a better propostion than most. We’re an average-sized club, with huge potential. For anyone with an interest in buying the club, I’d say, “Grow a pair… and put your money where your mouth is.”

      • Pete says:

        Most clubs can sell out when they are in Europe! It is the typical revenue earnign league crowds that matter!

  • brumbie says:

    Staffsblue it would need super rich Arabs to invest incredible amount of money to make Blues a force in english football. Its highly unlikely that any oil rich Arab would buy us when there are bigger more attractive clubs in the region we just lack the glamour and the history that attracts these type of investors. We can only hope we get a wealthy owner who will invest sensibly amd show some patience. We need to be established premiership club to give the fans something to cling to which is something we have never really been.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      Gold/Sullivan/Gold weren’t super rich Arabs. We don’t need mega-rich anyone… we just need someone with sound business sense and a feel for the fans and the area. That would do me fine.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      From Lee Clark’s words, it seems that Morrison won’t be coming back.. and this young lad is a direct replacement.

      • KeepRightcroydOn says:

        I think the poss permanent transfer in Jan is just Birmingham Mail speculation. Can we afford a fee? The Baggies paid £300k for him and they’ll want to recoup that.

        • StaffsBlue says:

          That’s why I started with Hmm…

          He’s not really an established first teamer like Caddis was.. so maybe they’ll do a deal? Who knows what position we’ll be in by January.

  • Euston 9.18 says:

    I would of thought a football team to be called a “Big Club” should go on the amount of season tickets sold before the season starts.
    Does anyone know BLUES season ticket figures for when they played in the Prem & Championship ??

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