Clotet predicts big future for rising star Bellingham
The 16-year-old forward scored the winner in the 2-1 victory over Stoke.
Pep Clotet hopes the biggest day of Jude Bellingham’s fledgling career is just the first of many.
The 16-year-old was thrown into his first home Sky Bet Championship match as a first-half substitute for Jefferson Montero and responded by scoring Birmingham’s winner.
Four minutes after Lukas Jutkiewicz had cancelled out Liam Lindsay’s opener Bellingham bagged his first senior goal and condemned Stoke to another defeat.
The winning goal left Birmingham caretaker head coach Pep Clotet looking to the future.
“He came and played on the level of the team,” Clotet said.
“This summer he has matured a lot with the first team, he made his debut in the cup and had a few minutes at Swansea last week.
“As soon as the option was there he was ready for it and he took it. He scored a goal that has given us the three points but he is very well-grounded and he will keep working hard because it is his hard work that has given him the chance today.
“The fact he did that for us in front of our fans is a memorable day.
“He is quiet, he is very professional in his football, he is a confident lad in his ability but he is someone you can talk to, he is very mature as well.
“I think his goal should be to try to get established in this squad and play as many times for the club he loves.
“I know that the fans might give me a little bit of stick if I don’t start him every game but I need to think of him and these young players cannot handle the same physical pressure of training and games as the more senior players.
“My priority is always to protect him – today was the right game for him – I hope he has a lot of right games for him.”
It did not look like being one when Lindsay opened the scoring in the 58th minute.
That finally brought a response from Birmingham, who not only equalised but turned the game on its head.
Jutkiewicz powered a header past Adam Federici in the 73rd minute. Then Bellingham advanced on goal and watched as his scuffed drive flicked off a defender and wrong-footed the Stoke goalkeeper.
Nathan Jones bemoaned his side’s fate, saying: “We have to change our luck, we were the better side up until we scored, we hit the post and then we seemed to lose all control of the game.
“Apart from Preston and Leeds we have probably been the better side in every game but we have got no points for it.
“We have changed shape – given the players a little bit of what they have wanted and we have still got no result and that’s a frustrating thing.
“We feel they are a little bit more used to playing with wider men rather than playing with a diamond system but it’s the same result.
“The chairman will see the same as me because he is an educated guy but you can’t continue like this – you can’t continue losing games. We have to change the momentum.
“But nothing is going for us at the minute and that’s the frustrating thing.”