Lee Clark has been sacked from his position as Birmingham City manager along with his assistant Steve Watson, as the Midlands club finally drew the curtain on his unsuccessful tenure.
The sacking came as a result of their home defeat to fellow strugglers Bolton Wanderers, which proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
This is likely to be welcomed news to Blues supporters, who have seen one of the worst periods in Birmingham’s recent history following their relegation from the Premier League back in 2011. Another home defeat over the weekend added to a staggering statistic that Birmingham are now with only one victory at St. Andrews in eighteen games – a figure that can only make you sympathise with Brum season ticket holders.
Clark arrived at Birmingham at the beginning of the 2012/13 season, after being sacked at Huddersfield earlier that summer. He guided the club to a twelfth-placed finish, before avoiding relegation by the skin of their teeth in May, when Paul Caddis headed home a last-gasp equaliser at Bolton on the final day of the season. The last twelve months have been pretty dismal for the Midlands side and if it wasn’t for their decent away form last season, they would certainly be playing local derbies against Walsall and Coventry this year.
It seems like Lee Clark’s sacking was long overdue and after Chris Houghton left Birmingham after nearly reaching the play-off final in 2012, only to be defeated in two legs by Blackpool, the club hasn’t been the same since. It was only up until 2012 that everything was hugely promising for the Blues, in spite of being relegated from the Premier League in the 2010/11 season, they managed to beat Arsenal 2-1 in the League Final and clinch a spot in the Europa League. They also finished fourth in their first season back in the second tier, only to be beaten 3-2 by play-off finalists Blackpool who were also beaten by eventual winners West Ham. Houghton left that summer and was replaced by Clark, who had been sacked by the Terriers.
Prior to his Birmingham reign, Clark had a stunning tenure at Huddersfield where he broke a league record after going unbeaten in 43 league matches, with Jordan Rhodes also breaking goal-scoring records. His move to the West Midlands provided plenty of optimism for locals, even with Chris Houghton’s departure to Norwich City, but his highest ever finish with the Blues was a mediocre twelfth. The following season marked the beginning of a torrid home record as their defeat to Bolton in October 2013 – when they were beaten 1-2 – started a run of just one home win in eighteen league matches, their last victory came this season when they beat Brighton 1-0 in August.
When it comes to predicting which teams will win over the weekend, some suggest that home teams are most likely to pick up points – a fair theory. However, it was Birmingham’s good form on the road last season which saved them from relegation. They, along with Barnsley, Millwall, Blackpool and Doncaster, were part of a relegation scrap that went to the final day last season, and if it wasn’t for a heart-stopping header from Caddis, they would surely be lingering in the depths of League One. Instead, it was Doncaster Rovers who fell on the sword, after an unlucky 1-0 defeat to title-winning Leicester City – it was only goal difference that separated the two sides from survival and relegation.
Once again, Birmingham find themselves languishing in the bottom half of the Championship after a poor start to the season. Fulham and Bolton have sacked their managers after poor starts, it was only a matter of time before Clark would be handing in his P45. His tenure has been made worse by plenty of off-the-field issues after ex-chief Carson Yeung was sentenced to six years in prison for money laundering and the club has been in debt for some years now. This has forced the club to sell or release essential players over the last 18 months. Nathan Redmond, Chris Burke and Nikola Zigic have all departed and Birmingham have had to limit their transfer activities and instead turn to their youth set-up.
There’s still a lot of expectation and pressure around Birmingham, as they are still considered one of the bigger clubs in the Championship, so whoever takes the reigns at St. Andrews is going to have a tough job on their hands.