IT WAS a throwaway comment made by Gary Rowett when asked about the club taking on Dutch trialist Kees Luijckx.
“There are certainly one or two markets on the continent we are exploring because that could be a good option for us to bring one or two players in over the next 18 months.”
Now it may be that the Dutch defender Luijckx won’t be taken on permanently by Blues, but the intent seems to have become clear of late – that Blues are looking at players not just for the here and now but to build and fill out the team infrastructure.
Because of financial necessity, Blues have been forced to blood many of their younger players quicker than maybe they would have liked. As a result, the Development Squad has resembled more of an under-18 squad than an under-21 squad at times, and the under-18s have had to dip into youth squads below at times to fill their teams.
It’s a huge jump for players to make the step up from under-18 to under-21, and then again to the Championship – and for every Demarai Gray there is a Reece Hales, a Josh Hawker or an Emmitt Delfouneso – who gets close to the squad without ever quite making the grade before leaving to ply their trade in the non-leagues.
The gap between the end of the youth process and the first team is pretty massive and the idea of the Development Squad league was to improve players in those difficult first years as a professional.
In an ideal world, a player would make regular Development Squad appearances while serving time out on youth loan – as Charlee Adams is mixing his Lincoln City time with the occasional appearance at Wast Hills – or while sitting on the bench and being around the first team itself.
Not all players progress at the same rate though and, as Blues have tried in recent years, players need to be brought in from elsewhere to bulk up the Development Squad.
The last player who was brought into the team in this manner who made the jump was the maligned Olly Lee and, although he is now out on loan at Plymouth Argyle, it does prove it’s possible to bring in players from elsewhere for nothing and turn them into a saleable asset.
Not only that, but having players come through in 12 months’ time means the blow from the inevitable mass turnover of players as contracts run out is lessened somewhat by the knowledge that there are younger players imbued with the tactics and ethos of the club to come through.
For me, this sort of long-term planning is what will benefit Blues most from the Rowett Revolution. With the knowledge of Head of Performance Darren Robinson in place to find players who will progress at Blues, the squad will continue to build and the revolution will become an evolution.