Wayne Rooney: Birmingham City sack manager after just 15 games in charge

Birmingham City have sacked manager Wayne Rooney after just 83 days in charge of the Championship club.

The 38-year-old was appointed on 11 October following the controversial decision to dismiss John Eustace, with Blues sixth in the table.

Since then, Blues have slipped to 20th, Monday’s 3-0 loss at Leeds having been his ninth defeat in 15 games.

“Football is a results business and I recognise they’ve not been at the level I wanted them to be,” Rooney said.

Professional development coach Steve Spooner will take interim charge for Blues, who have also parted company with one of Rooney’s backroom team, former Wolves and Wales midfielder Carl Robinson.

‘It will take time to get over this setback’

Rooney said he now plans to take a break from the game.

“I would like to thank (co-owners) Tom Wagner and Tom Brady and (chief executive) Garry Cook for the opportunity to manage Birmingham City and the support they all gave me during my short period with the club.

“However, time is the most precious commodity a manager requires and I do not believe 13 weeks was sufficient to oversee the changes that were needed.

“Personally, it will take me some time to get over this setback.

“I have been involved in professional football, as either a player or manager, since I was 16. Now, I plan to take some time with my family as I prepare for the next opportunity in my journey as a manager.”

The appointment of Former England captain Rooney, who previously had spells in charge of Derby County and MLS side DC United, bore comparisons with the club’s ill-fated decision to sack Gary Rowett in December 2016 and replace him with a better globally-known name in Gianfranco Zola.

But Zola won just twice in 22 games before being sacked in April 2017, to be succeeded by Harry Redknapp.

Since Blues’ new American owners Shelby Companies Limited appointed Rooney, again in the search for global impact, he has also won just two matches – and the board’s hope for successful, more exciting football has not been met.

Rowett, who left Millwall in October, is already being touted as one of the names under consideration to become caretaker boss.

Blues are six points clear of the relegation places ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup third-round trip to Hull City.

But they then face three crucial league games before the close of the January transfer window – all against teams just above them in the table, Swansea and Middlesbrough at home, either side of Stoke away.

It was always assumed that Rooney, appointed after the last transfer window closed, would be given the January transfer window to put things right.

But the club have opted to act now, giving a new manager time to work on any potential new signings.

Rooney has plug pulled sooner than Zola

Analysis – BBC Radio WM’s Richard Wilford

Few observers at St Andrew’s can be accused of 20-20 hindsight when suggesting that Rooney’s short-lived tenure was inevitable.

The parallels with Zola’s ill-fated half-season in 2016-17 were hard to ignore, the main difference being that the new owners have chosen to pull the plug far sooner.

That Birmingham CEO Garry Cook should choose to promise “no fear football” at Rooney’s unveiling was to hang an albatross round the former England striker’s neck.

Some of the players would understandably fear a radical change of style. They frankly had not been recruited to implement it in the first place.

Eustace had everyone singing off the same sheet, challenging for a play-off spot. Like Rowett seven years earlier, he may not have achieved a top six finish in the end, but both would surely have avoided the chaos that followed.

If there was one sliding door moment for Rooney, it came at Plymouth.

Following a fully controlled win at Cardiff and a decent showing in defeat at home to Leicester, Blues were ahead at Home Park when Krystian Bielik was harshly sent off. They failed to defend a 3-1 lead with 10 men, leaving Devon with only a draw.

Flat listless performances against Stoke, Bristol City and then Leeds clearly concentrated minds as the Championship’s trap door drew closer.

Given the apparent stability and undoubted ambition of the new ownership group and the positive work they are clearly doing off the field, this will serve as a sharp lesson about the realities of football. Timing is everything, and profile alone does not garner league points.

‘Change in best interests of club’

In a statement, Birmingham chief executive Cook said they felt the time was right to move in a different direction.

“Despite their best efforts, results have not met the expectations that were made clear at the outset. Therefore, the board feels that a change in management is in the best interests of the club,” Cook said.

“The club’s board and management are fully aligned and will continue to drive transformation and take bold steps to rebuild Birmingham City into the organisation its fans and community deserve.

“We are committed to doing what is necessary to bring success to St Andrew’s.

“Unfortunately, Wayne’s time with us did not go as planned and we have decided to move in a different direction.

“The search for a successor begins with immediate effect and we will update supporters when we have further news.

“The remaining coaching staff will be required to continue with their duties to assist Steve Spooner.”

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