Birmingham City fire Wayne Rooney

The experiment is over

Well, it didn’t take long for the first big news of 2024. Birmingham City have dismissed manager Wayne Rooney and his first team coach Carl Robinson.

This was hardly a surprise. The announcement was made earlier today after the Blues lost their New Year’s Day game at Leeds United 0-3. That capped a dismal 15-game record under Rooney with the team going just 2-4-9, the worst record in the EFL Championship over that stretch. In doing so the Blues scored 15 goals and gave up 30. At the time of his appointment the team was sitting in 6th – a promotion playoff position – but have dropped to 20th and just 6 points clear of the relegation spots. Not good, obviously.

Rooney’s managerial career has not been bathed in glory so far. His best performance to date would be his first season running Derby County, who were dead last in the Championship when he took over in late November 2020 (he had been part of a 4-man coaching team prior to that and also a player). He got them as high as 18th before they faltered and just avoided relegation in the final game of the season. The next season at Derby didn’t go well, although in his defense the team was under administration all season and had a 21-point deduction (12 points for being in administration and another 9 for breaching EFL accounting rules). The team was relegated and Rooney resigned in June 2022. After that he returned to DC United. DCU generated just 9 points from 14 games under his leadership that season and finished last in the Eastern Conference. This past season they didn’t fare much better, going 10-14-10 and finishing 12th.

He has stated that he intends to continue as a manager, but that record is going to make it hard for him to find his next job.

It is also significant that the firing came just as the January transfer window opened. Clearly the Blues need to beef up the roster, but evidently the club’s new owners decided that Rooney did not earn the chance to make any changes. And that was possibly part of his problem – he had a system he wanted to install but did not have the players to execute it. He tried to shoehorn the existing squad into it and the results were disastrous. HIs hiring was the first big mistake by the new owners who apparently thought the superstar value outweighed any other considerations.

So now the Blues find themselves in need of fresh blood not only on the pitch but also in the dugout. Interim manager will be Steve Spooner, the team’s “professional development coach”, whatever that is. The name most mentioned already for the permanent position is Steve Cooper. Cooper was released by Nottingham Forest two weeks ago despite a relatively successful two and a half years that saw the team promoted to the Premier League and finish 16th in their first full season. At the time of his firing Notts Forest were 17th, just out of the relegation spots. Former Blues manager John Eustace has expressed an interest in returning to the team, but it is unlikely the Blues reciprocate. A second former City manager, Gary Rowett, is also thought to be in the running; he left Millwall in October by the infamous “mutual consent”. Tony Mowbray, sacked a month ago by Sunderland, is also a possibility. Finally, American Jesse Marsch could on the list of possibilities, but he has been out of managing since his firing by Leeds almost a year ago. He’s likely only thought to be in contention because of the American ownership, and a second DC United link probably won’t go over well with the fans.

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