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Opposition Lowdown: John Eustace’s Birmingham City

Reading hit the road one last time before Christmas, with a trip to the Midlands to face Birmingham City this Friday. Join us as we take a look at the opposition.

Birmingham City v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images


Birmingham finished in 20th place in the Championship last season, one place and six points ahead of Reading. They currently have the longest tenure in the league, having played in the second tier for 12 consecutive seasons. They currently sit in 14th place in the league after seven wins, eight draws and seven losses so far this season.

Their away form has been slightly stronger than their home form, with four of their wins coming on the road. The Blues’ recent form has been mixed with the side seeing one win, three draws and one loss in their last five games. Reading secured the double against Birmingham last season, beating the Blues 1-2 at St Andrews in November before a 2-1 victory at The Select Car Leasing Stadium in February.

The boss

John Eustace: Eustace took over as Birmingham manager in July this year, replacing Lee Bowyer who was sacked after 16 months in charge of the Blues. A former midfielder, Eustace retired in 2015, having played for the likes of Coventry City, Stoke City, Watford and Derby County.

He started his managerial carrier at non-league Kidderminster Harriers in 2016 and stayed there for two seasons. He went on to join Queens Park Rangers in 2018, becoming assistant manager to former England boss Steve McClaren.

He led QPR on a caretaker basis in 2019 before becoming assistant to Mark Warburton, while also holding an assistant manager role with the Republic of Ireland. He left QPR in June this year, so wasn’t out of work for long before Birmingham came calling. Eustace usually adopts a 3-5-2 formation, with his side patiently waiting for opportunities to pounce on the opposition.


Birmingham bought in two permanent signings this summer with winger Tahith Chong joining from Manchester United after spending most of the previous season on loan in the Midlands, and goalkeeper John Ruddy signing following his release from Wolves.

They have supplemented their squad with six loan signings, with defenders Auston Trusty (Arsenal), Dion Sanderson (Wolves) and Emmanuel Longelo (West Ham United), midfielders Krystian Bielik (Derby) and Hannibal Mejbri (Manchester United) and winger Przemyslaw Placheta (Norwich City) all joining for the season.

Blackpool v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Cameron Smith/Getty Images

Seven players departed St Andrews, with Fran Villalba (Sporting Gijon), Ivan Sanchez (Real Valladolid) and Ryan Woods (Hull) all leaving for a transfer fee. Connal Trueman (Millwall), Kristian Pedersen (FC Koln), Jeremie Bela (Clermont) and Odin Bailey (Salford) all joined their new clubs on free transfers.

Striker Scott Hogan may return from injury in time for Friday’s game, but midfielder Gary Gardner, defenders Harlee Dean and George Friend and winger Przemyslaw Placheta are expected to all miss out through injury.

Expected line-up

Ruddy, Trusty, Sanderson, Roberts, Colin, Longelo, Bielik, Bacuna, Mejbri, Chong, Deeney

Key player

Troy Deeney: Striker Deeney joined Birmingham in August 2021 following his release from Watford. The 34-year-old started his professional career at Walsall in 2006, but had a loan spell at non-league Halesowen Town before making his Saddlers debut. He spent almost four years at Walsall, scoring 27 goals, before making a move to Watford for an initial fee of £250,000.

Deeney went on to become a club legend at The Hornets, spending 11 years at the club, while scoring 140 goals and captaining the side. He joined his hometown club last summer, has scored seven goals since joining and is the current Blues captain. The striker is strong in the air both offensively and defensively.

One to watch

George Hall: 18-year-old midfielder Hall is a product of Birmingham’s youth system and has been at the club since the age of eight. He signed his first professional contract in 2021 and made his debut for the club in January this year. He has since gone on to make 20 appearances for the club and scored his first goal in August this year, at home to Watford.

The highly rated youngster has represented England at under-18 and under-19 level and has recently been linked with a move to Premier League Leeds United. Hall is an athletic box-to-box midfielder who plays in the centre of the park.