Harlee Dean sets sights higher

Wes Harding and Harlee Dean at Blues new kit and principal sponsor launch
Wes Harding and Harlee Dean at Blues new kit and principal sponsor launch

Defender Harlee Dean says Blues must look to  improve in 2019/20.

Blues were pushing for the Championship Play-Offs before a difficult March culminating in a nine-point deduction derailed their progress.

It meant the team were plunged into a relegation dogfight, which was successfully negotiated, Blues showing ability and mental strength not to let the EFL punishment affect them.

But now, as far as Dean is concerned, Blues have to think bigger and better. Regardless of the circumstances of this season.

At the launch of the Club's new kit and announcement of new principal partner BoyleSports, Dean was asked about the reasonable assumption that Blues were actually nine points better than the final league table showed.

"Yes, but that's irrelevant because the nine points got taken off us," he said. "And if we’d kept them, we wouldn't have been anywhere significant anyway.

"We've got to improve on the season if we're going to do something with this Club."

For Dean, that means targeting the Play-Offs. And with the Championship being so unpredictable, you should never say never.

"Everyone talked about Stoke last season. No one probably thought Leeds would be up there, even though they didn't make it in the end. Norwich, they won the league.

"If you are consistent in this league, then you've got a chance to win it. We've seen that.

"It's the hardest league in the world.

"Obviously, that's what I want to do (aim for promotion) and what the Club wants to do but whether it's realistic or not I don't know. I think you've got to aim high and see how it goes."

The tightness of Blues dressing room was a feature that helped Blues, according to the centre-half.

"The best one I've been in? It is definitely up there. We had a very tight-knit dressing room in the first few years at Brentford and some of the lads we're still best friends now. It was good this season, but I should imagine it will be even better next year."

Dean had to sit out the last two matches after undergoing a hernia operation, once Blues secured their status with the win at Rotherham United.

He had valiantly battled on for several weeks with the issue. And there was no way he was going to have surgery with Blues in the predicament they were in.

"No player plays 100 per cent probably barring one or two games a season. But it's part and parcel of football and I'll never change the way I am.

"I didn't actually want to finish until the end of the season because I'd played every game and it had been a few years since I'd done that. It would have been nice to do that, but the gaffer rightly told me what he wanted me to do (have the operation) and that was it."

Dean is continuing his rehabilitation over the summer in order to be fully fit when Blues report back for pre-season at the end of June.

And during the campaign, a swap to right-side centre-half with Michael Morrison moving to the left, helped him with some pain and stress relief.

"It was really important because I think there were games where I was having to kick the ball with my left to clear it and I felt a sort of stabbing pain.

"You don't want it to be detrimental to the team so the gaffer put the option to us and said he thought it would be beneficial, so we did it."