- Birmingham City
- Current Squad
- Development Squad
- Ladies Team
- Out on Loan
- Former Players
- Boards and Advisors
- Appearance Data 2014/2015
- Charity Partner
- Website Info
- The Book
- Social Media
- Contact Me
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.