On a historic day in which Birmingham and the majority of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in an unprecedented referendum, there was to be one arrival in England’s Second City involving a European national that, alike the ‘Brexit’ vote, could bear significant effects in the long-term.
Robert Tesche – a German midfielder formerly of Hamburger SV in the Bundesliga, and up until recently Nottingham Forest, was announced to have joined Birmingham City on a free transfer on Friday afternoon, following his release from the City Ground at the end of his two-year deal.
Tesche had previously appeared for Birmingham at the tail end of the 2014/15 season, joining the club in March 2015 on a two month loan deal in which he made 12 appearances for the club and netted twice against Rotherham United and Bolton Wanderers, a stint which led to very positive acclaim from the Blues faithful and a widespread pursuit of the German’s services by manager Gary Rowett last pre-season.
Despite a deal being agreed and all parties being satisfied with the transfer, the move fell through at the last minute as Forest failed to give confirmation of the move and after stalling for too long, Tesche’s transfer never materialised and he remained at Forest for the remainder of the 2015/16 campaign, making 24 appearances in his final season with the club.
This signing comes at a positive time for Birmingham City following another promising season where the play-offs were within reach for the majority of the campaign, despite finishing in 10th place, a year in which the club spent their highest transfer fee in five years on another previous loan star – Diego Fabbrini, and with news that the turbulent ownership situation is close to coming to a long-awaited resolution.
All of the signs are there to suggest that Birmingham are finally on the up again after several years of discontent and uncertainty, after the honeymoon period of winning the Carling Cup in 2011 and appearing in the Europa League were quashed by financial struggles and a battle with relegation in 2013/14, following the fallout from the Premier League in 2011.
This is the biggest sign yet that the future is looking much brighter for the club than it did a few years previously, with the manager and the squad to compete for the promotion now in place coupled with the club being on a better footing. The signing of Tesche is the next big piece in the jigsaw in terms of adding real quality to the club’s ranks and in highlighting the ambitions of Blues going forward.
So why all the rage about the former Hamburg, Fortuna Düsseldorf and Arminia Bielefeld man? For a start, it quite says something when the fans beg for the signing of a player after appearing for the club for a relatively short space of time, in this case a mere 12-game loan spell. To have impressed not only the fans but the management at Birmingham City enough during this time to be highlighted as their main transfer target during the 2015 summer transfer window tells you just how big an influence Tesche had during his first spell at St. Andrews, and the hope is that he can have just as big an impact again, but this time on a permanent basis in a royal blue shirt.
Based on his performances at the end of the 2014/15 season for Birmingham, the German was the key component in making the midfield tick, controlling the game ahead of him sat in a deeper midfield role in the conventional 4-2-3-1 system that Blues adopt. Tesche’s style of play is simple but effective. He will help to break up opposition attacks before dictating the game around him by making decisive passes into the forwards that lead to a number of goal scoring opportunities.
In his first spell at St. Andrews, it could be noted how composed and comfortable Tesche looked on the ball, benefiting Rowett’s side enormously in the simple case of being able to use and keep possession more wisely compared to the likes of Stephen Gleeson and David Davis. The better control of the midfield aided by Robert Tesche led to a strong finish to the 2014/15 campaign and a plausible 10th position – a far cry from the 23rd place in the table occupied by the club, months earlier in October before Rowett’s arrival as manager.
Amongst those 12 appearances were two goals to show for his efforts, two well-taken strikes against Rotherham and Bolton that are a testament to the efficiency of Tesche’s game. Italian playmaker Diego Fabbrini, now a permanent Blues man as of January this year, had also been on loan at the same time as the German and it was this midfield pairing in particular which had excited fans immensely. There is a clear consensus that the signing of Tesche could potentially help bring the performances of Fabbrini back to his peak, as the Italian has often been played out of position and had limited time to impress after his £1.5 million move from Watford.
The quality of the midfield had been boosted last season by the signing of FC Groningen’s captain, Maikel Kieftenbeld, who enjoyed a stellar first year in English football, adding to the choices already available in Davis and Gleeson, but this latest signing adds greater strength in depth to the Blues squad and will benefit the club enormously in this regard more than it may first seem in the long-term.
One of the biggest criticisms at the end of the previous campaign where Blues suffered a slump in form was that the midfield had become too predictable, a lack of options within the squad contributed to this, but this situation is unlikely to arise again with the signing of Tesche.
Analysing how the new Blues man will fit into the side for the upcoming season, it is likely Tesche will resume his role as part of a holding midfield pairing behind the three attacking midfielders and lone striker. The midfield duo of Kieftenbeld and Tesche is a tantalising prospect for Blues fans and once more signifies the steps the club has taken in the past two seasons to be able to field players of this ilk.
With this announcement and the prospect of around £10 million being made available to bring in players in accordance with an update on the ownership situation a few weeks prior, fans will hope further smart signings such as this one are to come in the weeks leading up to the start of the season against Cardiff at the beginning of August, not least in the form of a striker to rival Clayton Donaldson and provide much needed cover for the Jamaican international.
This was a key reason for the club’s downfall at the end of last campaign with no real competition being provided in the striker ranks, but with the club already making the move to bolster the midfield at this early stage of pre-season, Blues fans may not have to wait too much longer for the next arrival at St. Andrews.
Credit to Birmingham City FC’s official Twitter account @BCFC and Birmingham Mail for the photos.