Gary Rowett urges relegated Birmingham players to prove they can win promotion

Paik Seung-ho’s 55th-minute winner became irrelevant because of wins for Blues’ drop rivals.

Birmingham manager Gary Rowett hopes the club return to the Championship soon
Birmingham manager Gary Rowett hopes the club return to the Championship soon (Nick Potts/PA)

Interim manager Gary Rowett has challenged Birmingham’s players to prove they have what it takes to lead the team back to the Sky Bet Championship after they were relegated despite securing a 1-0 win over Norwich.

Paik Seung-ho’s 55th-minute winner became irrelevant because of wins for rivals Sheffield Wednesday, Plymouth and Blackburn at Sunderland, promoted Leicester and Hull respectively.

It means Blues will be playing in the third tier for the first time in 30 years after 13 seasons in the Championship and four last-day brushes with relegation in the last 11 years.

“There are some players that it would be great if they had the responsibility to say, ‘I’m going to stay to get this club back into the Championship’,” said Rowett, who will now leave the club as manager Tony Mowbray recovers from a health problem.

“I think sometimes it’s easy for people to look at the exit door and look for the easy way out.

“Maybe that’s something players need to look at.

“Hopefully Tony comes back to get the club back into the Championship.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity if they make the right steps and do it the right way, I believe.”

Rowett is Birmingham’s sixth man in charge at St Andrew’s this season after John Eustace, Wayne Rooney, Steve Spooner, Mowbray and his assistant Mark Venus.

He believes consistency in performance has been a problem for the team, who were sixth when Eustace was sacked.

“Sometimes it’s easier on a last day when you’ve got to do it,” said Rowett.

“It’s more difficult if you’ve got to do it on a Wednesday night in November somewhere when the weather’s not so nice when it doesn’t feel like it matters so much.

“That’s probably why the team is in the position it’s in.”

Despite the odds being stacked against Birmingham, Rowett admitted he was surprised with the outcome.

“It’s incredibly disappointing. We did our side of our bargain but I felt we’d get a result somewhere in our favour,” he added.

“You look at these last-day moments or last-day goals and in the end it didn’t really seem like there was anything going on out there.

“I was pleased with the performance and the atmosphere was probably the best I’ve ever heard before the game – it was absolutely electric.”

Norwich will play Leeds in the play-off semi-finals and City manager David Wagner is delighted with the turnaround since last season.

“It’s fantastic – we have done a job over 46 games, something which we had as a target since the beginning of the season. To confirm it is top class,” he said.

“Everyone knows where we came from last autumn (17th) so it’s an absolutely unbelievable achievement.

“This is what everyone worked so hard for and now we’re part of the most exciting three weeks of the season.”

Wagner has no issue with his side not being expected to reach the Premier League.

“It’s no problem to say we are the underdogs and they are the favourites,” he said.

“But it’s a new competition now and every team has a 25 per cent chance of success.”

Wagner famously got Huddersfield promoted through the play-offs and revealed some lessons he has learned.

“I would say I have learned that the opposite counts – momentum does not count as I think we only won two out of our last eight games at Huddersfield, and being favourites does not count,” he added.