When Birmingham City fired John Eustace from his post as manager, the Blues were flying in sixth position.
Blues co-owner Tom Brady wanted to bring a “big name” to the club and opted to hire Wayne Rooney, despite not boasting the managerial pedigree to suggest that was the right decision.
As expected, Brady’s attempts to treat football like an American sport have backfired, with the former Manchester United striker overseeing four defeats from his first five Championship matches.
It’s been a disastrous six weeks for Birmingham, who have gone from challenging for the play-offs to languishing in 18th position and if this terrible form continues, the club will have no other option but to pull the trigger and sack Rooney.
If he does make it to January, however, the one-time England skipper could get the opportunity to bolster his squad with new recruits and attempt to turn a difficult situation into a more positive outlook.
With this in mind, here’s what a predicted XI could look like at Birmingham come the end of the January transfer window…
GK – Jack Butland
Following his appointment in October, Rooney instantly admitted that he was eyeing possible targets for the January transfer window, and one of those could be former goalkeeper Jack Butland, who started his career at St Andrew’s.
According to the Sun [via Birmingham Mail], the 6 foot 5 Rangers shot-stopper is Rooney’s first choice for the position, however, he may have to wait for him, claims the report. Butland joined the Scottish giants when he left Crystal Palace in the summer meaning he would have to push to leave for a small sum in January.
If they did manage to recapture the 30-year-old – who has been dubbed “outstanding” by ex-Gers boss Michael Beale – he would replace the veteran John Ruddy, who has conceded 22 goals in 16 appearances this term.
RB – Ethan Laird
Birmingham made the astute capture of Ethan Laird from Manchester United in the summer but he only got two and a half games into his Blues career before he was sidelined with a hamstring injury against Bristol City.
An explosive and attacking right back, Laird has returned to become the driving force down the right, making more successful dribbles (2.4) than any other player in the squad.
CB – Dion Sanderson
Captured on a permanent deal from arch-rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers in the summer, following two successful loan spells at St Andrew’s, Sanderson was named the Birmingham captain this season and has led by example ever since.
If he isn’t making last-ditch tackles or winning aerial duels against attackers, he’s commanding his defence and setting the tone through his purposefulness in possession.
His importance to the team is underscored by the fact he’s featured in every minute of the Championship so far.
CB – Emanuel Aiwu
When Rooney was appointed manager, Kevin Long was preferred to partner Sanderson in defence, however, the Englishman has since given Emanuel Aiwu a chance to shine.
He arrived on loan from Serie B side US Cremonese in the summer and following his debut in the defeat against Southampton, the 23-year-old has never looked back.
Despite the poor run of form, Aiwu has been a rare beam of light during a difficult period, making the second most tackles per game (3.3) and more clearances (4.0) than any other Blues player.
LB – Cody Drameh
Drameh, who earned promotion to the Premier League with Luton Town last term, has also impressed with the defensive side of his game, ranking in the top 3% against his positional peers in the Championship this season for tackles, top 11% for blocks and top 9% for clearances, as per FBref.
Having taken his opportunity to shine once more, Rooney should try and strike a deal with Leeds to keep him at the club permanently after revealing he has no intention of signing a new contract at Elland Road.
CM – Krystian Bielik
The 11-cap Poland international is the destructive ball-winner in midfield and eats up ground like it’s going out of fashion, recovering an impressive 7.7 balls per game, making 1.7 tackles and 1.9 interceptions – the second most in the Blues squad.
A key anchor in Rooney’s ship that he hopes will sail towards the top half of the Championship table, Bielik has only missed one match this term and unsurprisingly, it was one they lost – a 3-1 defeat against Sunderland last time out.
CM – Gavin Kilkenny
According to Football Insider, Birmingham plotted a move for Bournemouth central midfielder Gavin Kilkenny in the summer.
The 23-year-old, who had spells on loan at Charlton and Stoke last season, is surplus to requirements at the Vitality Stadium having yet to make an appearance this term.
That said, the Blues could opt to go back in for Kilkenny – who would add an abundance of qualities alongside Bielik – to bolster their midfield.
When he played in the Championship for Bournemouth in 2021/22, he ranked in the top 2% among midfielders for pass completion (87.8%) and the top 9% for tackles (2.63).
RW – Koji Miyoshi
Miyoshi is a Japanese international who was captured from Royal Antwerp in the summer.
One of several quality Japanese players currently plying their trade in England, the 26-year-old has made an instant impression since arriving at the club.
CAM – Juninho Bacuna
The former Huddersfield Town midfielder, who has made 15 appearances in the Championship this term, is integral to supplying the Blues with an abundance of energy and dynamism going forward but also tremendous defensive capabilities.
Despite being an attacking midfielder, the ball-winning machine ranks in the top 2% in the second tier against attacking midfielders/wingers for interceptions and the top 2% for blocks.
LW – Siriki Dembele
A fine capture from Bournemouth when he arrived in the summer, Dembele boasts the quality to turn a game on its head in an instant, terrorising defences with his pace and power.
The 26-year-old has demonstrated how dangerous his precise ball control can be by averaging the second-most successful dribbles (2.3) of any player in the side as well as scoring three times in 13 appearances this term.
ST – Jay Stansfield
The Englishman is adept at beating his man to fashion opportunities, ranking in the top 4% against strikers in the Championship for successful take-ons and top 16% for progressive carries this term.