Tribal Football

Gary Rowett exclusive: Special Birmingham connection; Everton hopes; My England regret

Gary Rowett exclusive: Special Birmingham connection; Everton hopes; My England regret
Gary Rowett exclusive: Special Birmingham connection; Everton hopes; My England regret
Gary Rowett exclusive: Special Birmingham connection; Everton hopes; My England regretFlashscore
Rowett, who also spent two years in Birmingham's back four, was welcomed back by the St Andrew's support after the newly-appointed Tony Mowbray was forced to step away due to health issues. Mowbray had only been weeks into his new post after succeeding the sacked Wayne Rooney.

For Rowett, who's remit for the moment is to June, Birmingham is much changed since the last time he was manager. The new ownership structure isn't a year old and they're desperate for Rowett to keep the club up before reassessing things in the summer.


Just days before agreeing to take the interim manager's post, Rowett spoke with about his time in management, his beginnings and also his successful playing career - which included Premier League stints with Everton, Leicester City and Charlton Athletic.

Gary, you've achieved something almost unique - playing and managing three different clubs. Was that just coincidence?

"I think it's always easy to return to a club where you have played at and you have an emotional connection with that club and the fans.

"So taking the Birmingham City case, I played there for two years and I was able to achieve really good performances going back as a coach when the team was struggling. You have that connection with the fans and of course, you have to get results - win games - and be successful. But if you do, it feels different compared to other clubs.

"Also, Derby and Burton were the same. Different clubs with different histories, but I think it is easier when you have that connection with the club due to your experience as a player.

"I found it easier to go back... but I am running out of these clubs so that is a problem for me!"

What about Birmingham? Fans still talk about you there...

Yeah it's been very difficult for them this season, they have had a typical Championship season when you make some coaching decisions and it goes wrong and you lose continuity.

"That feeling of continuity is very important in the championship. In this league, you need to have continuity and the same message or playing style for a long time to achieve success. Now the coach is ill and I will say that I hope Tony (Mowbray) gets better soon."

You know all about the Championship, just how tough a league is it?

"The Championship is probably the most competitive league in the world. It may sound silly to say it, but if you look at Eredivisie, at Ligue 1, La Liga, and Serie A there are 4-5 teams that stand out and the others are mid-range. Instead, in the Championship you can see that every weekend teams at the bottom win against the so-called big teams without a problem. This season you have Leicester, Leeds, Ipswich, and Southampton fighting for the top two spots and you have 10 teams fighting out for the play-offs so it's a very competitive league."

You've coached some great talent up and down the Football League. Who stands out?

"Very difficult because I have worked with so many good players. I would mention John Mousinho, who is doing very well as a coach at Portsmouth, and people like Michael Morrison, Maikel Kieftenbeld... also Tom Huddlestone and Curt Davies. As I told you I can mention lots of names because I have been very lucky to train lots of very good players."

What about your playing career, Gary? You had some great highs in the Premier League...

"It's difficult to respond to it because each club has a unique atmosphere, and every club teaches you something. I think Derby was a good period for me because we went into the Premier League and we were 4th for a long time that season. We beat Arsenal 3-0, we drew 2-2 with Manchester United so we had really good performances and results.

"Probably the most difficult experience was when I went to Charlton, which back then was a mid-table club in the Premier League and I was 28 became the captain of the club and had the chance to play for England. But in that period I got injured and never recovered... I ended up retiring at 30 years old."

Along with Derby, you had two years with Leicester...

"It was a really good experience for me, I was there when the club had just won the League Cup and qualified for Europe. We played against Red Star Belgrade in the qualifying round, and it was a great experience for me to play in this European competition.

"I played in every match of that first season so personally and as a team it was a really good. The next year I got injured and the team struggled for different reasons, in that time the club wasn't the club in that dimension when they won the Premier League but they were building to achieve that dimension.

"It was quite incredible for me to see them winning the Premier League, so I enjoyed my time at Leicester and it was a good experience for me."

You spent time as a young player at Everton. But what about today and their points penalty battle. Can they stay up?

Yeah very difficult season for them, I know (Sean) Dyche and I felt Everton needed that type of manager to try and drag them out of the relegation zone. I think he has done a very good job until now despite all the difficulties with the changing of the owners, and the points reduction.

"I think they have enough qualities, cohesion, and togetherness to stay out of the relegation zone. But I think the club needs to get back to the level they have been known for because I think Everton should be a top 10 side."

And across Merseyside we see Jurgen Klopp stepping down at Liverpool...

"I think the obvious one is Xabi Alonso, I have seen his team this season and they have been impressing not only regarding the results but also their performances, their style of play. For me, it is the obvious fit because Xabi has played for the club, has won for the club, and understands the fans and what it means to Liverpool despite being slightly different from Klopp in his playing philosophy.

"For me it is exciting to see who will take that role because it is not easy to replace a coach like Klopp."

What about the Premier League title race overall?

"I think its a very exciting season this year, you have three teams fighting for the title like Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal and all are very strong. Liverpool with the news of Klopp leaving makes them stronger, City is always very strong and hard to beat, and Arsenal are closer this year to win it.

"Then you have another battle for the top 4 with teams like Villa, Tottenham, and (Manchester) United fighting for that spot. It's a very strong league, we have some of the top coaches in our country, and it is and will be until the last minute an exciting season."

And then we're off to the Euros. What about England's chances in Germany?

"England has some terrifically talented players at the moment, the coach has a really good squad to choose from and I think Gareth (Southgate) has done a really good job during his time with the national team.

"There was a time when people wouldn't put England amongst the favourites to win the competitions but now thanks to Gareth's work England is one of the 5-6 favourite teams to win every tournament they take part in.

"We have come very close to winning it, but still haven't managed to get it yet and I think England should win a tournament to validate this period under Southgate. I think we have made great progress in recent years and I am interested to see if Southgate wants to continue or if he wants to try an experience as a club football coach because I think he will get very important offers in that case."