Robbo’s revival

The chant of “Robbo, Robbo, Robbo” rang around Stan’s after our club captain’s goal against QPR on Saturday. It also subsequently rang around Stan’s at full time after what was (in my opinion) a man of the match display from him which went a long way to securing a 2-1 win. It then rang out at the Macron Stadium on Tuesday night, the small but hardy band of Bluenoses in the away end acclaiming our Watford born warrior as he netted the winner and put in another great shift for what was a very handy win at Bolton.

For ninety-five percent of Blues fans, the adulation of Paul Robinson pretty much started the day he arrived on an initial one month deal in Autumn 2012. Every game this man has played for Blues he has only ever given his all, and in most games he has worn a blue shirt he has been one of the best players if not the best player on the pitch. But don’t just take my word for it, ask the players and the supporters who have in time gone by voted him their player of the season.

But after the 4-2 defeat we suffered at Bournemouth last season and a couple of games earlier on in 2015 where we shipped goals galore at Brighton and Ipswich, there was a feeling amongst Blues fans his time was up, that age had finally caught up with him. I disagreed with that; he may have had a few iffy games in the second half of last season, but sometimes an older player who has a few iffy games can be written off as being past it all too easily, whereas it can be just as simple as him having a few iffy games. I thought Robbo could still have a big part to play this season though he may have to adjust one or two facets of his game, and it looks like I’ve been proven right.

Having an opinion on whether Robbo was past it or not is fine though; it’s an old cliché but it’s true, football is a game of opinions and Robbo is like any other player in that he has to accept criticism. What I didn’t like was the abuse he took after the aforementioned Bournemouth defeat last season. Granted, he took an absolute pasting that day (just like many other defenders did when up against Bournemouth last season) but someone who had served the club so well did not deserve the stick he got from a minority of keyboard warriors. He then got pilloried by those same keyboard warriors who bleated when he had a go back at them via the press; my only criticism of Robbo regarding what he said in the press was that he didn’t go far enough in lacerating those reptillious people. I would’ve used words ten times as strong as the ones he used.

Abusing your own players is a horrendous thing for a football fan to do. Some Blues fans say they don’t like him because of reasons going back to when he put in a pretty bad challenge whilst a West Brom on Damien Johnson in 2006. Those Blues fans need to get a life. It was a bad challenge but these things happen a heck of a lot on football pitches up and down the land (and Damien Johnson himself wasn’t exactly a shrinking violet). But eventually everyone tends to move on. We’ve had countless players down the years who’ve been absolute animals on the pitch, many of them becoming cult heroes in the process (just like Robbo is now for the vast majority of the real supporters), so it’s laughable that these people think Robbo deserves this vitriol for something that happened nearly a deacde ago.

Whatever the weather, Robbo is shoving the abuse of those people right back in their faces and proving those who had written him off well and truly wrong with the way he is playing right now. He has been awesome since he has come back into the side; making countless last ditch blocks and tackles as Blues have kept three clean sheets in four games, and also chipped in with vital goals in the process as we’ve risen to second in the table. Long may it continue.

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Of all the gaffes and glaring errors, this joke of a leadership election will truly be Ed Miliband’s legacy

The only certainty about this Labour leadership election is that there is going to be a ton of uncertainty that follows it. The only impression that this whole election process has given is that Labour couldn’t organise a shag in a brothel.


Don’t get me wrong, the way Labour used to elect it’s leader was horrifically undemocratic. Ed Miliband didn’t have the amount of support amongst MPs or rank and file party members that his brother had in 2010, but won because the votes of Trade Union members were so heavily leveraged. From the day he became leader, he was always undermined by the accusation that he was only there because of the Unions.


So he instigated the change in the system so that it was apparently to be more democratic the next time the party had to elect a leader. Everyone’s vote would be equal, and people who weren’t in the party could sign up for as little as £3. And thus, of all the self inflicted moments of madness that could have been the hallmark of his disastrous leadership of the party; the bacon sandwich, the much derided pledge to cap energy rates, the absence of any mention of the deficit in his conference speech in 2014, the “Edstone” and ultimately one of the worst General Election defeats the party has ever suffered, this leadership election will probably be the single most striking epitaph of his five years as the head of the Labour Party.

And the reason for that is it has probably allowed Jeremy Corbyn, a man who makes Miliband himself look like a Thatcherite, to become the frontrunner in this leadership election. There is still a chance that the quirks of the Alternative Vote system may get one of his opponents into the leader’s office through the back door (Yvette Cooper, if anyone), but it now looks pretty likely that Islington’s answer to Che Guevara will be the next leader of her majesty’s opposition.

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Leaving aside Corbyn’s pluses and minuses as a potential candidate to be leader of the opposition (for me the latter far outweigh the former, but that really is besides the point I’m trying to make) if he were to be elected then he could be just like Miliband, fatally undermined from the start. He would be open to accusations that he was only there because people from outside of the party took advantage of the ridiculously low £3 subscription fee to try and hijack or hinder the party by voting for the most outspoken candidate. If he is elected leader, many people in his own party will be trying to kill his leadership as soon as possible.

 

Some in the party have in fact tried killing his leadership prospects already. Numerous MPs have called for the contest to be halted. Lord Mandelson had been trying to get the other three contenders to pull out altogether, only stopping when he realised that would lead to a Corbyn coronation rather than decapitation and has since hinted that people from his wing of the party should rebel against Corbyn if he is successful. Massive names, past and present, have come out one by one to say what a basket case a Corbyn leadership would be. But every time this attempted sabotage of his campaign comes to light, Corbyn’s support just gets stronger.

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The next step for those desperate to avoid a Corbyn victory has been to try more direct action. People who are suspected of infiltrating the party have been cracked down upon; Harriet Harman was firm in her insistance that all “cheats” are being weeded out, and that only those who share “the values and aims of the Labour Party” were ultimately to be allowed to cast a vote, and thousands of people have now been barred from participating. But it’s not just rogue Tories who have been banned from having a vote, but people very much on the left wing of politics as well.

That raises a question though; who exactly is or isn’t the person who shares the values and aims of the Labour Party? Who actually decides what the values and aims of the Labour Party are? How can it be clearly defined what actually are the set ideals of a party that has two people so ideologically polarised as Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Kendall standing in the same leadership election?

High profile left wing activists such as Ken Loach and Union boss Mark Serwotka have been barred like many other people because they have been supportive of other parties on the far left of the political spectrum in recent times. However their argument is that they’ve only supported other parties because of the fact they felt the party no longer represented what they believed in, but they were aiming to vote in the election presumably because in Jeremy Corbyn they saw a representative of what they do believe in. And wasn’t that the point of making this leadership election as easy to vote in as Labour have made it, to try and reconnect with and reinvigorate voters who had drifted away from the party? How will Labour win back voters by doing this?

All in all it’s a mess, and it’s of Miliband’s making. He was the one who instigated the change in the leadership to weaken the power of the unions, the same unions who were seen to be the ones who had got him into the position of leader in the first place. It turns out that this was a massive error, in that the unions were still able to utilise their mass membership. But also the new voting system has allowed many people who were on the left of Labour, people who are apparently turning up in this election race specifically to vote for Corbyn and the candidate of most of the unions. It’s no wonder they were so relaxed about the system being introduced in the first place.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12: Labour leader Ed Miliband speaks to an audience at Haverstock school in Camden on February 12, 2015 in London, England. During his speech Mr Miliband promised to limit class sizes to 30 pupils. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

However whilst Miliband was the driving force behind the new system, his plans were all approved by the National Executive of the party in 2014. They all share a collective responsibility for what has turned into the most divisive and farcical episode the party has seen in a generation. Miliband was right to realise that the old system of voting that got him elected needed revamping, but he should have done it along the lines of how the Conservative Party elected its last leader. The Parliamentary Party whittling down the candidates to two; important, because any party needer needs the support of his or her MPs, something Corbyn is looking unlikely to receive. Then every member in the party who has paid the same membership fee gets an equal vote, not one member one vote but some paying more or less than other people to have a vote, not a system that allows people who aren’t necessarily willing to commit fully to the party a say in the party’s future. For a party that has constantly prided itself on striving for equality, this election system is riddled with irony.

This whole election process has just made the party and those in charge of it look totally incompetent and divided. Ed Miliband’s bungling is looking like it will create consequences lasting far longer than the end of his leadership, but he is from the only person to have blood on his hands. The question has to be asked; if a political party can’t even be trusted to run its own election without it descending into chaos, how can it ever be trusted to run a country?

Tomorrow’s opponents, the MK Dons: a remarkable success story

Blues’ fixture on Saturday wouldn’t have been possible when I first started watching football in the late nineties/early noughties. Not because our opponents have only recently been propelled through the divisions by an influx of money a la Fleetwood or Bournemouth, but because when I first started watching football the Milton Keynes Dons simply didn’t exist.

To treat the MK Dons as anything other than a footballing leper is considered almost blasphemous by many football fans. They are Franchise FC, the football club that stole another football club. They are the embodiment of everything apparently wrong with the game today, and to see them in the Championship and actually starting the season very well will be making a fair few football fans feel very queasy right about now.

But I don’t have a problem with the Dons, never have done. For starters I don’t think they stole a football club; it made a massive stink at the time, but for me the ‘old’ Wimbledon moving 60 miles up the road was the best outcome in what was a very bleak situation. I don’t think the MK Dons stole Wimbledon, because to be honest I don’t think there was anything left to steal. Wimbledon had no ground, no money and very few fans. Add to that mounting debts and costs, unscrupulous owners and a totally ineffective local council who were unable or unwilling to find the club space for a ground of their own and it was clear where Wimbeldon were going. They were going to the wall.

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So what would have happened if Wimbledon had simply gone bust in the early 2000s? Well a lot of people would have lost their jobs and the club would probably have been restarted in the manner that AFC Wimbledon was started, the difference being that they would have started their own club later and the MK Dons simply wouldn’t have started up at all. Even if the Wimbledon fans who formed AFC had taken over the shell of the old Wimbledon, the aforementioned problems the old club had may have been insurmountable or at least the very least would have hindered them greatly. Either way, it is unlikely that the old Wimbledon would have been any higher up the footballing pyramid had the fans who run the club now attempted to resuscitate it.

What do we have now then? Well Buckinghamshire has a club that is thriving, playing in a fantastic stadium with a team playing good football that is going from strength to strength. Kids in Milton Keynes, rather than having to hotfoot it to Watford, Luton or London to watch professional football now have a club on their doorstep to call their own. They are probably the club with the most untapped potential in the country; a massive catchment area, a very young fan base and the Dons do a heck a lot of work in the community to capitalise on both, work that is now really starting to come to fruition. Nights like last season’s when they horsewhipped Man United 4-0 at home in front of 27,000 people will one day become something like the norm; in ten years or so I predict that the MK Dons will be where Stoke or Swansea are now, a fully fledged Premier League club.

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Credit for their progress should be doled out to a whole host of people, but Pete Winkleman deserves credit more than anyone else. He had the vision to bring league football to Milton Keynes, the guts to actually do it and then the steely mindedness to keep going in the early years after the MK Dons came to be when they were struggling like mad playing in the lower reaches of the Football League in a hockey stadium, when the world and his footballing wife seemed to want this project to fall flat on its face. Hard work and sheer belligerence has got him and the club through those very tough early days, and now the rewards of that are as plain as day.

There will be Blues fans who will really want us to beat the Dons simply because of how they came about just like any other club that plays against them, but I think what has happened has been the best possible outcome of what was an awful situation. No-one wants to see a club die, but the old Wimbledon was dying and even if someone had stepped in and saved it the club would almost certainly have hurtled down the divisions to where AFC Wimbledon are now anyway. Instead, rather than none or one there are now two football clubs who are thriving; isn’t that a good thing?

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Mid table will do Blues just fine this season

I don’t get why there’s a certain amount of Blues fans are seemingly so desperate for the side to push for promotion this season, who view progress this season only in terms of reaching the play-offs. The only thing that would happen if we went up with this sort of squad is that we’d get sent straight back down. In fact that wouldn’t be the only thing that would happen; we’d be sent straight back down and we would have a good chance of replicating the sort of record Derby County of 2007/08 fame managed to ‘achieve’ the last time they were in the top flight. Call me unambitious but that doesn’t sound like fun.

If by some miracle we were promoted it is obvious the squad would need a massive overhaul. But despite the eye-wateringly tight grip of austerity the club was under a year or two ago being relaxed I don’t imagine we would have the finance to do it, and I don’t think the club’s infrastructure is anywhere near where it needs to be to support a Premier League club right now. I am more than happy with staying in this division and building slowly.

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Another tenth place finish would be fine by me. In fact finishing lower than tenth in the table would be no real hardship if we look like were are playing good football and going in the right direction. I think we somewhat overachieved last season; in particular an unbelievable spell of form when Gary Rowett first came in as manager probably overinflated the points total we ordinarily would have achieved and possibly gave us a bit of a false league position, especially given how tight it was in the middle of last season’s Championship table.

And whilst the quality of the squad hasn’t regressed I don’t think we’ve massively strengthened this summer; I don’t think we are markedly stronger than we were when we finished the season in May. I look at the teams who will in all probability be up at the top of the table; your Derbys, your Boros and your Burnleys, and I don’t think we are near that level. Likewise I look at some of the teams who could be scrapping about at the wrong end of the division; sides such as Rotherham, Charlton and the MK Dons and I think that we are still a step or two above them.

A lot of the Championship is a much of a muchness, so it could be argued that a lot of teams (including Blues) could end up anywhere. What we maybe lack is strength in depth. For example up front we are too over reliant on Clayton Donaldson. Behind him, and we have Lee Novak who has never, ever looked like cutting it when he’s played as an out and out striker in a Blues shirt. But Gary Rowett seems totally reluctant to give Wes Thomas any role of substance in the squad whatsoever which I disagree with because for all his faults Wes does offer raw pace, energy and power when he plays. We could do with a poacher, a proper fox in the box; rumours that we are after Dwight Gayle seems like Walt Disney talk, the sort of talk that could make a BCFC Follower look a bit daft if he or she espoused it. But I’m sure Gary Rowett could do with that style of player, if not someone with the pedigree (or pay packet) of Gayle.

Behind the one up top that Gary Rowett always plays, the likes of Dimmy Gray, David Cotterill and Andy Shinnie should be the same as ever, and Jacques Maghoma has been brought in as cover whilst Koby Arthur looks like he may get more of a chance in the side than he’s had before. The darling of Stan’s last season though was undoubtedly Diego Fabbrini; the Italian loanee’s flair excited the Blues fans every time they saw it. But for all his skill I did feel he lacked an end product at times; fur coat, but no knickers if you like. Jon Toral on loan from Arsenal, from what little I saw of him at home to Leicester in Saturday’s friendly, seems to have all the tricks and flicks that could excite Blues fas as much as Diego did. But whilst we will have the ability to create chances, whether we have the forwards who will be able to put them away is another matter.

For me out of the four loanees who were prominent for Blues at the end of last season (Robs Kiernan and Tesche, Fabbrini and Lloyd Dyer) the one whose departure has left by far the biggest hole in the team is the little German Tesche. For me he was mustard, one of the best players I’ve seen at Blues since we came down from the Premier League in 2011 and I’m still disappointed it now looks like that after a considerable amount of time trying he won’t be joining permanently. Dutch Mike from Groningen looked OK enough against Leicester and comes with a very good pedigree, but we’ll miss Tesche regardless. It looks like Dutch Mike will be first choice in the heart of the Blues midfield, but who is going to partner him? Reece Brown got a game or two in a deeper lying role in pre season, but for all his ability he still looks short of experience or physical toughness at times; he really could do with going out on loan and playing week in week out if he’s not going to do it any time soon. So that leaves Stephen Gleeson and David Davis; Gleeson looks like getting the nod right now, but for me it should be Davis. DD provides energy, aggression and a defensive acumen Gleeson doesn’t and I think he passes the ball adequately despite what others think. In other words, I don’t see what Gleeson offers that Davis doesn’t, but I see a heck of a lot that Davis offers that Gleeson doesn’t. But GR’s knowledge of the game is much more expansive than mine or any other Blues fan’s, so he will have his reasons for picking the Irishman over the ex-Dingle.

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Defensively was always going to be GR’s biggest problem this summer though, and for me that problem still lingers now. The last line of the defence needed replenishing, with Darren Randolph being the most high profile player to depart Blues this summer. Tomasz Kuszcak was on the face of it a very good replacement, and despite him having one or two ‘interesting’ moments in the Blues goal in pre-season I think he will come good, and Adam Legzdins seems like adequate back up.

Our Pole in goal will be a great addition in time

Our Pole in goal will be a great addition in time

Who will be in front of the Keeper causes more concern. For starters whilst Paul Caddis and Jon Grounds at right and left-back are fine, if they get crocked or suspended then the two senior players currently behind them are Neal Eardley and Mitch Hancox; no disrespect intended, but they aren’t exactly the Football League’s modern day answer to Cafu and Paolo Maldini. Either or those two at full back could be considered a liability.

It’s at centre-half where we have the biggest problem though; Michael Morrison is a top defender, but we can’t seem to get a proper partner to play alongside him. I wasn’t upset at the fact that we missed out on signing Rob Kiernan permanently, because he seemed a bit lightweight and he had a ricket in his locker every other game but at the moment he would probably have been the best of a mediocre/bad bunch. I’ve never rated Jon Spector that highly, but even if I did the fact is that with his injury record you can’t bank on him playing more than twenty-five games in a season. Robbo’s been a good player for Blues (despite what some keyboard warriors may think) but he’s possibly not even a short-term answer, and David Edgar apparently doesn’t want to play at centre-half any more; God knows what some old school managers would have made of him apparently telling Gary Rowett where he did and didn’t want to play in January. In short, it’s at centre-half where we need to plug what could end up being a massive gaping hole, and I think Rowett will need to bring him reinforcements from elsewhere to do it.

So in short, the Blues first choice XI will probably be the sort of XI that played most of the games once Gary Rowett became manager last season, and that will be more than adequate at this level. In some areas we are very strong but in others we are undoubtedly weak. If we every need to change system or style over the season I’m not sure we have the players who would give us the flexibility to do it. In addition if we were hit with a spate of injuries and/or suspensions then we could well be up the creek without a paddle. That lack of depth is why more than anything else we won’t be troubling the upper reaches of the table, but to be honest compared to where the team was a year or two ago then mid-table is bliss.

Whatever happens, Jeremy Corbyn may well have truly screwed up the Labour Party

I don’t think Jeremy Corbyn will be the next leader of the Labour Party. In a way whether he wins the leadership election on the 12th September or not looks increasingly immaterial. The fact is that this man who will most likely be a septuagenarian by the time the next General Election rolls around, this man who was supposed to take the tokenistic role of the seen but not heard much hardcore leftie in this leadership election just like Diane Abbott did in the last one, this man who is in so many ways the hallmark of a political ideology thought to have died a death a long time ago; this man has managed to attract more press attention, generate more momentum and create more enthusiasm for his campaign than any of his much more youthful competitors. This could have far reaching consequences no matter who ends up leading the Labour Party.

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Any Labour supporter to the right of Owen Jones will now be praying to whatever God they believe in that Corbyn’s campaign runs out of steam, and runs out of steam soon. They will be praying that he achieves the minuscule vote everyone thought he would when he first entered the race, but I think that is a very unlikely event now. The chance to vote in this leadership contest for the princely sum of a £3 has seen droves of people previously disillusioned with the party sign up as supporters and many of those people have, if news reports and social media are anything to go by, signed up specifically to vote for Corbyn. Anyone who wants to vote in the leadership election has until the middle of August to register their support. The question is how many more people on the hard left, like the million and a half who voted for the Greens at the last General Election amongst the many others who feel that the Labour Party deserted them long ago, will seize the chance to vote for Corbyn without having to actually donate any kind of sizeable sum or sign up in blood to join the Labour Party? My guess is many more people than anyone ever realised, and that is why this left-wing juggernaut is now threatening to gatecrash this leadership election.

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Corbyn finishing in third place or as runner-up with a more sizeable chunk of the vote than anyone thought he’d ever come close to getting when he first entered the race is looking the most likely scenario right now, so what happens then? Well whoever ends up as leader will surely be very tempted to just ignore how well Corbyn does and try and take a more centrist course, and that is the course I think the high ranking MPs in the party would wish for. That may be more appealing to the electorate, with the school of thought in the party being that a lot of the reason for Ed Miliband leading his party to such a humiliating General Election defeat was the fact that the party veered too far to the left under his leadership.

But in doing that you also run the risk of alienating all those on the left, all those who were approaching disillusionment or were disillusioned with the Labour Party who have been galvanised by the candidature of Corbyn – in veering back towards the centre the new Labour leader (if it isn’t Corbyn) would risk re-alienating those people all over again. To give an example, a former Labour Party member who I know who was kicked out of the party in the mid-nineties for being too left wing (and is now an organiser for the hard left RMT union); he has despised the Labour party ever since, but has now paid his £3 subscription so that he can vote for Jeremy Corbyn. In his own words if Corbyn becomes leader “there will be no need for TUSC” (the political party that was the baby of Bob Crow, who was the leader of the RMT and the party that the aforementioned ex-Labour party member has voted for in recent times); if the Labour Party chooses to ignore people like him who have been brought back by Corbyn (and as I said I suspect there are many of them) then they will probably leave the Labour Party for good.

However, if the party does pull the rope in what is becoming an increasingly ideological tug of war to the left then what happens to the people who fall down on the right? Good people, talented people; to name but three high profile figures, Tristram Hunt, Chukka Ummunas and Liz Kendall, not to mention the lesser profile MPs, the hundreds and thousands of councillors and activists from their wing of the party. How on earth do they stand on that same platform as someone like Jeremy Corbyn? How do you merge their ideology with Corbynism (if there ever was such a thing)? The last person on the hard left (not Kinnock or Miliband, but the real hard left) who came within a sniff of power in the Labour Party was Tony Benn. When he and his supporters were looking likely to take over the party in the early 80s the Social Democratic Party was formed by the Gang of Four who defected from Labour in sheer despair at the way the party looked like going. Benn ultimately didn’t succeed in winning power, but the rifts his rise created in the party nearly destroyed it and was a massive catalyst in the absolute thrashing it suffered at the 1983 general election. Mentioning the Gang of Four and the formation of the SDP can draw a parallel with now; the SDP eventually became the Liberal Democrats, and the Liberal Democrats have just elected Tim Farron as its new leader, someone who is considered to be on the left of the party. If the Labour Party races off towards the left, will Labour MPs, councillors and activists up and down the land look for a new political home like the Gang of Four and their supporters did all those years ago? Will they find a home in the centre-left party that the Liberal Democrats will almost certainly now become again?

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The rise in prominence of Jeremy Corbyn may bring back memories of this particular Labour stalwart

A political party’s machinations and infighting should always come second to what really counts though; appealing to the broadest amount of the electorate possible. Just say the Corbynite agenda is even somewhat integrated into the Labour manifesto, you would have to question how that would go down with people in this country, how it would go down with people who will be Labour’s target voters. How would his desire for mass immigration into Britain, if even adopted only to an extent, go down with the tons of voters who have gone from Labour to UKIP in recent times and the many more who probably thought about making the same journey but decided against it? How would his desire for nuclear disarmament, even if that was whittled down to a pledge to decrease defence spending to appease him and his supporters, go down with British people at a time when the world is undoubtedly so volatile? How would his desire for vastly increased public spending and his insistence that the last Labour Government didn’t overspend in the run up to the economic crisis in the late 2000s, an insistence that unnerved the British public and was undoubtedly a catalyst to it losing the last election when put about by the party, sit with the British people? How would his desire for the much increased taxation that would have to pay for that increased public spending sit with voters? These are policies that would definitely appeal to the people on the left of the political spectrum, they may be considered noble and principled policies, but they won’t win elections. Elections aren’t fought on who has the better principles or who has more ideological hubris, but who is going to be the best at running the country. These sorts of policies, for better or worse, are policies that have been rejected at the ballot box time and again in this country, so why would they win now?

All in all though, this left versus right debate in the Labour Party threatens to make it irrelevant more than anything else. During a lot of Margaret Thatcher’s era as Prime Minister, the infighting going on in the party made it seem aloof and out of touch and more concerned with itself than with the British people and is part of the reason why she was able to win three straight General Elections. Conversely when Tony Blair managed to dominate the political stage once he became Labour leader and ultimately Labour Prime Minister, part of the reason he was able to do so was that the Conservative Party, in Government and then in opposition, was more interested in ideological battles between themselves with high profile figures in the party constantly trying to kill eachother than taking on Labour. The ideological split on the left and in the Labour Party has always been there, but it may be now that Jeremy Corbyn standing for the leadership will highlight that split, re-open old wounds and create new ones.

All quiet on the transfer front

Football fans aren’t the most rational or patient people on the planet. Generally they want everything and they want everything yesterday. So it should be no surprise that some people are maybe starting to get a little bit jumpy that Blues haven’t signed anyone bar a reserve team striker from West Brom who hardly anyone has ever heard of.

But I don’t think there is a massive hurry for us to bring players in. Unlike in previous summers, I don’t think there needs to be a massive rebuilding job done with the Blues squad. Many of the out and out regulars from last season; the likes of Caddis, Morrison, Grounds, Davis, Gleeson, Cotterill, Gray, Cotterill and Donaldson are likely to be here come the start of the season so the core of the team is there. It’s not like we are in the sort of situation we have been in during previous close seasons where through combinations of sales and contracts running out we have faced a mass exodus of players. Our squad needs topping off this time around, not wholesale replenishment.

I also think that Gary Rowett is naturally someone who keeps his cards very close to his chest. We probably won’t find much out about players coming in and going out at Stan’s until the deal is signed, sealed and delivered. The Birmingham Mail has speculated about who we may or may not be going after player wise, but to be honest I think the Birmingham Mail knows much about the goings on at Birmingham City as my postman does.

Case in point – Christian Ribeiro. The Mail spent a lot of last week linking us with this journeyman defender currently playing for Exeter City, and now are reporting that he has effectively snubbed us to sign a new deal with Exeter. Come on, who would actually believe that? Who would actually believe that a player would turn down Birmingham City to stay at Exeter City? No disrespect to Exeter, but I would put good money on any one of their players crawling all the way from down there to Stan’s if they had the chance to sign for us.

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The Mail creating or garnishing spurious links between Blues and whoever seems to be out of contract in the Football League because they don’t actually have anything concrete to print isn’t journalism. Equally then hinting that said player has decided to spurn our advances is even less like journalism, but it has rattled some fans none the less.

There is no need to panic though; from what I have been told by someone close to the club permanent deals for two of the loanees we had at the back end of last season, Rob Tesche and Diego Fabbrini would be well on the way to completion. If we do manage to bring both of those players in then we’ll have two more players to add to the aforementioned list of regulars from last season, and then from my reckoning we’ll probably be just a ‘keeper and a centre-half away from having a very strong starting eleven. If we do manage to bring Tesche and Fabbrini in, then it will arguably also show that the shackles that restricted us in the past in terms of bringing in proven Championship players because of affordability issues are well and truly off.

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So Blues fans should just relax, take some pleasure in the fact that for once Birmingham City Football Club isn’t football’s biggest bring and buy sale. We had a team that was looking good at the end of last season, and by the looks of things most of that team will start the new season together. When we do bring in new players, the first we will hear about it will possibly be when they are doing the archetypal pose in front of the Tilton with the Blues scarf above their head. From what I can tell few clubs in the Football League have been going around like mad signing players, and for once Birmingham City are one of the norm rather than the abnormal.

Was Panos last season’s star man?

I actually felt a pang of envy when news emerged this week that a bidder had been granted exclusivity in regards to taking over that lot up the road. Of course, no-one knows who this bidder is or what their plans for the club are (we can all still hope they bring the place crashing down) but it is a sign of solid progress on their part towards a new era, and the fact that they are reported to be willing to spend £150million would suggest that whoever is behind the bid isn’t exactly a pauper.

Of course Blues, or BIHL for that matter, have also released news this week. A company called Trillion Trophy Asia has been confirmed as the solitary preferred bidder for a stake in BIHL, not to buy the holding company and the club outright. It’s a step forward, but a relatively small step forward from what I can see. I think Blues fans would prefer that there were new owners full stop, of a club totally free of BIHL and those who have spent years lurking in the background. Daniel Ivery says that it is progress and that Ernst & Young are doing things by the book as the people now in charge of BIHL, and to be honest his work down the years means he has a far better knowledge of this sort of thing than I ever could hope to possess, so I will take his word for it. It’s progress, but still I don’t think we can start to imagine who our Gazillionaire owner may be just yet.

In the meantime, it seems to be pretty much as you were. The club needs to be run by someone, and I think the man who has been the head-honcho at the club over the past eighteen months or so has done a very good job in the circumstances. Panos Pavlakis arrived at Blues as an apparent relation of Carson Yeung, so it’s fair to say that that family tie combined with no apparent background in football meant he was a figure who came under the suspicion of Blues fans straight away. I think my reaction at the time was that he was just going to be another puppet of Carson and his cronies.

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Credit where credit is due though, he has run the club properly. Off the pitch he seems to have brought more financial stability to the club and helped to bring in the aforementioned Ernst & Young to run BIHL. For a fair while it has become clear he has changed sides in the battle of Carson and cronies vs. the rest (if he ever really was on Carson’s side in the first place). As I mentioned it is still going to be a very long, arduous process before a desirable resolution is reached, but at least we have someone at the club now whose sole aims don’t appear to be to act on Carson’s every order or to stuff his own pockets as much as possible (unlike a certain ex-CEO of ours). Panos seems to be someone actually acting in the best interests of the club, a refreshing change.

Around the club generally he has been the first communicative and visible representation we have had from on high for a fair old while. Regularly attending games at all levels (and for both of the male and female team) shows someone with an interest in developing all aspects of the club beyond the decision making behind which one of our next young talents we can flog off for some risible amount. Through his regular programme notes and conducting numerous meetings with fans he’s made a start in opening lines of communication that were jammed shut for years. Things aren’t perfect, but they are far better than they were before he came in.

But ultimately the chairman could say absolutely nothing to the fans if he wanted to and could stand outside St. Andrew’s before every home game naked with a rose up his bum, as long as the team is winning the fans won’t be complaining. And Panos has to take huge credit for overseeing a dramatic change in fortune on the pitch last season. He got rid of Lee Clark whose time really was up, but it’s though one thing to sack a manager it’s quite another to get the appointment of his successor right. How many club chairmen have made the decision to sack a flailing manager only to appoint someone in his place who does even worse? In appointing Gary Rowett, someone I imagine he would have known next to nothing about when he first arrived at Blues, shows how well he has grasped English football since coming here, how he has actually understood what the club means to the fans (and in the case of appointing Clark’s successor who would and wouldn’t automatically be a popular appointment) and shows just how shrewd a bloke he is when he appointed Rowett. Ultimately Rowett’s arrival was the catalyst of our drastic improvement last season, and ultimately Panos was the catalyst of Rowett’s appointment.

This man needs to be given a proper crack of the whip.

Additionally, he’s also backed Gary Rowett as much as he can. It is fair to say that the eye-wateringly tight constraints of austerity the club went through for a season or two under Lee Clark have been relaxed somewhat, and GR now has a chance to sign players of proven Championship calibre; say what you want about Clark, but usually the money (or lack of it) he could spend meant he was often taking a punt on someone who had no pedigree whatsoever at the level of football we are at. I honestly don’t think Panos was ever enamoured with Clark as a manager, and depending on who you believe Panos would have sacked him months before he did had his hands not been tied by other people. I also honestly think Panos was shrewd enough to stash money away for when he could sack Clark so that he could give Clark’s successor a running go at it in the transfer market. If my hunch is right, it is ruthless but ultimately very shrewd of our chairman to do that; how demoralising and hampering it would have been for any new manager to go into the transfer piggy bank only to find there was nothing in there.

So all in all when people talk about who was last season’s star man, people are going to look at players such as the Don, Paul Caddis and Michael Morrison or look at the manager who arrived last autumn. But I think credit should be heaped on to the man who has been at the very top through it all, the man who has made the big decisions that needed to be made and got them all right. Panos Pavlakis isn’t the man people want to be Blues chairman in a year or two’s time, but the job he has done in the time he has been given the responsibility for taking care of the club has been second to none.