IF Terry Westley’s undoubted enthusiasm is anything to go by the future of Birmingham City is very positive.
The club have had their problems in recent years – relegation, failed takeovers, dwindling crowds, vociferously unhappy supporters, the list could go on. However,the educated opinion of the club’s academy director is sure to provide encouraging music to the ears of Birmingham’s board of directors.
In times gone by Birmingham, like the vast majority of their peers, have been churning out mediocre footballers who were capable of keeping their heads above the water in the Championship and below but they would have been clearly out of their depth in the Premier League. The England striker Andrew Johnson is one exception but the rise and rise of ‘AJ’ since he was off-loaded to Crystal Palace in 2002 is a bit of a sore point around St Andrew’s.
Westley, however, is convinced that times are changing as Birmingham’s conveyor belt of young talent is about to crank up to the next level.
Jordon Mutch and Jared Wilson have enjoyed tastes of first-team action while defender Krystian Pearce is putting in sterling displays at the top of League One on loan at Scunthorpe United.
Westley says that there is plenty more to come but he is also keen to emphasis that patience is a virtue. “For a long time the academy has had players not good enough to go and play in the first team,” said Westley, who is also Birmingham’s reserve team manager. “This is my third season and when I arrived what we looked at was how many players we had got around that 20 age mark. We had a whole group of them who were never going to play in the first team. What we’ve tried to do is clear that path out of the way because we had a very talented group of under-16s.
“There was Mitch McPike, Ashley Sammons, we then recruited Jordon Mutch, Jake Jervis and they are all the same age. We looked at that group and thought we’ve got a real chance and we’ve got to wait for them.
“Now Mutch and Jared Wilson have played in the team, Jake Jervis, Ashley and Mitch all played pre-season for the first team. We are getting there but there’s no one from the age of 21 to 17, there’s no one in between that gap so we’ve got to be patient and stay with that little group.
“We think in a year or maybe two seasons time we’ll have some players ready to go in the first team. We’ve just got to wait because we’ve cleared that 21-year-old group out that weren’t going to play, people like Asa Hall and David Howland. We’ve got to produce a player that is capable of playing in the Premier League or certainly the very top end of the Championship. People won’t quite believe it yet because they can’t see who they are but if they stay with it and we keep doing the type of work we are doing then in two years time we will have some players.”
Meanwhile, St Patrick’s Athletic chief executive, Richie Sadlier, has denied Blues have bid for Keith Fahey. Reports had suggested an offer of an initial £250,000 with four £50,000 instalments for each of the next ten games the midfielder may play. Mr Sadlier dismissed the reports as ‘speculation’.