Monday, August 1, 2011
ESPNsoccernet: August 1, 7:53 AM UK
The Trawler: Blue Monday
Welcome to The Trawler, your weekly submersion through the teeming waters of life in the Championship, League One and League Two. You might be surprised what you find down there.
Blue Monday for broke and battered Brum
Birmingham City fans took their frustrations to the board last week, as the club's financial problems continued to undermine preparations for the new Championship campaign. Having been relegated from the Premier League last season, Birmingham are set to receive £48 million in parachute payments over the next four years. But the first chunk will barely touch the sides.
The Blues announced a deficit of £24 million in their accounts last June, and their Chinese owners have already sold Craig Gardner, Roger Johnson and Barry Ferguson this summer as they attempt to haul the club back to stability. Those three brought in around £13 million, with Aston Villa adding £2.5 million in compensation after stealing away manager Alex McLeish. But it looks like more players will have to go if City are to avoid flirting with administration.
Birmingham's dire financial straits have not been helped by the fact their majority shareholder, Carson Yeung, has had all his assets frozen. Yeung was arrested in Hong Kong last month and faces five charges related to money laundering (all of which he denies). In his absence, City will reportedly announce a fundraising initiative this week in conjunction with their bank HSBC. Even if they achieve the £4-7m quoted in The Guardian, it seems inevitable more players will need to be sold or loaned out before the window shuts.
"When we talk about offloading players, we will consider players on Premier League wages as this is not a sustainable scenario for a Championship club," acting chairman Peter Pannu told City's official website. "Whilst in an ideal world we would wish to retain all of our star players, it is not realistic to do so."
Ben Foster's £1.5 million salary is the first off the books. The former England goalkeeper joined West Brom in a £1 million loan arrangement, with an option to make the deal permanent at the end of next season for around £4 million more. Of course if Birmingham somehow win promotion they may want him back - although judging by their precarious bank balance it seems a season of consolidation is the best Blues fans and new manager Chris Hughton can hope for.
Foster's departure can't come soon enough if reports of a training ground bust-up with new assistant manager Paul Trollope are to be believed (the club deny the pair had an angry exchange after Foster turned up ten minutes late, then stormed off in a huff after Trollope laid down the law). Liam Ridgewell and Scott Dann could be next to follow the former Manchester United goalkeeper out of St. Andrew's. Who'd be Hughton this season?
Cardiff City: Coming to a village hall near you
If you're a Cardiff City fan with a point to make, the curiously named Non Political Club in Rhydyfelin is the place to be on Wednesday night (August 3). The venue will be hosting the first date on the club's 'I'll Be There' tour - which will see manager Malky Mackay, CEO Gethin Jones and a selection of players and staff visit communities in South Wales throughout the 2011-12 season.
The evenings are designed to give Cardiff fans the chance to "get close to key personnel at the club and ask questions in an informal setting," so says City's official release. If you fancy going along, apply to enter the ticket ballot here and let me know immediately if you're successful.
Let Steve McClaren be your coach in the bedroom
Remember when your bedroom existed solely as a shrine to your football heroes? The pull-out posters would come courtesy of Match or Shoot, and be blu-tacked clumsily, but lovingly, on every available inch of wall space. Each week you'd live in anticipation for the next double-page spread. One person's Paul Gascoigne would be another's Pat Nevin, but until your wall was filled you'd throw them up regardless.
Sadly, for most of us there came a time when the posters had to go. But the pre-season propaganda machine at Nottingham Forest has surely forced tens of football fans to have a re-think. Forest gave away a glossy poster of new manager Steve McClaren in the programme for their friendly with PSV Eindhoven. Now what right-minded fan wouldn't want Schteeeve watching over them in the bedroom? After all, he's a vastly underrated coach.
Trawler Picks: Opening weekend
Each week The Trawler will highlight three games to look for the coming weekend: one each from the Championship, League One and League Two. The selection criteria will take any number of factors, and range from the curious to the downright obvious.
This week's Championship selection is Brighton & Hove Albion v Doncaster Rovers, ushering in as it does a new era for football on the south coast. Brighton have been without a home for 14 years, but on Saturday the shiny new 22,000-capacity American Express Community Stadium will see league football for the very first time. Gus Poyet's Seagulls are fresh from promotion, while Doncaster narrowly escaped the drop last season. It might not have the makings of a classic, but the atmosphere is guaranteed to be rocking.
From League One, it's Oldham v Sheffield United. The Blades suffered an abomination of a campaign in the Championship last year, going through three managers on their way to the drop. New boss Danny Wilson, a former Sheffield Wednesday man, was hardly a popular choice, so you get the feeling he'll need to hit the ground running to avoid a similar fate to that suffered by Kevin Blackwell last season. Nothing short of a win against Oldham, who finished a lowly 17th in League One last season, will do.
And the League Two choice is Swindon Town v Crewe; the reason being Paolo Di Canio. The charismatic Italian will make his first strides into management on Saturday, taking on a vastly experienced opponent in Dario Gradi at The County Ground. Swindon won just nine games last season on their way to relegation from League One, while Crewe came close to making the League Two play-offs.
Have your say on Twitter @willtidey and get in touch with Championship, L1 and L2 stories you'd like to see covered in next week's Trawler.