Scott Hogan failed to answer his own Birmingham City riddle

Scott Hogan celebrates scoring for Birmingham City against West Bromwich Albion -Credit:Tony Marshall/Getty Images
Scott Hogan celebrates scoring for Birmingham City against West Bromwich Albion -Credit:Tony Marshall/Getty Images

It took Scott Hogan just two minutes to show Birmingham City fans they need have no concerns about his Second City allegiance.

Signed from Aston Villa, where he had struggled to make any meaningful impact, he’d been summoned back from a loan with Stoke City and reallocated to Pep Clotet’s Blues.

A 27-year-old Hogan had just a handful of training sessions with his new team-mates when Nottingham Forest arrived at St Andrew’s and stunned his new public with his pace, energy and bristling intent.

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Lukas Jutkiewicz flicked the ball on into the Main Stand/Tilton corner but Tobias Figueiredo was an 80-20 favourite to get there first. No-one told Hogan, who flew past the defender, picked his pocket and fed Jude Bellingham.

Ten minutes later he won a header in the centre circle and found Jutkiewicz. A few minutes after that Hogan threw himself headlong at a Jeremie Bela cross only to see his attempt blocked. Just before half time he snaffled a debut goal.

Che Adams’ bristling successor had been sourced from them lot up the road and he would leave the pitch that day to a standing ovation.

Four years, 158 appearances and 36 goals later the 32-year-old leaves St Andrew’s a shadow of that player and as one of the most frustrating and at times no doubt frustrated players of recent vintage. To say his Blues career tailed off is an understatement.

He made only 11 starts last season and scored only one goal. None of the five selectors who succeeded John Eustace seemed to trust him. Wayne Rooney started him once, Tony Mowbray twice and Gary Rowett not at all.

By the time Blues limply relinquished their Championship status Scott Hogan was not even in the match-day squad. At a time when Blues needed a hero, Hogan was not considered to be that man.

Which brings to an end a rollercoaster career in the Royal Blue, one which featured potent goal-filled sequences and long barren spells. Xuandong Ren, who saddled the club with an onerous four-year contract, should have known that was the most likely trajectory.

Indeed Blues had seen both sides of Hogan even before the former executive handed him a four-year deal. Lethally brilliant before lock-down when as a loan player he plundered seven goals in his first nine games from probably not too many more chances, limp and impotent when football resumed, goalless in nine. As Clotet left and Blues failed to understand the concept of Project Restart, so too Hogan’s performances drooped.

Speaking shortly afterwards Hogan said: “I’ll be honest I was a bit annoyed the way it was going after lockdown, what was going on around the manager, it didn’t bode well. I will say I got really annoyed I am probably not the only one, fans and obviously the board, players and stuff like that. It just fell apart.” You weren't Scott.

Blind to that Ren was intent on bringing him back permanently, supported by Aitor Karanka who insisted he had ‘waited a month’ for Hogan to commit. The Spaniard would wait for more than a month for his new striker to find the back of the net again – a consolation in a 3-1 home defeat to David Brooks-inspired Bournemouth. He would score only four more before Karanka was replaced by Lee Bowyer.

Lee Bowyer
Lee Bowyer talks to Scott Hogan and Lukas Jutkiewicz -Credit:PA

The former Blues midfielder was never fully convinced by Hogan and would question aspects of his game including the group-think that he was an instinctive finisher. However, it would be wrong to brush over the fact that in the first half of Bowyer’s one full season, Hogan played regularly and bagged ten goals, despite being asked to operate in positions other than his favoured role through the middle.

Even then Bowyer was particularly unhappy with his display in the 3-0 home loss to Forest in October 2021 claiming Hogan gave the ball away ‘like not a care in the world’, only to publicly praise him the following week. As the 2021/22 season drew to a close Hogan would be in and out of the team and ended the campaign without a goal in 13 – but having regained his place in the Republic of Ireland set-up.

Bowyer was replaced in slightly farcical circumstances by John Eustace in the summer of 2022, a head coach who had worked with him at international level and who never, ever singled out players for criticism, at least not publicly.

Later that summer Hogan would give some insight into his relationship with Bowyer when he told Blues TV. “No matter what I did it was never right, I went into game thinking defensively, I've never done that in my life. I missed chances last season but I've missed chances all my career but didn't get the reaction I used to get.”

Eustace threw his support behind a player he knew he would need. Jutkiewicz’s ability to play 46 lots of 90 minutes – and the club’s inability to recruit striking support/competition - would make him a key player. He made 30 starts, plus seven appearances off the bench and scored ten goals under Eustace.

Perhaps the highlight of his Blues career came in September 2022 when he savaged Kyle Bartley and West Bromwich Abion for a sensational hat-trick. The impudence of his third goal spoke volumes about his burgeoning confidence and saw Bartley booed off by his own fans. Even then it was a flash, he would end that season without a goal in 14.

Birmingham City players celebrate Scott Hogan's goal against West Bromwich Albion
Birmingham City players celebrate Scott Hogan's goal against West Bromwich Albion -Credit:Tony Marshall/Getty Images

And so to his fourth and final campaign as a Blue.

Once more, even with Jay Stansfield for competition, he was Eustace’s first choice, albeit one who scored just one goal – and even then against Plymouth he was upstaged by the Fulham loan player.

Rooney watched him for 70 minutes in his first game at Middlesbrough and didn’t start him again. He produced an effective, hungry performance in Mowbray’s opening match – but his display in a 2-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday in February would be the last time he was named in a Royal Blue starting XI.

This time his season ended with a 24-game goalless run and ten in which he was not even summoned from the bench.

Karanka and Ren’s conviction has looked badly misplaced for some time.

As ever it takes two to make things work – a manager and a player – and Hogan admitted that much in February 2021, when he had scored a brace in a 3-2 loss at Bournemouth and did post-match interview duties and said: “Playing regular games helps me, it always has, playing games back to back the more you will get from me and the more goals I will score.

“That falls on me to make sure the manager doesn’t change it and sticks with me. It’s up to me. I have said it many, many, many times and probably have said it consistently throughout my career, the more games I play the more goals I will score.”

Therein lies the feast/famine, pre-lockdown/post-lockdown enigma that was Scott Hogan's Birmingham City career. Play him, he scores, until he doesn't.

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