Birmingham City showed a significant improvement under Lee Bowyer towards the end of last season to pull themselves clear of relegation trouble. The true work starts now, though, with focus on avoiding a repeat of that in 2021/22.
Bowyer’s first transfer window at St Andrew’s will hopefully see the Birmingham squad evolve into a much more competitive unit than the one we saw last season.
It’s still early days in terms of the summer market but Birmingham are making their move, with it the understanding of Football League World that initial talks have been held with Alex Pritchard over the midfielder potentially arriving on a free transfer.
Pritchard is a free agent this summer after leaving Huddersfield Town at the end of 2020/21. The former Tottenham academy graduate has earned rave reviews in the past at this level, impressing at both Brentford and Norwich City earlier in his career. He’s scored goals, created chances and proved to be the catalyst for a play-off push.
Yet, any move to St Andrew’s comes with a warning from the Huddersfield faithful.
Pritchard was an £11m signing back in January 2018, linking up with Town when they were a Premier League side. Huddersfield were convinced that the creative midfielder would boost their squad, gambling on the talent that once had him on the books at Tottenham.
Three-and-a-half years down the line, Huddersfield’s fans were happy to see the back of the 28-year-old. That tells you exactly how his spell in West Yorkshire has gone.
Huddersfield slipped out of the Premier League 18 months after Pritchard’s arrival and have been sucked into back-to-back relegation battles in the Championship since then.
Injuries have impacted Pritchard over the last two seasons and Carlos Corberan was dealt a constant stream of frustration when it came to leaning on the midfielder in 2020/21.
Pritchard managed only 18 appearances in the Championship, with six of those coming in the starting line-up. That added up to just 658 minutes, without a goal or assist.
The numbers beneath that also left a lot to be desired: 0.4 shots per game, 0.7 key passes per game and 0.2 dribbles per game (whoscored.com).
Birmingham fans are well aware that there’s real talent when it comes to Pritchard. A look back on the 2014/15 season when he shone at Brentford underlines that, whilst the fact Huddersfield once parted with £11m for his service tells you the perception of him at the club was once a lot different.
Hope will be that Blues can chip back into that talent, but there’s been a tough few years at Huddersfield for Pritchard and there lies the risk for Bowyer if these talks develop further.
As we understand it, talks are at an early stage and remain just early dialogue.
If he ends up a Birmingham player from here there’s work to do to convince he’s the man to change the fortunes of the club.