Is Lee Bowyer the man to restore Birmingham City’s fortunes? February 27th marked 10 years since Birmingham City famously upset the odds to beat Arsenal in the League Cup Final. Goals from Nikola Žigić and Obafemi Martins made it an afternoon to remember for fans of the Blues, and it was a humbling moment for their opponents, who at that time hadn’t won a trophy since the 2005 FA Cup.
The victory was supposed to act as a catalyst for Birmingham to go on and improve their Premier League position and establish themselves as a top-flight side, but instead, what promised to be a sensational season descended into despair, and the club found themselves relegated on the final day of the season.
Lee Bowyer was part of that Birmingham team, and ten years on from that defining season, the now 44-year-old has returned to St Andrews, this time as manager. Bowyer resigned from his position as manager of Charlton Athletic, a club where turmoil is the general state of affairs, and has become the Blues’ new boss, another club where stability is a fleeting concept.
Birmingham have had a whole host of different managers since Alex McLeish left the club just a few months after securing that landmark League Cup triumph. No-one has been able to make Birmingham strong contenders in the Championship betting and bring them back to the promised land that is the Premier League, but the arrival of someone like Bowyer could be just the ticket.
The Englishman has proved his mettle at Charlton, demonstrating terrific tactics and man-management to mastermind the club’s promotion from League One to the Championship, despite the chaos engulfing the club at boardroom level. Although the Addicks eventually suffered relegation, Bowyer had demonstrated both his managerial ability and his willpower to bring some good times to Charlton’s supporters, who have suffered plenty in recent years.
When you take that talent and determination as a coach, and combine it with the fact that Bowyer knows Birmingham City FC like the back of his hand, then he could be the club’s best shot at re-establishing their reputation since they suffered relegation from the Premier League 10 years ago.
At the time of writing, Birmingham sits 20th in the Championship table, hovering dangerously near to the muddy waters of relegation. Bowyer’s first task will be to ensure the club don’t slip down into the third tier for the first time since the 1994-95 season. Any kind of stability would be welcome at Birmingham, but if Bowyer could keep them up this season and have a full pre-season to whip the team into shape, then perhaps they’d have an outside chance of promotion in the 2021-22 campaign.
For now, that is just a dream, and Bowyer will have his work cut out to get this team pulling in the same direction once again. A decade on from that League Cup triumph, in which their new manager played his part as a player, Birmingham City are a club drifting aimlessly around the lower half of the Championship, living off the last lingering memories of that glorious triumph. Their fans will be hoping that the arrival of Bowyer can herald a new dawn for this sleeping giant.