Birmingham: Big transfers could disrupt record run
Carson Yeung’s ownership of Birmingham began in October with
skepticism about his financial clout and a loss to Arsenal that
left the team only above the Premier League relegation zone on goal
Almost three months later, Yeung and his team of Chinese
executives can hardly believe the extent of the club’s rapid
transformation, with Birmingham enjoying its best topflight run in
A 1-0 victory over Stoke on Monday extended Birmingham’s
unbeaten streak to 11 matches since the Arsenal loss.
That lifted the central England club, which hasn’t won a major
title since the 1963 League Cup, to seventh in the standings, three
points below the places that win a spot to play in Europe next
year, though they fell back to eighth when Liverpool won on Tuesday
at Aston Villa.
“We initially hoped to succeed by just remaining in the Premier
League this season,” vice chairman Peter Pannu told The Associated
Press on Tuesday. “Now hopefully we will create history here by
not being another yo-yo club. The down mood has disappeared and
there is a completely rejuvenated environment.
“To suggest we don’t have aspirations of Europe would be wrong,
but we don’t want to set targets too high so we keep our feet on
Yeung’s takeover was a fraught affair, with an initial attempt
to buy the club two years ago foundering over concerns about how
the Hong Kong businessman would fund the deal. Manager Steve Bruce
quit when Yeung refused to sanction the contract that the club had
offered him and relegation to the League Championship ensued at the
end of the season.
“After the club went back up, the talk was whether the time was
right for Carson to try and buy the club again,” Pannu said.
“This has proven to be wrong.”
Since the $130 million takeover, the spotlight has not been on
Yeung, but the remarkable form of manager Alex McLeish’s side.
Now there’s room for even more improvement in the January
transfer window, with McLeish having nearly $64 million at his
disposal to strengthen the squad.
However, while the club is eyeing a new striker, there is also
concerns about upsetting the chemistry of the team, which has
started the same lineup for the last eight matches
“We have noticed that the good run and the position we are in
has been very conducive to attracting players of the highest
caliber who might have thought again if we were position No. 18,”
said Pannu, who is in charge of the finances and works with McLeish
Schalke forward Kevin Kuranyi and Liverpool’s Ryan Babel are
believed to be high on the target list. Another priority would be
signing up goalkeeper Joe Hart, who has kept eight clean sheets
this season during his loan from Manchester City.
“Rather than disrupting the whole thing by bringing in many
players, it’s wise not to interrupt the current players,” Pannu
said. “We don’t want to demoralize the current players having a
great run. Having said that, we will wisely support the current
team and there is general agreement that to support (Cameron)
Jerome and Chucho (Christian Benitez) we need a good striker.”
A downside to Birmingham’s rejuvenation is that rival clubs
believe Yeung will spend with abandon. Schalke has apparently been
upping Kuranyi’s price tag in line with Birmingham’s soaring
fortunes, jeopardizing a deal.
“Prices for players have shot up because clubs and agents
realize we want to source players in January,” said Pannu,
steering clear of discussing specific transfers. “Alex says he
will spend prudently and we won’t be blackmailed into paying more
than we should be. If a good player is available at a good price we
will spend it. If not we will have to reconsider.”
“In the summer will be look to strengthen and that’s the proper
time to go to market to get better deals.”
The transfer kitty will be boosted by the revenue being
generated by rising attendance and sales in the club store.
“With every week, every victory, every good performance, then
the expectations rise,” McLeish said. “From the start of the
season, when we were getting written off, we have changed a lot of
people’s minds and opinions, and that’s no small feat.”
The same could be said of Yeung’s ownership.
“Everyone was skeptical after what happened two years ago with
the takeover,” said Linda Goodman of the Birmingham City
Supporters Club, who has been attending matches at St. Andrews’
since 1967. “But Yeung has tried to allay these fears by
interacting with fans and taking notice of us.
“We will just wait and see whether the transfer deals and money
are forthcoming – and how much. Look at the team on the pitch and
there isn’t much backup on the bench to continue the run