Garry Monk Departs: Where Do Birmingham Go From Here?5 min read
In some ways, the departure of Garry Monk as Birmingham City boss came as a shock.
This is a man who, having been able to sign just one player in Kristian Pederson on a permanent deal, kept the club in the Championship effectively three times in 15 months.
He led Blues to survival in 2017-18 after taking over in March with the club in a very difficult situation, then steered the club to a midtable position the following season, then ensured the club’s safety after a nine-point deduction re-introduced the fear of relegation.
Having re-connected club and fans through excellent communication, Monk has taken the scrutiny off Trillion Trophy Asia’s questionable ownership regime – the man clearly deserved an improved contract, a generous budget and a big thank you.
In other ways though, this is not a shock: as discussed for The Sack Race, Monk’s relationship with the board and especially CEO Xuandong Ren had deteriorated to the point that his departure this calendar year seemed inevitable.
Ren had reportedly moved his office to the training ground, shifting several analysts out of their room so that he could sit near the window and scrutinize Monk’s work on the training field.
The boss was, understandably, not happy about that – how can somebody who only has pedigree as a businessman know more about how to coach players than a proven Championship manager?
Richard Beale, a Birmingham fan who has done a wonderful job of developing youth at the club for 16 years, missed one Under-23s game against Leeds to play in a charity match to help a cause close to his heart for personal reasons.
Ren appeared to use this case as grounds to dismiss Beale and, as he looks likely to, appoint Xavier Calm, manager of Spanish third-tier outfit Cornella, as Under-23s boss.
Club Statement: Garry Monk
— Birmingham City FC (at ?) (@BCFC) June 18, 2019
In the interest of balance, there is a reasonable argument for changing the structure at Birmingham.
Leeds and Norwich have had success on a modest budget by appointing a Director of Football and Sporting Director respectively, having a Head Coach rather than a manager and embracing an attractive brand of football – Monk might not willingly fit into that model.
Plus, if this change is going to happen, it seems favourable to have it mid-summer rather than mid-season.
Unlike the switch from Gary Rowett to Gianfranco Zola in December 2016, those connected to the club have more time to get used to the idea of a new regime while new recruits more likely to suit the change of strategy have a pre-season to prepare.
— We Are Birmingham (@WeAreBirmingham) June 13, 2019
Plus, tipped replacement Pep Clotet is respected across Europe as a coach and could learn from certain things he got wrong during a challenging managerial stint at Oxford.
The Catalonian does, though, have a lot of work ahead: he must recruit a new goalkeeper, add ball-playing composure in defence and midfield whilst replacing key attacking performers such as Jota and potentially Che Adams.
More than anything, he needs to show appreciation for supporters, understand how they are feeling and try to re-connect the club on a footballing level, even if the board are unlikely to regain credibility.
Perhaps more damaging than the change itself is the distasteful way it has been handled; if Birmingham enter a fourth relegation struggle in seven years, the fault will lie largely at Ren’s door.
Next Permanent Birmingham Manager: