Birmingham City can now look towards the 2021/22 season after securing their Championship status for yet another season – but it was a close call at times.
Aitor Karanka left the Blues perilously close to the drop in March when he was sacked after a dismal home defeat to Bristol City, but in came Lee Bowyer to rally the troops and lift the fans from afar.
Arriving from League One side Charlton Athletic, Bowyer galvanised the team and has led them to five wins in eight games – the 4-0 drubbing by Cardiff City can be forgotten about as it was an experimental line-up.
Attentions can turn to the playing squad for next season now and there’s still a few contract situations to sort out, but as for incomings we don’t know what kind of money Bowyer will have to play with.
They spent a sizeable sum on Sam Cosgrove from Aberdeen in January but there could be some bargains with Championship experience available at the end of the season – let’s look at three players who could strengthen Bowyer’s squad on free transfers.
According to Football Insider, the Blues are one of a number of Championship teams looking at Paterson ahead of a summer move.
Bristol City could see a mass exodus of out of contract players and Paterson was one who started the season in fine form, scoring twice in his first three matches from an attacking midfield role, but his campaign was soon disrupted by two injuries, which has restricted him to just 20 Championship appearances.
If recent games are anything to go by, Birmingham look very effective in a 3-4-1-2 formation and Paterson could slot into that number 10 role very well – but there are a few issues.
Firstly there’s lots of competition for his services if reports are to be believed and it may come down to the best financial package, and there’s also Alen Halilovic to consider.
The Croatian has had a stop-start Blues stint since arriving earlier in the season and it remains to be seen whether he pens an extended deal at St Andrew’s.
The big 22-question Birmingham City end of season quiz – Can you score 100% on this?
The engine room of Birmingham’s team is probably one of their weaker areas – Gary Gardner could probably be upgraded, Ivan Sunjic hasn’t really lived up to his £6.3 million transfer fee and Rekeem Harper is heading back to West Brom at the end of the season.
It looks like they’ll be in the market for a new player and if his contract situation can’t be sorted out with Luton Town, then Ruddock-Mpanzu could be a player in-demand from the ‘bigger’ Championship clubs in terms of history and not perhaps league position.
Ruddock has been with the Hatters since their National League days and he’s risen through the divisions with them, playing 42 times this season as an energetic box-to-box midfielder.
Luton boss Nathan Jones said in January that he was hopeful of sorting things out but the closer the summer gets, the more chance it looks like the 27-year-old may leave Kenilworth Road and he’d be a great fit for the Blues.
As mentioned previously, Bowyer seems to be sticking to a 3-4-1-2 formation, and there’s a spot at left-wing-back seemingly up for grabs.
Kristian Pedersen has slotted into the left side of a back three and Steve Seddon has been the man to try and take his chance flying up and down the left flank.
His future is undecided though with his contract up in June and Birmingham could take a chance on Johnson from Middlesbrough.
Despite Boro’s Championship status being secure for a while, Johnson is still yet to pen a new deal despite playing 41 times for the Teessiders this season, adding an assist to his tally against Luton Town at the weekend.
If Johnson has options though, then Birmingham wouldn’t be the worst shout in the world – especially as he’s from the city and he’d surely take the chance to return home, unless he’s an Aston Villa supporter…