Pep Clotet: Birmingham City boss leaves club immediately

Clotet
Pep Clotet had managed Oxford United in the 2017-18 season

Birmingham City boss Pep Clotet has left the club after Wednesday's 3-1 defeat by Swansea City.

The Spaniard, 43, was set to leave the Championship side at the end of the season but said it was "mutually agreed" he would step down immediately.

Birmingham have not won in 10 league matches and are 17th in the table.

First-team coach Craig Gardner and professional development coach Steve Spooner will be in charge of the team for Sunday's game at Stoke City.

Clotet was assistant to former boss Garry Monk before succeeding him as head coach, initially on an interim basis, in June 2019.

He had previously worked under Monk at Swansea and Leeds, before a brief spell as Oxford manager, but when Monk was sacked by Blues last summer, they parted on bad terms.

Before his new club Sheffield Wednesday played Birmingham in November, Monk said he had made an "error of judgement" in working with Clotet.

But the pair shook hands before a meeting between the two clubs at St Andrew's in February.

Birmingham were deducted nine points in the 2018-19 season for breaching the English Football League's profitability and sustainability rules.

And they spent part of this season under another EFL investigation into a financial misconduct charge, but that was dismissed in March, only for the independent disciplinary commission's decision to be overturned on appeal last month.

Despite the appeal decision, the club were not docked any points on this occasion.

Birmingham have picked up just two points out of a possible 15 since the Championship restarted after lockdown and are now just four points above the relegation zone.

'Players must take responsibility' - Jutkiewicz

Speaking moments before Clotet's departure was confirmed, Birmingham City striker Lukas Jutkiewicz admitted players needed to show a "collective responsibility".

"Every club is looking for stability whether that comes from success on the pitch or you build that stability first and then the success comes after," the 31-year-old told BBC Radio WM.

"That's the secret ingredient for every club."

He also denied previous confirmation Clotet would leave at the end of this season had affected players' motivation.

"It's not for me to make those sorts of decisions," he said. "It's the club's call and it's wasted energy for us as players to look for excuses.

"It's up to ourselves to make sure we're doing the best we can to look after this club.

"Whatever's going on outside, we need to make sure we're winning football matches. All the noise outside is not for us."

Analysis

BBC Radio WM Sport's Richard Wilford

Pep Clotet's departure a fortnight ahead of schedule seemed inevitable after another forgettable night at St Andrew's. Birmingham conceded three goals for the fifth successive home game as the correct balance between attack and defence proved increasingly elusive. A relegation battle seized from mid-table security.

While it is easy to draw the conclusion that Clotet became a lame duck upon the announcement, as football resumed, that he was stepping down at the end of the season, this is maybe over-simplistic.

Senior players at the club have seen so much change in recent seasons, leaving them adjusting to new systems, plans and voices all too often. Mentally they may just be frazzled.

The hunt for a new head coach started in earnest last month. The board are believed to favour an experienced candidate. It is a decision they cannot afford to get wrong if they are to steer clear of further turmoil and confusion.