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Newbon: Dream team under your nose,Karren.

Byline: Gary Newbon

SOME advice for the Birmingham City board: here is the dream management team before you appoint the wrong one - Jim Smith and Ray Graydon.

Blues fans pre the Sullivan, Gold and Brady gang know all about the Bald Eagle while Ray Graydon has made the team over-achieve at Walsall.


They have worked successfully together at Oxford, both have ability, working knowledge, without the need to spend big money, and can do the business.

Smith has been turfed out of Derby; it's a great time for Graydon to move. Smith was popular at Birmingham during his four years from 1978-82. Birmingham have hardly distinguished themselves since until Trevor Francis took the Blues to last season's great effort in the Worthington Cup final against Liverpool.

I have always claimed that sacking Jim to make way for Ron Saunders proved a turning point at St Andrews. Between Saunders and Francis, the Blues had John Bond, Garry Pendrey, Dave Mackay, Lou Macari, Terry Cooper and Barry Fry. There was Leyland Daf Cup (1991) and Auto Windscreens Shield (1995) triumphs at Wembley, but not a big club in sight in any of the competitions!

Meanwhile across the Aston Expressway, Villa have in that period won the old Football League championship (English champions) in 1981, the European Cup in 1982, the Football League Cup both in 1994 and 1996 and reached last year's FA Cup final at Wembley.

So the contrast was understandable in a way last weekend. Aston Villa's John Gregory was voted Manager of the Month and Birmingham's TF got the sack.

The statement claims it was by mutual consent, but so did Smith's at Derby. What 'mutual consent' really means in football parlance is: 'you go, we will pay you the loot (or some of it!) on your contract but you must agree not to slag us off in public.'

The Francis/Gold news conference at St Andrew's on Tuesday carried the pre-meeting health warning for the reporters: 'No questions about the manager/board relations or individual board members.'


Oh really! But surely that it is the cause of the problem. That is why TF has been paid off and gone.

Whatever the problems, Birmingham should have let Francis see this contract out to the end of the season. Then if they wanted someone else it would have been their prerogative. Three successive promotion play-offs and last season's Worthington Cup run deserved that.

It will all blow over of course. It always does. So take the Newbon tip - Smith and Gradon as the new management team. It will probably be Steve Bruce or the favourite Joe Royle. My suggestion is right under your nose.
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Oct 21, 2001
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