April 17, 2014 by bluenosebible
By Nat Peters
Lee Clark has repeatedly stated that he isn’t in this job as a stopgap simply to try and keep things ticking over on the pitch whilst the club is in the shit off the pitch. He plans to be around when the club is in better shape off the pitch (presumably meaning when the club is sold and all these idiots have cleared off). In his words to be around when the club is “challenging at the right end of the Championship” at the very least.
An admirable sentiment, but sentiment doesn’t keep you in a job. If the worst did come to the worst this season and we did get relegated (a scenario I do think is fairly unlikely right now) then I think it would be taken out of his hands whether he is here or not; I think League One football would see Lee Clark being given the boot.
I wouldn’t blame him for relegation (well him no more than anyone else currently involved with the playing side of Birmingham City anyway). But the sheer stigma of taking Blues into the third tier would make his position untenable in my opinion. For his own sake I think he would have to go; if we went down and started struggling in League One, the fans would go absolutely crazy at him. A fresh pair of eyes would be needed on the situation by that point, even if a genuine fresh start will only come when Pannu and the rest of the BIHL leave.
But if we stay up, will he walk? Lee Clark has handled himself with real dignity throughout his time at Blues. But recent interviews have hinted that slowly but surely he is becoming exasperated with his working conditions and the tools he has to use to do his job; constantly having players sold (or taken back by their parent clubs) and constantly having to patch together teams made up of freebies, old men, loans and kids. When all this is taken into account, it is hardly a surprise that he is becoming exasperated.
Outside of St. Andrew’s (and from people like me inside St. Andrew’s), LC is gaining almost unilateral praise for the job he is doing at Blues. People in football, people looking at our position from the outside with a purely neutral perspective; people looking from the outside in appreciate the job he has done to keep Blues in the division (touch wood). That appreciation may lead to job offers from clubs in and around our size and in and around our level, but clubs with more financial wherewithal, more footballing ambition and more stability in general than Birmingham City has to offer right now.
So, if offered a job like that, would he walk? I think so (I certainly would if I was him). He is definitely an ambitious guy, and those ambitions could potentially be furthered much more easily and much more quickly at another club. You could make the argument that once Blues get new owners then we have a good chance of being able to meet those ambitions ourselves, but no-one has any solid idea of when that situation will arise.
Even if he didn’t get another job offered to him to entice himself away from Stan’s, Clark may think that he is simply swimming against the tide staying at Blues. The thought may be going through his head that the further this club falls (really through no fault of his own) then the more his own reputation will eventually be knocked. His playing days were over quite a while ago, but he was a Premier League footballer for years at a time when footballers earned very good money, so losing out on cash that he would be entitled to if he stayed in the job shouldn’t be at the forefront of his mind. He has to reconcile in his own mind whether Birmingham City is likely, now or at any time in the near future, to meet his own profession desires?
If he did go (regardless of where he walked or was booted out) then who would replace Lee Clark? Our economic limitations and the fact we are a total basket case of a football club in general would mean that we would be looking for someone out of work (so that we wouldn’t have to pay a club compensation) and someone who sees Blues as a step forward in their career. Of those who are out of worked right now who have worked at this sort of level before and who (probably) would love a chance to manage the Blues, the likes of Iain Dowie and Paul Jewell don’t exactly strike me as being an exhilarating prospect.
People have tenuously thrown names such as Malky Mackay into the hat, but we couldn’t attract someone like that right now. Then you are looking at people with coaching badges with Blue blood; Chris Hughton would be welcomed back to Small Heath with a fan fare, but I doubt he’d come near this place. Michael Johnson is a cult hero at Stan’s and has a lot of coaching badges, but is painfully short of experience of coaching/management at this level. An intriguing prospect would be Gary Rowett; great player at Blues, but someone who has done well in management at Burton Albion AND hasn’t got a contract with the Brewers, so wouldn’t come at much cost.
Still, I hope Clark stays. I like his passion, I like the fact (even if his hand has been forced at times to do so) that he brings young players through from the academy and I would love to see what he’d be like if given a bit of money to spend. Still, even if he did go, I would get behind whoever was in charge, with the exception of Alex Mc***sh.
Do you believe Lee Clark will be at Birmingham City at the start of next season?
You can read more of Nat’s thoughts on Birmingham City and on other topics here: http://nattubes.wordpress.com/