Last week marked the first anniversary of Carson Yeung’s buyout of Birmingham City. His right-hand man Peter Pannu granted Colin Tattum an exclusive Q&A session to talk about Blues’ Chinese revolution.
How would you sum up the past 12 months?
“The excitement of the acquisition has to settle, and I think it has settled. The enthusiasm Carson displayed is still there, but in a different fashion. He’s still passionate about the club.
“He wants to build the club, but he’s also equally mindful of the pitfalls of improving at a pace that could cause problems for the club. It has to be done step by step.”
What do you think the achievements have been?
“I wouldn’t use the word ‘achievements’. It’s the contribution in the onward improvement strategies that we have.
“People may agree that, as a club, we have in fact made some progress, in terms of infrastructural improvements. We have improved the long-overdue need for an underground heating system at Wast Hills, so that the boys can train in bad weather rather than coming across to the stadium and destroying the turf.
“We have improved the stadium, as the fans will note. We have put in a beautiful food and beverage area and we have improved the customer experience.
“There are also a few other projects in the pipeline and they may take careful consideration and time to materialise.
As for the fans, overall I think they are pleased with the progress the club is making. They can see the team is being built gradually.
“I understand that, eight games into this season, there are some fans exhibiting some impatience, which I fully understand.
‘‘Nevertheless, the way I see this is when they voice their opinions, it is a sign that they care. ‘I will be worried if they are deaf mute and aloof to any club stimulus, good or bad.
‘‘Having said that, I would call for them to demonstrate a bit more patience.
“The team needs some time to gel. By and large the fans are behind the manager, who has done a good job last season, and I am sure that form will continue this season too.
“I speak to Alex McLeish regularly and, rest assured, he is listening to the fans, who are legitimately raising their concerns. Their constructive views are not ignored, they are taken on board.”
The team’s fortunes transformed almost immediately after the takeover was completed, why?
“It’s a combination of various things. Firstly, there was a feelgood factor. Secondly, it inevitably could have happened because I think Alex at that time was trying to arrange his strategies with the players, and they gelled.
“I understand that it took some time to put the formula together but when it clicked, it clicked very well and they went on a very good spell.
“This season, obviously he is also experimenting with new combos and tactics and I am hopeful that once the right formula is found, we can go again. I am quite sure that will happen.
“Last season, it was a combination of the feelgood factor, the team clicking and they built on that confidence.”
Did you sense that the club had gone stale, and that people wanted a change from the previous regime?
“I think the previous owners, they ran the club in a way they saw fit. And I say no more as we all know clubs are run my humans and humans have different beliefs, aims and desires.
“People like to see changes. They were here for 16 years.
“They (the fans) probably wanted to see some changes. We came in and I think we have introduced a new style of management and some fresh injection of funds, and generated a glow of enthusiasm.
“But that does not necessarily mean that we have got to lose the careful way of running a club, that the previous owners – to their credit – adhered to.
“Whether or not that careful way meant that funds were not available, that is a matter for the public to decide.
“But as we see it, we did introduce new systems here.”
There was a fair amount of conflict. How do you get on with the former owners now?
“I don’t call that ‘conflict’. I met David Gold the other day at a Premier League function. We shook hands and spoke. I have never had any problems with David Sullivan and Karren Brady and, may I dare say, even David Gold.
“I’m sure they felt that I, in a very robust way, wanted to put things right as I saw them. We eventually had a settlement. I don’t want to go into the minute things of it, but we have got no problems.
“Sullivan still promised me a dinner, and when I find time I would love to have a chance to sit down with him.
“I will embrace them when we play them, they will be most welcome to Carson’s club, and I’m sure they will welcome us to their club. We have got to let bygones be bygones. It’s business and this is what happens in business and at the end of the day we are all members of the football family.”
What about strengthening the team, the playing side?
“The fans wish to see improvements on the pitch. I would agree with them on that. But how you achieve that is important.
“Blindly demanding the owners pump in money to secure established players is equivalent to, in a layman’s terminology, a wife coming to the husband and saying, ‘Look, I want a Porsche turbo on credit, I want all my kids going to public school and I want a detached five-bedroom house on credit’.
“If people want to run clubs completely on a benefactors model, they will tend to end up in a situation that Portsmouth was in, that many clubs were in and will be in.
“The reason is very simple. A billionaire is not going to spend all his billions on a team. He wants to leave some money for his next generation.
“He has earned his money the hard way and there will come a point where he will think enough is enough.
“After five years, he’s going to ask himself the question: ‘What am I doing here? Why am I throwing all this money out, what am I getting in return? Am I doing this for glory, bravado feeling or to establish that I’ve been a very successful entrepreneur?’.
“It’s not even the money or whether you have got enough to do that. The issue is ‘I have done enough, I am going to stop it now’.
“I’m not saying that Carson is going to turn off his taps. I am just surmising and learning from literature that I have read, I am also talking from the experiences as I see it from the other clubs.
“We can see many clubs are beginning to be financially prudent.
“This may be bad news for players but sounds like good news for the industry.”