“I sincerely apologise for getting on your back and completely retract my statement of “Sacking Steve is our only chance of survival”
Well, here it is. It’s been a long time coming and is perhaps a little overdue. Retractions and apologies are often found deep within newspapers where they will be seldom seen or hidden in whispered after thoughts that are intentionally barely audible in the hope that they avoid detection and don’t lead to public embarrassment. Not me though. I’m arrogant enough to think I’m always right, yet humble enough to concede that that’s ashamedly far from the truth.
Part of the beauty of fan sites and supporter blogs, is that we can be brutally honest without editors and agendas looming over us. It also means that we can admit our mistakes and misjudgements without needing to uphold the national press pretence of “we’re always right”. In short, if we’re wrong, we can say so. So here it is, my open letter of apology to current Birmingham City Football Club manager Mr. Stephen John Cotterill.
On December 5th I first publicly questioned Steve’s ability to lead the team in an article on bcfcfollowers.com. In it I discussed the positives and negatives of keeping the unproven manager around midway through an horrific run of results. We had just been put to the sword by promotion chasing Wolves and were sinking further and further down the table. I initially outlined both sides of the sacking argument before going on to cement my thoughts 6 days later with an article titled “Why Cotterill Leaving Is Our Only Chance Of Survival”. Both articles received criticism and support in equal measure as fans began to turn on the struggling manager.
I contested that, “Steve looks like a deer in the headlights in front of the cameras…League One is on the horizon” and “He is tactically inept…we need a leader, at the moment we have a simpering coach”. Was I justified in these comments? Possibly at the time. But were they rash? Almost certainly.
In both articles I did state that Steve had a bad run of luck, especially with injuries, and I did attempt to put both sides of the argument for sacking him over, but they were heavily weighted towards the removal of Cotterill. I, along with many other fans (whether they admit it now or not) was convinced that Steve Cotterill was massively out of his depth and was only taking us one way; down. Though I did begin to lay off him post-Christmas and instead focused on writing about a possible upturn in our fortunes, an undercurrent of resentment towards the manager remained.
However, may I take this opportunity to apologise for some of the criticisms levied at Stevie C. It’s undebatable that he was playing guys like Big Sam way out of position as well as employing some rather obscure tactics, but Santa delivered a winning formula over the Christmas period and the team have exceeded expectations throughout the new year and running right up to the biggest derby in the country later this week.
Cotterill has dragged the team up both mentally and physically and brought us within touching distance of an FA Cup home tie with Man United and set us up to go into the Villa game in the best run of form we’ve had since the departure of Rowett. ‘Arry famously said that the current crop of players could be promotion contenders. Maybe he was right…
Who knows what demons Cotterill was battling with in the boardroom. We may never know and quite frankly, if this streak of great form continues then I no longer care. We may never discover who the bad eggs were, we may never be told what Vetre and Dein do on a day to day basis that actually benefits the club. We will probably never find out if the board dictated the style of play or how much money truly was available to splash out during the transfer window.
What we do know though is that something has changed. Cotterill and the team around him have begun to turn the Blues around and credit MUST be given where credit is deserved. The fans have played their part with unwavering support which may not have always been wholly positive, but never went away. Unlike Sheffield Wednesday fans who were seen leaving in their droves at half time.
Davis is back to his early 2017 self. Mallagher is an absolute revelation. Handing the armband to Harlee and placing full trust in him whilst allowing the back four of Grounds, Roberts, Colin and Dean time to gel and develop a chain of command and communication are decisions worth commending. Cotterill has stuck with the task at hand and, though we wish we’d have seen more evidence of it in press conferences, his resolve has truly paid off. We are now out of the relegation zone, up to 19th and 4 points clear of danger.
On behalf of myself and many, many other Blues fans that saw you as no more than a coach and out of depth replacement for Redknapp, I sincerely apologise for getting on your back. The Blues team we’re watching in 2018 are vastly improved from the beginning of the Autumn. I am glad the board have stuck with you and completely retract my statement of “Sacking Steve is our only chance of survival”. It goes without saying that we are not out of the woods yet and the hard work must continue if we are to see ourselves clear of danger, but I have full faith that you will succeed. I also truly hope that you are still at the helm at the beginning of next season and can keep shaping the boys into a Championship contending side. Regardless of the Huddersfield and Villa outcomes, you and your team have proven their worth over the last 6 weeks and it’s inspiring to see the passion and drive return to the squad in what has been a complete 180.
You have come under criticism for how you have chosen to vent frustrations over recent months, especially during confrontations with fans. However, it is nice to see that you were just as frustrated as us. Hopefully we will all be celebrating survival sometime soon with games to spare. You, your staff and the players are giving us reason to cheer whilst restoring pride in our performances. If Saturday is anything to go by, we will be fine and a real buzz is beginning to permeate through the city. Keep it up Steve and Keep Right On!
By Mark Watson