Former Birmingham City manager Lee Clark believes Wayne Rooney had a ‘bit of a cheap shot’ at his predecessor John Eustace when he questioned the fitness of the Blues players last week.
The Manchester United and England legend is yet to claim a win in his first five games as City manager and has taken just one point during that time. That is a contrast to the Blues form under Eustace, who claimed maximum points from his last two games in charge to leave the club sat just one point and one place outside of the Championship play-off spots.
Rooney’s reign got underway with three consecutive defeats against Middlesbrough, Hull City and Southampton before he claimed his first point with an impressive 2-2 home draw against promotion contenders Ipswich Town.
However, the Blues returned to losing ways in their final game before the International break as former City youngster Jobe Bellingham was on the scoresheet as Sunderland condemned Rooney’s men to a 3-1 defeat at the Stadium of Light.
After the loss in the North East, Rooney seemed to question the fitness of the players he inherited from Eustace, suggesting the international break had ‘come at a good time’ to enable his squad to improve their levels ahead of ‘a tough three or four months’.
Former City boss Clark, who had a two-year reign at St Andrews between 2012 and 2014, believes Rooney’s comments should have been kept in-house and praised the role Eustace had played in a promising start to the season prior to his departure.
He told The Toon Radio: “They got rid of a manager who had the team in a better position that they should have been in terms of the finances, the situation. I know this new ownership had come into Birmingham but they hadn’t invested a lot in the group because they’d missed the transfer window.
“John Eustace hadn’t had huge backing in terms of the Championship and he got the team playing in a specific way. Sometimes it’s alright saying you want your team to play in a certain way but if the players and the group of players can’t do that, you have to do something different in the short-term to get results to through to the next transfer window to let you get players you believe can take on your system and play the way you want to play.
“It’s not as simple as I’ve got this philosophy, I’ll go into club X,Y or Z and I’m going to make them play this way. If the players can’t perform that way, it is difficult. I’ve always been a big believer in if you go into a club and you think the fitness levels aren’t where they should be, keep that to yourself and get the team fit.
“I was a bit disappointed with Rooney’s quotes saying the players weren’t as fit as he wanted them to go on and do what he wanted. It sounds to me as if he’s trying to play a high-pressing game, win the ball high up the pitch and play quick football through the thirds. It’s a little bit of a cheap shot on the previous coach, especially a coach that had them in the top six, batting above where they probably should have been.”
Rooney’s next attempt to claim his first win will come when Birmingham host bottom of the table Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday week.