Friday, December 16, 2011

A farewell to Europe

Blues bowed out of the Europa League last night, despite beating Maribor 1-0 and finishing with a creditable 10 points (3 wins, 1 draw, 2 defeats) from their six games in the group. Events elsewhere - 10-man Braga could only draw 1-1 at Bruges - conspired against them, but they can hold their heads high.

It was an interesting game to watch, not least because of the mercurial 17 year-old Nathan Redmond. The teenager is a real prospect, and dare I mention the name "Trevor Francis"? No, because the way Redmond played last night the likelihood is he'll be gracing the Premiership sooner rather than later, and it won't be with us. Redmond was a joy to watch, showing maturity to go with his dazzling pace, skill and trickery. He deserved a goal for his efforts, and nearly got it on 87 minutes when his thunderous volley crashed back off the inside of the post from about 25 yards.

I want to dwell on the past 10 months, from the moment we won the Carling Cup through the pain and shock of relegation to our eight-game European adventure where we've won five, drawn two and lost just two (to last season's Europa League finalists no less). I want to moan about the fact Braga had a man sent off last night around the same time they should (but didn't) have a man sent off against us two weeks ago. Our Europa League campaign turned on that moment in all likelihood, but these are the breaks. But I can't dwell on that, because the future is calling.

Going forward
What happens now? There's little doubt we're in a mess financially. There's little doubt too that our cup win and European adventure will be vital in the years ahead, memories we can draw on to hopefully help us get through the lean times to come.

We have a promotion campaign to focus on now, but while we currently sit in a healthy position, seven points outside the play-offs with two games in hand, the fact remains the January transfer window looms large. We'll know more about our precarious financial position then, as it seems obvious we'll be selling off more of the family silver just to survive to the summer, never mind beyond.

With Carson Yeung's trial now put all the way back to November, leaving him and us in limbo, we will need to sell more of our best players. Liam Ridgewell is a given, but it's likely Jean Beausejour and - assuming anyone will take him - Nikola Zigic will be going too. If we offload those three I think - and hope - it'll be enough, with the significant wages saved (Zigic is on 50K/week alone) hopefully enough to not just lets us keep everyone else, but maybe even replace one, two or even all of them.

The fear, though, is that it won't be enough, particularly if Zigic stays on the pay roll. Curtis Davies is the next most saleable asset, and then you start looking at our younger players: Jack Butland, Jordan Mutch and Nathan Redmond. If we end up selling them, then our future really is bleak.

So January will - as the Chinese say - be "interesting times" for Birmingham City. That cup win and European adventure already feel like they're in the distant past, and I miss them already.

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