No regrets for Rowett over Birmingham City return

Birmingham City interim manager Gary Rowett said he has no regrets about returning to the club, despite his seven weeks in charge culminating in relegation from the Championship.

Rowett, surprisingly sacked by Blues' then new owners when seventh in the Championship in December 2016, answered the call to return on 19 March.

He came back in an effort to address a form slump following the announcement in February of manager Tony Mowbray temporarily stepping aside to have medical treatment.

Birmingham responded pretty well, winning three and drawing two of their eight games under Rowett. But, crucially, the form of their rivals picked up too.

Sheffield Wednesday won four times in an unbeaten six-game run, Plymouth Argyle won three of their last six games, both Queens Park Rangers and Rowett's former side Stoke City won their last three games, and Blackburn Rovers won five of their last 17 games under former Blues boss John Eustace.

"Eight games ago, I knew there was a chance of relegation, if you looked at the form," Rowett told BBC Radio WM.

"I knew that it could be who ends up being the manager to take Birmingham City into League One, but sometimes you have to take that little bit of responsibility and accountability.

"And if that's me, and it saves someone else from it, I'll take it, and accept it. I've got broad shoulders."

'People need to see past the fog'

Rowett's job spec was for those final eight games of the season, while Mowbray continued his recovery. And he is well aware of the speculation that he could, in fact, now stop on.

Blues released a club statement last week as a reminder that Rowett's appointment had only been short term - and the man himself was quick to re-emphasise that, while at the same time expressing his optimism about the future under the club's American owners Knighthead.

"I don't think it's fair for me to answer that question," he said. "Tony is the manager at this football club.

"What I would say is that I've thoroughly enjoyed it.

"I know it's difficult to see right now through that bit of fog, but there are exciting times ahead if we get it right on the pitch. It could be just a season blip."

Of the second city club's five most recent owners, four have all suffered relegation after taking charge. Bizarrely, only Trillion Trophy Asia did not, despite sacking Rowett, making the mistake to bring in Gianfranco Zola, and with their overspending costing the club points penalties.

But, back in 1994, when Blues last went down to this level under David Sullivan and the Gold brothers, Barry Fry brought them straight back up a year later.

Although they are likely to face stiff competition from the sides that came down with them, as well as the sides that stay down in the play-offs, not to mention ambitious, newly promoted and fellow US-owned club Wrexham, Rowett gives his firm, enthusiastic backing to Tom Wagner and global superstar Tom Brady's Knighthead project.

"My belief is that these owners are fantastic," Rowett said. "They are absolutely the right people to take Birmingham City back where we need to be, if the club do it right. When the dust settles and people start to see next season come to fruition.

"The fans played a huge part in trying to get us over the line. And, in some ways, I've not been displeased with a lot of what we've done.

"We've worked incredibly hard. With the staff that came here with me and the staff that were already here, it's a really good group of people. I couldn't really have asked for more from anyone.

"We just haven't quite managed to match that sort of desire and sometimes professionalism on the pitch.

"I've been pleased with the performances, especially going unbeaten over the last four games, but it's what happens over the 46 games that counts - and that's not for me to comment about."

Chairman Wagner assures fans of continued support

Club chairman Wagner was there in person for Saturday's final game – the 1-0 win at home to Norwich City - and, aside from face-to-face contact with fans both before and after the match, he also put out an official club statement confirming Knighthead's continued backing.

"Despite the disappointment of relegation, our steadfast commitment to the Blues and our loyal fans and community stands unwavering," Wagner said.

"This season has illuminated numerous challenges and opportunities for improvement. Embracing these realities, we remain resolute in our pursuit of positive change, both on and off the pitch."

The Blues board have already publicly admitted that they got their timing all wrong in the sacking of Eustace and appointment of Wayne Rooney and that they failed to heed the lessons of the previous regime in bringing in a big name - Zola in that case.

Instead, Wagner wants to put a full stop on what has gone.

"Our dedication to the betterment of this wonderful club transcends this unfortunate outcome, anchoring us firmly in our continued ambition for what is to come," he added.

"We will have an opportunity to provide the necessary resources in order to achieve what this club and passionate community deserve.

"As we chart a course forward, rest assured that our plans for the uplifting transformation of the Blues remain steadfastly in place."