As the Birmingham City squad returned to training for the first time on Monday as a Championship outfit there was plenty of time taken to introducing the various new faces at the Wast Hills training ground.
With the departure of seven first team players such as Lee Bowyer and Seb Larsson, and the recent transfer of Blues fan Craig Gardner to Sunderland there will be very different look to the squad as they take to the field for their first game away at Derby in just over five weeks. In addition to this the acquisitions of Marlon King, Chris Burke and Morgaro Gomis brought in under the previous management shows the beginning of their transition.
However, it appears that the most crucial movements in and out of the club are yet to happen and the unenviable job rests on the shoulders of another new arrival, Chris Hughton. The ex-Newcastle manager has taken the job of reinstating the clubs premier league status at the first time of asking under the instruction of the board.
Many onlookers would suggests the club are almost descending into ‘crisis’ with the ongoing charges impending over the clubs owner Carson Yeung it is still not apparent just how drastic the cut costing measures will be. A whole host of clubs are looking to raid Birmingham to pick up a relative bargain as the club attempt to slash the wage bill. Scott Dann, Roger Johnson and Ben Foster are just three who are being constantly linked with premiership clubs and Hughton must now potentially make some of the biggest decisions in his tenure in the coming weeks as to who he can keep hold of.
Another point of issue for the manager will be the funds available once inevitably some of the current squad are sold. With debts supposedly totalling £30 million Hughton may only see a small percentage of the money that comes in available to him. Along with maintaining as much of the talent the club currently Huhgton will surely be looking to add his own style on the team with signings of his own.
In addition to the obvious skill the team will require to bounce back Hughton has made it clear it is important to develop a group of players who are committed to the Birmingham cause, “For me it’s about a group of players showing a real desire to want to go back up into the Premier League at the first go and show that appropriately on the football pitch.” Aswell as the on-field preparations the manager’s office will be in constant use as he establishes the players that want to be involved, and those looking to jump ship.
Although things appear slightly bleak at the Blues the club does have the positives of a first venture into Europe in fifty years, and probably a more important factor, an abundance of experience in succeeding in the task ahead. Hughton’s victorious campaign with Newcastle two years ago under the expectant Geordie fans is a major boost along with players such as captain Stephen Carr, Liam Ridgewell and Cameron Jerome who were all integral parts of the Midlanders promotion in 2009 it isn’t all blue for the bluenoses.
Even though the Birmingham squad that takes to field may be very different to the one that reported for training on Monday morning, if Hughton can impact on the players thinking of leaving along with the support and trust of the owners and the St Andrews faithful then Hughton may be able to work his magic in securing a return to the Premier League.