RR: Much has been said about the potential transfer of Jobe Bellingham to Sunderland in the media, so at this stage we’re expecting it to be completed at any moment. Before we get into the bones of the matter, please just give me your initial reaction to the news that he could be heading to Wearside...
Blues Focus: Well firstly our fanbase already knew about his ties with Speakman and Dodds but initially fans were divided as it looked like he could have just been there for a day out with familiar faces.
But, of course, that seems to be way off the mark thanks to Mr Fabrizio.
Since his Twitter announcement I and many fans have accepted the fate of young Jobe’s future and if he believes Sunderland can develop him better than we can I can’t complain that he wants to move on and Blues fans won’t feel to disheartened as we haven’t really seen him be a shining light his brother was at the same age.
RR: I first heard Jobe’s name as a potential Sunderland signing way back when Kristjaan Speakman left St Andrews to become our Sporting Director. Much has been made about the relationship that Mike Dodds has with the Bellingham family too. Why do you think they’ve been courting him for so long?
Blues Focus: I think it’s more to do with their ties to the Bellingham family as a whole rather than Jobe himself. Of course, Dodds was a huge part in Jude’s development and so it does make sense why the family may want to reignite that relationship with Dodds and Speakman. Obviously he’s still very young so any decision has to come from his family first and foremost.
RR: Obviously, the Bellingham name carries a degree of prestige in football these days... how do you see the reputation of his brother impacting the direction of Jobe’s career?
Blues Focus: I think there is a lot of eyes on on him. Since coming into the first team there’s obviously been that pressure on him to perform in the championship so early on in his career. His name carries a lot of weight so there’s no doubt he will go on to have a great career but to reach the same dizzy heights his brother has is another matter. There’s pros and cons but maybe him moving on to another club now may alleviate that unnecessary pressure.
RR: The rumoured fee is £300,000 rising potentially to £3m depending on a variety of factors. Are you happy with the fee that Birmingham are set to receive? Does it represent a decent deal or do you think you’ve been sold short?
Blues Focus: I think because we haven’t seen much of him in the first team £3million is a fair deal. However, because of his name I think he’s worth more just because of his potential. That being said I think it’s a fair deal for all parties as if he and his family want to move on from Blues I think there will be zero animosity from the club or the fans. I’m a firm believer in having players who 100% want to be at the club, and if Jobe has got in the back of head he wants a move, he won’t be able to perform to his best.
For that alone, I think it would be time for him to move on...
RR: At 17 year old, Bellingham is only really at the start of his journey. What has been your initial impression of his ability in the limited amount of starts he’s had in your first team?
Blues Focus: His ability to keep the ball is very Jude-esque. His size for such a young lad is also very reminiscent of when Jude was starting at Blues.
We all know how physical the championship is and he’s been able to go toe to toe with everyone he’s played against towards the end of the season.
Although he hasn’t set the world alight yet, he’s shown how composed he is with the ball and maybe if he started more games we would start to see him express himself more which his brother did almost instantly. I think he’s more suited to an attacking role rather than a box to box midfielder as he’s always looking to pass into space and ignite an attack.
RR: Sunderland are renowned for giving young players proper first team opportunities, so there’s no doubting that Jobe will be a fixture in Tony Mowbray’s side next season. Is he ready to play regular football in the Championship?
Blues Focus: I think he’s more than ready. Many fans would argue he isn’t but with a solid pre-season under his belt I think playing week in week out won’t be a problem for him as he looked very match fit in the run of games he played in. However, finding his preferred position may be a big task for Mowbray.
RR: What sort of midfielder is he?
Blues Focus: Jobe is very technically sound and has always been comfortable on the ball. Utilised in the number ten role, Jobe has been outstanding in games he’s played and does the dirty work very well and controls the game several times.
RR: What would you say his biggest strengths and weaknesses are as a midfielder?
Blues Focus: At Millwall (only his second Championship start), Bellingham was at the heart of Blues’ best attacking moves. It was a skilful, mature performance and there is so much for him to build on. I’d say his biggest strengths are being able to keep the ball at his feet with ease, his ability to slow the game down and link the midfield to attack very well.
His weaknesses would be his defensive work - his tackling could be worked on but I’m sure he’ll get there when managed well.
RR: What would you say to any Sunderland fans who aren’t sure about this signing?
Blues Focus: He’s never going to be as good as his brother and that’s a fact. To expect him to have Jude’s career would be wrong. He is only just starting to make his mark and his performances towards the latter stages of the season are just the beginning. With one or two seasons of first team football in the championship he’ll no doubt be one of the hottest prospects in his age group. Until then fans will need to be patient and hopefully they can start to reap the rewards of sticking with him.