March 19, 2015 by bluenosebible
By Luke Turner
With the Rowett revolution having seemingly saved Blues from another relegation dogfight, can Gary now start planning for next season?
Of course he, as would I, want the team to continue picking up points and finish in the strongest position possible. But, with the club now 13 points above Wigan in the final relegation place, survival is virtually complete. Unless there is another spanner in the works at ownership level which could lead to a points deduction, I can’t see anyone but the current bottom three heading down into League One.
Rowett has done an excellent job propelling a side second from bottom to a comfortable mid-table position within four months of joining the club. There was the little blip where the team went eight league games without a win, but that would be expected of a side who had over-achieved in the previous few months. A squad made up of free agents and loanees (with the exception of Paul Caddis, David Davis and Michael Morrison) have, overall, coped very well in a league which, for most of them, is new to them. The likes of Clayton Donaldson and Stephen Gleeson had been competing in League One prior to their moves to Blues so stepping up to the Championship was a huge test of their ability. And, joining a club like Blues who, in recent years were playing in the Premier League and in Europe, comes with some added pressure. In my opinion, both of these players along with the rest have exceeded expectations and have both been key in our climb up the table.
Looking forward to next season has to be on the mind of Gary Rowett. We have an excellent academy at our club which have produced some great talents over the years. This season has undoubtably been Demarai Gray’s year. A tricky, pacy winger who leaves the fans on the edge of their seats. There is no question that we need to hold onto Gray during the summer. He still has some way to come until he is the finished product so it is crucial to his development that he continues to flourish at a club like Blues. First team football is all he needs and there is no better place to learn your trade than in the Championship, playing week in week out. I think that Gray himself may be relieved that the £5m January bid from Bournemouth for him was rejected by Blues as there are still at least five teams in the race for automatic promotion. After a fantastic season, Bournemouth are still, by no means, in the Premier League yet.
One other youngster that has had a taste of first team action over the last few years is Reece Brown. In his few appearances in the Blues shirt, Brown impressed me as he moves the ball so well at his feet and has great potential. It was just his decision making that eluded him along with his physical presence. Further development with the under 21s looks to have done the 19 year old the world of good and he could be set for more first team action in the coming weeks as the season comes to a close.
Charlee Adams is another player who looks to be firmly in Rowett’s plans for next season. He has been limited to first team action at St Andrews so far but excelled in a recent loan spell at Lincoln City. Rowett recalled Adams from The Imps earlier this month and seems to be pleased with the progress the midfielder has made. Next season certainly looks promising for the 20-year-old.
There is also the situation with contracts and it has already been confirmed that the club are in talks with captain Paul Robinson and goalkeeper Darren Randolph about extending their stay at St Andrew’s. Robbo has been out of the side for the last few games but, by the sounds of it, look to be just a well earned rest. He is now 36 and perhaps Rowett may look towards his replacement. Rob Kiernan, currently on loan from Wigan, has been impressive in his short stay at Blues and there could be potential there for the central defender to make his move permanent. Then there is Robert Tesche, on loan from Nottingham Forest, who is similar to Gleeson in that he has a good range of passing but he also has the ability to power past opponents and great opportunities in the offensive third. Further strengthening up front will also be on Rowett’s mind especially with Nikola Zigic and Matt Green out of contract in the summer. I, personally, would let Zigic leave for good this time but offer Matt Green at least a one year extension. He has been unfortunate with injuries for the past year or so and simply hasn’t had the chance to make an impact.
Other players out of contract in the summer are Jonathan Spector and Colin Doyle. Spector is another player who has been injury prone throughout his stay at St Andrews but is a very versatile player who puts in a shift wherever he plays. But he doesn’t always show the quality required in my opinion and is likely to be one of the higher earners at the club so I wouldn’t be surprised if he was let go. Doyle, on the other hand, has been a great servant to this football club but had limited opportunities to play. Darren Randolph is an excellent goalkeeper but, when he made a few mistakes, I was surprised not to see Doyle get a chance to shine. He’s a very capable goalkeeper who deserves first team action. If he were to leave the club at the end of the season and drop down a division, I think he would benefit massively. He’s still only 29 and, as a goalkeeper, still has a good few years left to perform at a high level.
Then there are those that really have their opportunities limited, the likes of Mark Duffy and Neal Eardley. Duffy has shown some potential so a loan move next season could suit both parties. But for Eardley, I would say get rid as soon as. Every time he has played, he has been a liability. But, like Matt Green, he was out with a lengthy injury and hasn’t had much game time. I would still get rid.
This season may now seem like a bit of a dead rubber, but I’m sure we would all rather be planning for another season in the Championship than worrying about a drop into League One. The draw on Saturday against Huddersfield did have that ‘end of season’ feel and there wasn’t really much to shout about. But, I think that this type of end to the season pays testament to the job Gary Rowett has done at Blues in his short time so far. We cannot go up nor down so let’s try and enjoy the remaining nine games of this Championship season and, hopefully, we can push on next season.