Andy Munro looks back at Blues’ season.
Phew! Now this particularly hair-raising roller coaster of a season is over here’s a bit of reflection.
We all started off with a degree of optimism that maybe we could step up to the play-off plate all bolstered by the prospect of Tesche and Fabrini bringing midfield creativity with the exciting prospect of at last signing a forward, Che Adams, with pace and power. Add to that mix a supposed hot Scottish prospect in Greg Stewart and things looked set fair. We even signed a guy called Jutkiewicz who couldn’t seem to score a goal to save his life and who magically became prolific on signing for us…the gypsies must have been cursing!
Okay, the football was a bit turgid and there was a rustling of discontent when we were bombed out nil-four at home to Barnsley. The mantra that Gary Rowett was doing a great job under difficult circumstances rang a bit hollow at that point, with Barnsley not being exactly Barcelona. However, Rowett’s sacking soon afterwards was a shock although to many, including myself, although we weren’t heartbroken as the match entertainment value had become almost nil.
His replacement was a bit of a shock though, and can be described as underwhelming given the little Italian’s managerial record. We all hoped we would be proved wrong and, if we had beaten Brighton in that first match (a result we would have thoroughly deserved) who knows what might have happened given the importance of the confidence factor in football.
Yet results became depressingly bad to give Zola probably the worst managerial record in Blues history…now that is SOME record. His major mistake was trying to change the style and formation mid-season with players who weren’t comfortable or good enough to take these things on board. His signings were also Rowettesque in that he failed to play them most of the time leaving the undoubted talents of Keite and Frei on the bench. Fabrini went off into rural Italy, Tesche looked a shadow of the loan player that he was whilst Jutkiewicz predictably stopped scoring as soon as he signed a contract.
In the nick of time, enter ‘Arry ‘Oudini as the Chinese decided losing face was better than losing our Championship place. Did Zola resign voluntarily or was he pushed? Did it matter? In fairness, getting ‘Arry on board was a masterstroke as it galvanised both fans and players, especially as he knows how to play to the gallery.
Suddenly, there is more optimism and enthusiasm amongst the fans than there has been since the days of Chris Hughton. Next season? Bring it on!