MONDAY saw Birmingham City manager Gary Rowett make his final remaining contract decision – deciding not to take up Amari’i Bell’s contract option and releasing the Burton-born left back from the team two weeks after his 21st birthday, writes Daniel Ivery.
With Bell joining Callum Reilly out of the St Andrew’s exit door, only Mitch Hancox remains of the clutch of young players who graduated together from the Blues Academy in 2012.
As with any young player being told that they are not going to make it with the club, there is a tinge of sadness in some quarters.
Bell had made a good impression on loan at Gillingham during his loan spell there at the end of the season just passed and there were thoughts in some quarters that it might be enough to see him given one more year to add to his solitary league appearance for Blues.
Unfortunately, as has been mentioned before in this column, there really is no sentimentality in football and, with Bell becoming an over-age player for Professional Development League purposes, it makes it doubly difficult to continue playing him in the reserves at the expense of another younger player.
Likewise, Bell’s path to the first team seems to be completely blocked. Jonathan Grounds may not be spectacular but he is reliable and, touch wood, seems to be the kind of player who does not get injured often – and that is not counting Hancox who has another year left with the club.
Rowett has made it plain he wants a squad slimmer in numbers with an emphasis on quality rather than quantity and, while a player may have potential, there has to come a time when that potential is realised.
That will quickly become apparent as the new season starts to Liam Truslove, Charlee Adams and Viv Solomon-Otabor, who all enter their final year of automatic eligibility for the PDL team and who will all need to show by the end of the season that they can follow in the footsteps of Demarai Gray and Reece Brown in pushing their way into first team contention.
I have no doubt Bell will make his mark somewhere, probably back in Kent for Justin Edinburgh’s Gills in the short-term, but for me this whole story is the circle of footballing life and one that is sadly bound to repeat for someone else every single close season.