Often Partisan

The Importance of u21 Signings

While it’s been exciting of late to look at potential new signings that Blues may be able to bring in, one thing that has crossed my mind is how hard it must be for Gary Rowett to balance immediate need for players with the prospect of blocking the pathways of Academy and Development Squad graduates to the first team.

It wasn’t that long ago that Birmingham City were forced to utilise their academy to bulk out the first team squad – indeed, I can remember well the game against Burnley just over three years ago when Blues were forced to name seven teenagers in the first team including five academy graduates in the line-up with another two academy graduates making up the bench, including Josh Hawker who was called down from the stands.

Two of those teenagers were Jack Butland and Nathan Redmond, who have gone onto much bigger and better things since while unused substitutes Hawker and Emmit Delfouneso have slipped out of the league and judging by a fruitless five minutes on Google slipped out of football totally.

With the financial rewards available to football clubs for promotion it’s hard for any manager to risk blooding young talent in crucial games and as such it’s become harder than ever for young players to break through – when faced with the choice of bringing in a fresh-faced 18-year-old or an experienced player on loan to fill a position in the team in a vital match I can understand why many managers take the latter route if it’s available.

In some ways it’s what makes the recent story of Viv Solomon-Otabor signing a new deal even more incredible. Released from Crystal Palace at 16, he came to Blues but had not only the first team regulars but hot prospects Demarai Gray, Koby Arthur and the aforementioned Redmond between him and a space in the match day squad. Coming to Blues was risky in some ways – like sticking his life savings on red – and yet it worked out for him. Maybe he should chance his arm on the roulette wheel because right now he is riding the crest of the wave from raw potential in the Development Squad to becoming the next wunderkind winger that Blues have produced.

It’s one reason why I’ve been as interested in who Gary Rowett and Richard Beale are looking at for the u21s as I am about the first team. With the emergency loan window no longer an option from the end of the season the pressure will be on for Blues to look within their squad when injuries and suspensions hit and that means the u21s need to be much more than an extension of the Academy; it will need to be a competitive squad with players who have the potential to step up and cover the inevitable issues that will hit the first team.

For the first time in a while, I’m not even sure who the next big thing from the development squad will be. I’m not sure if this is due to Blues not being as reliant as they were on younger players or because there is a better standard of talent. I hope however we continue to see the recent trend for excellent production from the Academy.

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70 Responses to “The Importance of u21 Signings”

  • StaffsBlue says:

    I’m not sure the development league is competitive enough for these lads to progress quickly enough. It’s not exactly the Football Combination or Central League is it? This is why they have to farm them out to lower league clubs to get that competetive experience.

    It’s maybe a season or two before the next batch off the conveyor belt, which is probably why Rowett & co are recruiting experience for the first team and potential for the U21s. It’ll give the kids time to develop. Hoping to see Kobi Arthur and Charlie Adams get a crack this season though.

  • Dan says:

    From seeing a few development games and reading match reports, my belief is that Kyle McFarlane and Kaleem Bailey will be the next breakout stars. Those two aside, Steve Spooner has been working wonders with his team as well.

  • Dan McShane says:

    Having attended some developmental matches this season and reading match reports, my belief is Kyle McFarlane are the next to be breakout stars for us. On a side note, Steve Spooner is working wonders with his Under 18s team

  • Richard Granfield says:

    We should know the fate of Reece Brown, our best young prospect IMO, by the end of the month.
    The last I heard he is on trial at Bournemouth after his spell at West Ham.
    Nothing would give me greater pleasure than for Reece to return to Blues in February, knuckle down and claim a first team spot before the season’s end.
    The Reece Brown saga may be a classic Catch 22 situation i.e. His attitude is poor because he’s not being picked and he’s not being picked because his attitude is poor.

    • Dan McShane says:

      You’re 100% correct regarding ‘Catch 22..’ Clark and Rowett have both stated his attitude is a concern (perhaps not quotable but enough for me to make that assumption) I’d like him to knuckle down too but I can’t see it happening now, he’ll be gone at the end of the season if not before.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      According to the BM, Reece Brown has been at West Ham, Bournemouth last week and is now interesting a top 4 side (rumoured to be Man City.) Rowett seems to be of the view that, once he comes back, that’s it. They’ll then make a decision what to do for his career, but won’t be flogging him for 10 bob (his words.)

  • Phileni says:

    What has happened with Koby Arthur mate?

    Have I missed something or is he just not fancied?

  • ChrisG says:

    I thought Charlee Adams was supposed to be our next big thing, I read a couple of months ago that GR had likened him to Gleeson & I heard that Adams turned down a loan move as it was believed he was close to making the 1st team squad but as far as I can remember he hasn’t even made the bench.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      He’s often around the first team. If you look at the Access Blues videos on YouTube, you’ll see him going in and out with the squad. As for him getting a chance, I think whilst we’re in with a chance of the play-offs, you’re unlikely to see the likes of Adams and Arthur getting a sniff. It’s understandable tbf. Maybe towards the end of the season.

      • ChrisG says:

        Thanks for that staffs. I’ve heard a lot of really good things about the lad, i’ve never actually seen him play so was looking forward to seeing him, but as you say maybe now towards the end of the season he’ll get his chance.

        • StaffsBlue says:

          Chris, type these two titles into the YouTube search and see for yourself.

          Grimsby Town 1 Lincoln City 3 – Charlee Adams wonder goal

          Lincoln City 3 Aldershot Town 0 – (Another) Charlee Adams wonder goal

          • ChrisG says:

            Blimey staffs he’s got a hell of a strike on him, i’m sure either of those shots would of beaten the best goalies around, let’s hope we see him at least make the 1st team bench sooner rather than later. Thanks mate

          • StaffsBlue says:

            YW. I’d like to see more of him too.

  • Big Al says:

    Emmit Delfouneso went to Solihull Moors. From what I hear he struggled at that level. Has anyone noticed how well Jervis is playing for Plymouth these days?

    • StaffsBlue says:

      Seems he’s playing wide right for them. Even the commentator the other night referred to him as “Plymouth winger Jake Jervis.”

  • Callum O’dowda 20 yo is said to be an interest for blues if that means anything , other clubs are selling the players they don’t want to bid at the end of the season ,there will be no cheap players at that time then ….

    • bluenoseessex says:

      o’dowda asked for £10,000 a week at derby and costing £1 mil , cant see us paying that

  • Roger says:

    There seems to be no plan what so ever regards signings we are after one kid from Oxford and a player from Burton .
    Surely GR knew how much was available from the Gray transfer months ago?
    But we seem to be making it up as we go along.
    I do trust GR but the transfer policy needs to be looked at sooner rather than later.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      It could well be that the media/social media are making it up as they go along.Until the club/Tatts confirms it, I take all the rumours with a pinch of salt.

      • StaffsBlue says:

        Rowett himself, in an interview the other night, said that they knew their targets in the UK and that we had people scouting in Holland and Germany too. Sounds fairly organised to me.

    • Neil Jones says:

      It could also be suggested its one thing to know who you want, getting them through the door and signed up is entirely another.

      I am sure we will see the 3 or 4 players GR suggested would sign come in, whether they’re his 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th choice from a list of 20+ potentials i sincerely doubt.

      • StaffsBlue says:

        He said himself that he’s not just bringing players in for this season, but building for the next 1 or 2 years. Sounds like a plan.

    • Shirley Blue says:

      Why – look where we are in the table? I really don’t get this nonsense. Who is actually available now and who would you drop from the current first team to accommodate new signings anyway. Think of who wasn’t actually involved on Saturday or came on for the last couple of minutes – Vaughan, VSO, Buckley, Shinnie, Cotterill. What this need to question GR’s transfer policy?

    • almajir says:

      Roger

      Sometimes clubs will be named even when they have not approached a player by an agent drumming up interest. I don’t believe we’ve enquired about the Burton lad.

  • Dan Hickman says:

    Jervis was at the Blues at the wrong time really, if he was coming through now he would have a chance. This all makes me think though that scrapping the emergency loan window is one of the best things they can do for young English players. Forces clubs to look within and invest in their academies. We do anyway but there are plenty that don’t even bother and will just bank on exit trials of PL sides.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      Absolutely agree with that. Let’s develop our own, not other clubs’ players.

    • almajir says:

      I don’t know, I never thought Jervis was good enough and that’s been borne out.

      Only player I have ever felt we may have missed out on in recent times was Alpaslan Ozturk, and that was a money thing.

      • Dan Hickman says:

        Tbh I have never seen enough of Ozturk to really judge. As for Jervis maybe you’re right, but I think he would at least have had a chance just now, and possibly kicked on further/quicker. Also think he had the other downside to youth loans, in that it became to easy to ship him out for a month here and there, rather than give him a proper go with the first team or move him on. It still surprises me how far Mat Sale has fallen down the leagues, I really rated him when he broke through. Oh and who can forget about Luciano Figueroa?! He cost us about £500k a minute!

  • I hope that will meen more transfer money in this window staffsblue .kro

  • Mitchell says:

    Our problem is that if we win then there is little need to get people in. Lose and we want quick fixes. Fickle lot most of us are. Shirley Blue makes good point of the players on the bench at Derby- how can we get better players than Vaughan,Shinnie,VSO etc. As already commented by many of us-let GR get a top CH to partner Morrison and that’s it for this season.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      I agree about a centre back, but what if Grounds gets injured? There’s just Hancox and Lowry (if he’s still there.) Rowett obviously doesn’t rate Hancox and Lowry is a better centre back.

      • Shirley Blue says:

        Would you drop Robbo if we got a new CH? I think the BM said he was our best player on Saturday, is a great natural leader on the pitch and has scored some vital goals this season. If we are going to get a defender I would get a more attacking type of LB to give us an option to and cover for Grounds. Also if he can get Tesche that would be great too.

    • Tony says:

      Surely the mere fact that Vaughan was on the bench Saturday, illustrates that he is not the hotshot goal scorer we need. Grounds is also not the answer he has to be replaced plus a good midfielder Tesche would do fine.

      • Shirley Blue says:

        He was on the bench because Donaldson is quite rightly first choice in the lone front man role the manager prefers and has been very successful but Vaughan is a good player to come off the bench as a replacement or to go two up front if needed. Even if we got another striker it’s unlikely they would be first choice ahead of Donaldson.

        • Tony says:

          Even when Donaldson has scored what? 3 goals for the season, come off I,t great win Saturday but no goals from the strikers

          • Dan H says:

            Listening to you Tony is like listening to my Villa Fan mates.

            I’m amazed you’ve lasted as long as you have as a Blue Nose by focussing on the negatives.

            We had a 0-3 win, the goalie could have scored all 3 and I would’ve been happy

          • StaffsBlue says:

            I think that, with the role Donaldson is being asked to play, he’s never going to score that many anyway. If he was being played as an out-and-out striker, he’d probably get 15-20 a season, but he’s the focal point of our attacks, winning the ball, running the channels etc. He can’t do it all on his own. If he reaches 10 for the season, he’ll have done well.

  • Dave Mann says:

    Agreed. KRO

  • Hillfield Blues says:

    It’s hard to think of who to replace off the back of a performance like that I admit.But the last time this happened was the 2-5 at Fulham.The problem was that our next 2 home games were against Charlton (0-1) and Huddersfield (0-2) and we could still be playing now and not scored in either game.Things didn’t look too clever then and it looked clear we needed freshening up especially in midfield.

    • Shirley Blue says:

      Wasn’t that after Donaldson got injured while on international duty and we had to play B-M up front. We have won our last 3 home games on the bounce and apart from Sheffield Wednesday we are also doing ok away. How about being a little more positive.

      • Hillfield Blues says:

        Nothing to do with being positive or not,just being realistic.Donaldson was in the side for similar home performances against Wolves and Rotherham and him being in the side or not isn’t the issue.The issue is consistency and there’s a clear pattern of looking like world beaters away from home and looking flat at home.

  • Dave Mann says:

    And our next two home games are Ipswich and Sheffield w just above us so it could get interesting , let’s hope we create more chances than in those two games you mentioned Hillfield because as you say we wouldn’t have scored had there been no goalies playing in there goal but let’s hope that changes . KRO

    • Hillfield Blues says:

      A new face in midfield not specifically as a direct replacement for Kieftenbild or Gleeson but for more of a tactical option especially at home.A Bryan Hughes type maybe?Something in that mould.

      • Shirley Blue says:

        Goal scoring creative midfielders – tough to get hold of.because if they are scoring goals who is going to let them go. Wonder if GR should give Frank Lampard a call (I am joking before anyone starts).

    • ChrisG says:

      Dave, I think our results over the next 6 weeks or so will define our season as we’ve got to play teams around us in the league & teams that on paper should be winnable, but as we know it doesn’t always work out that way.

  • StaffsBlue says:

    If, like on Saturday, the midfield continue to contribute goals, then another striker isn’t a necessity. Add to that 10 goals so far by defenders and we’re doing ok now on that score. But a little more creativity in the midfield can’t be sneezed at. I have a feeling that a left back and a creative/attacking midfielder might be the last pieces in this season’s jigsaw.

  • Richard Granfield says:

    A central defender I have always rated,and is rumoured to be available, is Brentford’s James Tarkowski.
    He is 23, 6’3″ and had a very good game against us the other week.

    • Mitchell says:

      Burnley have tabled £2.5m for him Richard.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      I’ve always liked Tarkowski, but with his attitude this week, I wouldn’t touch him with a barge pole.

      • ChrisG says:

        Someone on here mentioned a couple of weeks ago about trying to bring back Jordan Mutch, might not be a bad shout although I doubt we could afford his wages

  • paule says:

    My team of the day Swansea won today putting Villa 10 points adrift again, wouldn’t it be nice to swap divisions with them. KRO

  • Josh says:

    Jake Buxton or Ben turner for cb, winger- Callum and striker Bradshaw or Zach cough! All them are possible signings,

    • StaffsBlue says:

      Buxton maybe. Turner is out injured. The rest I would think are out of our range financially.

  • Mitchell says:

    Just read GR comments on his current budget and feel in total agreement with his philosophy. It certainly emphasises what a sensible man we have in charge and whilst I know he is ambitious and no doubt says the right things to enhance his future career -we as fans could not have had a better stabilising figure since the calamitous era of Lee Clark. If his current method of cautiously getting a play off spot is successful,then super- but if not I for one will not regret his decision at this window to follow his logic.


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