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Opinion: Why Birmingham City’s last match shows they need to cut ties with 21-year-old

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Birmingham City suffered what could be called a bit of an injury crisis at the back going into their last game against Reading.

Not only were George Friend and Dion Sanderson unavailable to participate as two capable options in the centre, but recently-converted wing-back Jordan Graham also joined them on the sidelines and that left the Blues with a limited number of options out wide.

Kristian Pedersen and Maxime Colin were already ruled out of their clash with the Royals before that after picking up their own injuries last month, leaving Lee Bowyer with a big selection dilemma but one that wasn’t unsolvable.

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Emirates Stadium?

Jeremie Bela was a nailed-on starter having played the full 90 minutes against Bristol City in the previous match, with his ability to play both on the left and the right coming in handy at testing times like this when adaptability is needed more than anything else.

He looked set to be joined by Chelsea loanee Juan Castillo, who was in the Blues’ squad against Nigel Pearson’s side just four days before their tie against Reading and looked set to make his first league appearance for the club since the opening day of the campaign.

However, it proved to be 19-year-old Marcel Oakley who would start ahead of him, a teenager who had only been in one of Bowyer’s Championship matchday squads this term before the last match and like Castillo, hadn’t made a single first-team appearance since August.

If his omission from the starting lineup wasn’t already enough of a damning verdict on his time at St Andrew’s thus far, he didn’t even get on the pitch and was overlooked in favour of Lukas Jutkiewicz as Oakley’s replacement, potentially understandable given they were 2-1 down at the time of the substitution.

Regardless of this though, the fact he didn’t start in isolation is a clear indication that the two parties need to sever ties in January.

Keeping him for now would be wise considering Colin and Pedersen’s current injury situations, with Graham expected to be back after the international break.

But the state of play at wing-back has become clear in the West Midlands. With summer signing Graham showing he can perform well in this position, him and Colin are two solid options on the right with Pedersen and Bela on the left.

Whether that depth is sufficient can be questioned, especially after their last game, but one thing that would be hard to argue against is that Castillo’s loan move has been nothing short of disastrous thus far.

He may not be costing too much considering Chelsea’s financial capability to survive without a loan fee and the ability to take on the burden of paying a decent chunk of his wages.

But this isn’t just an issue about money. After so much mediocrity over the past five years, every player in the squad needs to step up and play their part.

It might not be all Castillo’s fault he isn’t getting many first-team minutes under his belt – but he isn’t playing a big enough role in the second-tier side’s squad at this stage to justify keeping him beyond January.

Severing ties with the Dutchman would not only benefit the 21-year-old who needs regular football at this stage of his career, but it will free up one more space in the West Midlands outfit’s squad for the Blues to recruit fresh blood during the winter window.

A replacement wing-back would be ideal to provide the existing four options with adequate competition and with that, helping to maximise and maintain performance levels.

The potential departures of both Riley McGree and Castillo gives the likes of Technical Director Craig Gardner and the club’s recruitment team the breathing room to bring another couple of loanees in with five temporary players on their books currently.

A loan deal for Castillo’s replacement would be preferable as opposed to a permanent signing anyway, with the four existing permanent options at wing-back a sufficient total to work with, providing a loanee is in place to replace the 21-year-old by the end of January.


A 21-year-old Reading FC fan and writer who graduated from the University for the Creative Arts in the summer with a degree in Journalism and Media Production. Other topics written about include politics, mental health and education.

ScoopDragon Football News Network

Article title: Opinion: Why Birmingham City’s last match shows they need to cut ties with 21-year-old

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