Carson Yeung’s (楊嘉誠) ownership of Birmingham began in October with skepticism about his financial clout and a loss to Arsenal that left the team above the Premier League relegation zone only on goal difference.
Almost three months on, Yeung and his team of Chinese executives scarcely believe the extent of the club’s rapid transformation, with Birmingham enjoying its best topflight run in 101 years.
A 1-0 victory over Stoke on Monday extended Birmingham’s unbeaten streak to 11 matches since the Arsenal loss.
That lifted the central England club, which hasn’t won a major title since the 1963 League Cup, to seventh in the standings, three below the places that win a spot to play in Europe next year, though it fell back to eighth when Liverpool won on Tuesday at Aston Villa.
“We initially hoped to succeed by just remaining in the Premier League this season,” vice chairman Peter Pannu told reporters on Tuesday.
“Now hopefully we will create history here by not being another yo-yo club. The down mood has disappeared and there is a completely rejuvenated environment. To suggest we don’t have aspirations of Europe would be wrong, but we don’t want to set targets too high so we keep our feet on the ground,” he said.
Yeung’s takeover was a fraught affair, with an initial attempt to buy the club two years ago foundering over concerns about how the Hong Kong businessman would fund the deal. Manager Steve Bruce quit when Yeung refused to sanction the contract that the club had offered him and relegation ensued at the end of the season.
“After the club went back up [from the League Championship in May], the talk was whether the time was right for Carson to try and buy the club again,” Pannu said. “This has proven to be wrong.”
Since the £81.5 million (then US$130 million) takeover, the spotlight has not been on Yeung, but the remarkable form of manager Alex McLeish’s side.
Now there’s room for even more improvement in next month’s transfer window, with McLeish having up to £40 million at his disposal to strengthen the squad.
However, while the club is eyeing a new striker, there is also concerns about upsetting the harmony of the team, which has been unchanged for the last eight matches
“We have noticed that the good run and the position we are in has been very conducive to attracting players of the highest caliber who might have thought again if we were position No. 18,” said Pannu, who is in charge of the finances and works with McLeish on transfers.
Schalke forward Kevin Kuranyi and Liverpool’s Ryan Babel are believed to be high on the list. Another priority would be signing up goalkeeper Joe Hart, who has kept eight clean sheets this season during his loan from Manchester City.
“Rather than disrupting the whole thing by bringing in many players, it’s wise not to interrupt the current players,” Pannu said. “We don’t want to demoralize the current players having a great run. Having said that, we will wisely support the current team and there is general agreement that to support [Cameron] Jerome and Chucho [Christian Benitez] we need a good striker.”
A downside to Birmingham’s rejuvenation is that rival clubs believe Yeung will spend with abandon. Schalke has apparently been upping Kuranyi’s price tag in line with Birmingham’s soaring fortunes, jeopardizing a deal.
“Prices for players have shot up because clubs and agents realize we want to source players in January,” said Pannu, steering clear of discussing specific transfers.
‘CRIMINAL ACT’: The UCI said it ‘strongly condemns’ Dylan Groenewegen’s ‘dangerous behavior,’ which left Jakobsen in critical condition and injured other cyclists Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was in a coma on Wednesday, in “serious” condition, after he was thrown into and over a barrier at 80kph in the conclusion to the opening stage of the Tour de Pologne. Footage showed 23-year-old Jakobsen, of the Deceuninck-Quick-Step, racing elbow-to-elbow with fellow Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen of Jumbo-Visma as both men frantically tussled in a tight sprint to the line in Katowice. However, Jakobsen came off worst, somersaulting over the barriers before colliding with a photographer after Groenewegen had veered suddenly to the right, squeezing his rival into the security wall. “His condition is very serious. His life is
Growing concern over health standards in e-sports has prompted a new federation to pledge to address the problem, as players fall victim to conditions ranging from wrist injuries to obesity, stress and diabetes. The retirement of top Chinese player Jian Zihao, better known by his gaming handle “Uzi,” sent tremors through the booming sport, whose revenues are predicted to reach US$1.1 billion this year, according to industry analyst Newzoo. The 23-year-old, hailed as an “icon” of the League of Legends game, stepped away from e-sports in June, saying that “chronic stress, obesity, irregular diet, staying up late and other reasons” had given
WEEKEND MATCHES: While Tatung FC made good on their chances early on, Taiwan Steel rallied to win the game 2-3 and move to the top with Taichung Futuro Sunday’s action saw Taichung Futuro, Taipower FC and Taiwan Steel tied for first place on 30 points in the Taiwan Football Premier League, while Hang Yuan FC picked up a point to take the No. 4 spot on 25 points after holding Taipower to a scoreless draw. In Taoyuan, Tatung FC hosted Taiwan Steel. It was an exciting matchup, as the visitors rallied from 2-0 down to take the game with three goals. Tatung made good on their chances early on. Honduran midfielder Elias Argueta opened the account 15 minutes into the game with a low shot from the right. Three minutes
Ronnie O’Sullivan delivered a scathing attack on the next generation of snooker players after he made the quarter-finals of the World Snooker Championship on Sunday, ending Chinese star Ding Junhui’s world championship dream. The mercurial 44-year-old Englishman won an enthralling high-quality second-round encounter 13-10 to set up a quarter-final clash with three-time champion Mark Williams. When asked by the BBC whether he thought he would remain at the top of the game for this long, the Briton, who turned professional in 1992, said the poor quality of younger players had secured his position and that something drastic would have to happen