The two minutes that may well save our season – the failed transfer
Kieftenbeld has been a solid fan favourite amongst the Blues faithful for some time now, courtesy of some spirited, gritty and energetic performance in midfield. However, during Redknapp’s short tenure, there was a period of uncertainty for the Dutchman, having once been one of the first names on the team sheet under Rowett, he had looked less effective under Zola, and Redknapp left him out of the first team entirely.
After bringing in Cheikh N’Doye, Jason Lowe, Liam Walsh and attempting to bring in Alex Song, it was clear that Redknapp saw the midfield as a weak area for the Blues. Whilst the excitement of the flurry of transfers was great at the time, it was easy to forget about Davis, Gardner, Gleeson, and Kieftenbeld, who had seemed to be discarded following the arrival of the new faces. It was no surprise, therefore, that after Rowett failed to tempt Blues to part ways with Davis, he would come again for Kieftenbeld in the hope of reinforcing the Rams midfield.
A deadline day transfer followed as Kieftenbeld looked set to be signed by Rowett for the second time in two years. It wasn’t taken too well by Bluenoses, especially when news had arisen that suggested Rowett had got Kieftenbeld for just £300,000! It wasn’t to be though, Kieftenbeld’s proposed transfer was cancelled by the EFL. It was first thought that Kieftenbeld’s agent was elsewhere, but Sky pundit Rob Dorsett later revealed that Kieftenbeld had signed the wrong part of the player documentation, he had then been sent a fresh contract and had sent it back to Derby from the Netherlands, but had missed the transfer deadline by two minutes. Sky reported that Kieftenbeld had made the transfer to Derby and it was only later the next day that news emerged of the failed deal.
Kieftenbeld spoke out about the failed transfer to the Birmingham Mail only 8 days ago.
“It’s been a rollercoaster,” the Dutchman said.
“From the start of the season we brought a lot of new players in – but I was still doing OK I think in pre-season and I didn’t feel any worse than the other players who came in.
“But everybody knows [Harry] Redknapp had his own plan, his own thoughts about players and the way he wanted to play football and the way he looked at players who were here already.’’
“I still played a few games and then deadline day came, we brought in a lot more new players on deadline day as well – and then they let me know that the chances for me to play for Birmingham City were not that big anymore.
“It was a bit weird. Honestly, it was a s*** feeling for me because I had played here for two years and I really liked it.
“I am a fighter, I wanted to fight for my spot but I need a fair chance and if someone lets you know on deadline day that you don’t have that feeling it’s a fair chance, what can you do?”
“I came back that Monday and I started again, fighting because I wanted to get back in the team and I still had the feeling I was good enough.
“That was frustrating because we were struggling and I was in the stand.
It was reported that Maikel had blamed himself for the collapsed transfer and was ‘in tears’ when he heard the news. How much truth is in these rumours is unknown, but regardless of the details, Kieftenbeld remained a Blues player. Upon his return after such a short spell away, Redknapp had promised that he rated Kieftenbeld highly and that the Dutchman was in his plans for the near future.
As it turned out, there was no near future for Redknapp, after he was sacked just a week after transfer deadline day. Kieftenbeld didn’t make an under Carsley during his two games in charge, he did, however, get his place back under Steve Cotterill. He said this when asked about how he tackled his exclusion from the starting eleven:
“Since then I kept my head down, kept working and it makes me feel even more proud that I am back in the team, it feels even better.”
“Before the game started, the guy was saying the squad and he said my name and people were really clapping like they were happy I was playing again – that was one of the best feelings for me at Birmingham City.
“It was really special for me, they could have thought ‘F*** you Kieft, go to Derby because your head is there’.
“But no, they knew how it was, they knew me as a player and that I didn’t give up.
“I think they appreciated I was back in the team again and I thank them for that. It felt really special to me.”
Returning in Style
Kieftenbeld was thrown back in to the team for Cotterill’s first fixture, against the top of the league Cardiff. He played alongside David Davis, a duo Blue fans were no doubt glad to see back.
Since then Kieftenbeld has started all 5 of Cotterill’s fixtures. He gained man of the match, according to the Birmingham Mail, in two of those five games, averaging a score of 6.6 out of ten over the course of Cotterill’s time in charge. Despite a poor performance against Barnsley (a game where everyone played poorly), Kieftenbeld has no doubt been our most consistent performer in a time of turmoil for the club. In many ways, he is showing the attributes Davis showed last season in carrying the team from the midfield, which has been pivotal in the absence of the Davis we saw last season.
What makes Kieftenbeld the solution to our problems?
Kieftenbeld wears his heart on his sleeve when he comes out of the white tunnel to see 20,000 fans roaring Keep Right On. It’s an attribute he’s had since his early days at FC Groningen, after captaining them to KNVB Cup, their first silverware in their history. If there isn’t evidence enough for such determination displayed out on the field, the just look at the way Kieftenbeld has fought back his place having been the castaway of a group of six midfielders. It’s this love for the club that’s been missing from the players of late, the play has been lethargic, the closing down lazy, the energy going forward has been lacking too. Kieftenbeld gives 100% from the off go.
When you see him play you might think he is the most talented player on the pitch, but what makes him stand out is his ability to get stuck in. His desire to win back the ball and break up play is second to none. We’re not the sort of team that can play with attacking minded midfielder like Walsh, we need strong midfielders like Kieftenbeld who are willing to stick a foot in, make a slide tackle and the drive forward with the ball. It’s his ability to do all these things and then drive forward with pace that makes him such a threat, it’s how we scored against Nottingham Forest, he wins the ball on the halfway line, drives in to the space behind their midfield and plays the ball in to Adams.
When you look at him as a player he is the most well-rounded one we have, he can hold up play, get a tackle in, he has a shot on him (cough cough, that shot against Brentford) and he has the ability to rear the fans on and get the team going. In my opinion, he is the most underrated player in the Championship.
The contract situation
It’s all very well saying that I think he is the most underrated player in the Championship, but there are many who share the same view, Derby, Cardiff, Hull and Bristol among the names keen to snipe him in January. Unfortunately, Kieftenbeld has entered the last year of his contract, and with the club yet to offer him another, Kieftenbeld’s future is shrouded in mystery.
He said this to say about the ongoing transfer saga
“Everybody is guessing about it but there is no deal [with Derby], some people think ‘You have signed something.”
“But no, the deal is canceled I am free to go wherever I want – or stay.”
“It’s a big moment now in January, for me, for every player who is out of contract.”
“You know it’s a moment to discuss your future, so far I haven’t done anything about that.”
“I always enjoyed playing for this club, I think I have showed it on the pitch, I gave my all in every game and I really like to play for Birmingham City.”
Cotterill has heaped praise on Kief since his return, hailng him as an ‘unsung hero’, who does a lot of the ‘tidying up.’ He says that there is ‘no ego about’ Kieftenbeld and he goes about his job ‘quietly’ but effectively.
Whilst Kieftenbeld seems content, and the Blues faithful are keen to see the Dutchman put pen to paper on a new contract, with nothing yet signed, Kieftenbeld remains a wanted man. We can only hope this dilemma resolves itself sooner rather than later, because if we lose the engine to the squad in January, then relegation is an almost certain prospect.
Believe me, when it comes to the end of the season we will be looking back and considering ourselves blessed that Kieftenbeld missed the deadline day by two minutes.
By Joel Grenan