Wayne Rooney sacked at Birmingham City: What next for the Blues?

 | January 02 | 

4 mins read

Wayne Rooney Birmingham City graphic

After just three months at the helm, Birmingham City have sacked manager Wayne Rooney. The former England international could only muster two wins from his 15 games in charge, as the Blues dropped from sixth to 20th in the unforgiving Championship.

The American investment group, fronted by Tom Wagner, had got everything right during their short stint in charge of the club. Then, at the start of October, they decided to sack the popular John Eustace and replace him with one of England’s greatest ever players. 

Birmingham City Championship Odds

  • Birmingham City to finish in the top six @ 150/1
  • Birmingham City to be relegated @ 9/4
  • Birmingham City to finish bottom @ 22/1

CEO Garry Cook stated at the time that Eustace had "clear ambitions and goals for the season", but "following a series of meetings over a number of months" it was apparent that the ambitions of the owners and the coach did not match. He said that "when this happens, the best thing to do is to part company."

Now the man he hand-picked to lead the club towards the Premier League has gone, and his spell in charge can be judged as nothing short of a disaster. Cook must take full responsibility for how Birmingham’s season has imploded and he should face some consequences for his woeful decision-making. Instead, he will be trusted to choose Rooney’s successor. 

The names in the frame will bring hope to Birmingham fans. Former boss John Eustace may not return given the difference in opinion between him and Cook, but a heroic return isn’t completely off the table. Bringing Eustace back would be a complete u-turn for the owners, and an acceptance that they were in the wrong to sack him for Rooney, something they may not be quite ready to admit to that extent. 

Instead, the big name of Steve Cooper, recently sacked by Nottingham Forest, will catch the eye. He took the Tricky Trees from near the bottom of the second tier to the top flight, and Birmingham could tempt him to repeat the trick with them. Will Still’s name is constantly linked with English vacancies, while Jesse Marsch is still searching for a job after leaving Leeds United. 

The new manager will come in with a blank slate, something that wasn’t afforded to Rooney given the circumstances surrounding his arrival. This situation, including his sacking, almost perfectly mirrors the position Birmingham found themselves in seven years ago. Gary Rowett was sacked by Blues with the club seventh in the Championship table and pushing for the play-offs. In came Gianfranco Zola, with the same narrative about ambition being spouted by those who made the change. 

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It backfired spectacularly as the Italian manager won just two of his 22 matches in charge, eventually resigning with the club in 20th place. Rooney leaves with two wins in 15, but the club are in 20th once more. The main difference between the two situations is that this Birmingham squad is far superior to the one that Zola inherited. Rowett was vastly overperforming, whereas there was a lot of hope that this current crop would be able to finish in the top half this term.

Now the new manager will come in hoping to drag the club up by the bootstraps. Blues fans will hope the owners learn from this mistake and don't repeat it. There is sure to be a deep feeling of regret from Cook and co, and they will have felt a serious financial hit from the past three months. Sacking Eustace may not have cost too much, but hiring and firing Rooney - who signed a three-and-a-half-year contract - on a far higher wage, will have been a costly exercise. 

The new manager will have to get to grips with this squad quickly, with the clock already ticking on the January transfer window. Birmingham’s aspirations to challenge in the top half of the table this term were burnt to the ground by Rooney, while Cook must shoulder his share of the blame for bringing in such an inexperienced manager.

The next decision the owners make will undoubtedly be crucial to their long-term success. Cooper would be one hell of a coup, but the Rooney debacle is an expensive mistake they cannot afford to make again. 

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