I hope the Birmingham City players’ preparation for tomorrow’s game has gone well.  I don’t want to see another loss. I can’t do anything about their preparation, but I have been doing some preparation of my own.  I’ve updated my cheat sheet, the list of players.  I’m not sure of all the players names yet and have no idea about many of their numbers so I needed to update.

Click here to download a copy of my cheat sheet.


Losing is not fun.  I can understand why fans leave early when we are losing but it made me sad to see so many people walking out at the Fulham game.  It’s been over 70 years since my dad first took me to a Blues game so I have had plenty of time to get accustomed to the fact that Birmingham City can and do lose some games.  When I did a quick count of relegations on the Wikipedia list of seasons I counted 14 relegations. That may not be accurate but we do get relegated quite often.

It was good to see Troy Deeney score the penalty near the end of the game. Those who left early missed that! I was also encouraged by the fans who stayed to the end, kept singing and clapped the team off the field when the game finished.  (The photo above shows some of them clapping.) Lee Bowyer said in his reaction to the game, “The players are grateful that the fans stayed behind to clap them off – I am grateful for that.”  

I support the Blues whether they win or lose; I appreciate the effort whatever the result. I’m glad I’m not the only Blues fan who feels that way.

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Stress-free Saturday

Over 70 years of supporting the Blues have left me with a tendency to worry before games. I know that, regardless of who we are playing, we could lose.  So Saturday mornings during football season usually find me worrying. But today, I can relax.  I did all my worrying yesterday evening and saw Blues get a win.  Blues went up to 4th in the Championship table.  We’ll probably go down a few places after today’s results but I’m enjoying our elevation while it lasts.

I was glad I went.  It was good to see a crowd in the Tilton, to see Troy Deeney step onto the pitch to play for the first time, and, of course, to see us get the win and a clean sheet.  As Lee Bowyer said in his interview, “clean sheets are not a fluke, it’s hard work.” 

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Maybe I Don’t Belong Here

Yesterday, I read Maybe I Don’t Belong Here by David Harewood.  There were other things I meant to do but I didn’t do them; I became absorbed in the book and read it.

It’s about his life and his experience of psychosis, when his two halves, the black half and the English half, seemed to split. He wrote that at times he was able to fuse the two halves together but occasionally the gap between them was just too big. He discusses how this was related to the racist abuse he’d received.  Black men in Britain are ten times more likely than white men to be diagnosed with a psychotic illness and four times more likely to be sectioned.

David Harewood was twenty-three when he had a psychotic breakdown. His friends decided that he needed to go to hospital; he was restrained by six police officers and transferred to a locked ward.  A couple of years ago, he took part in a TV programme, Psychosis and Me, about what happened to him. And this year, thirty years after the psychotic episode happened, he has published this book about it.  In it he writes, “Writing this memoir has meant taking a hard look at my deepest, darkest moment, understanding my vulnerabilities and being honest about them.” I’m glad he did that as it helped me understand some of the abuse that black people have endured in this country and still have to endure. 

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FA Cup Final Thoughts

I watched the FA Cup Final on TV on Saturday hoping that Leicester would win. It was much easier to empathise with a club that had never won it than with a club like Chelsea. So, I was very happy when Leicester scored and won the Cup.

I also felt envious when their owner came onto the pitch to join in the celebrations, and it was clear that he had a good relationship with the manager and players. Click here to see the video of him on the pitch. That is the kind of owner that I want for my club. I want to know who the owner is, and I want him or her to come to some games. 

The ownership of Birmingham City seems more complicated than that.  There was a change noted at the end of last year, which you can read here on the BCFC website. It says,

“Birmingham City PLC has been notified of the following changes to interests in over 10% of its issued share capital as at 31 December 2020. This information is provided pursuant to the rules of The Football League Limited.
Birmingham Sports Holdings Limited (“BSHL”) owns 61,131,519 shares in Birmingham City PLC representing approximately 75.00% of its total issued share capital.
Oriental Rainbow Limited, a company controlled by Mr Vong Pech, owns 17,637,682 shares in Birmingham City PLC representing approximately 21.64% of its total issued share capital.
Trillion Trophy Asia Limited (“Trillion Trophy”), a company controlled by Mr Suen Cho Hung, Paul, holds 5,425,000,000 BSHL shares representing approximately 30.63% of BSHL’s issued share capital. Trillion Trophy has also acquired a direct interest in Birmingham City PLC of 0.24%.
Dragon Villa Limited, a company controlled by Mr Lei Sutong, holds 3,294,366,000 BSHL shares representing approximately 18.60% of BSHL’s issued share capital.
Ever Depot Limited, a company controlled by Mr Vong Pech, holds 4,539,161,000 BSHL shares representing approximately 25.63% of BSHL’s issued share capital.
Birmingham City Football Club PLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Birmingham City PLC.”

I hope that Mr Vong Pech, Mr Suen Cho Hung and Mr Lei Sutong have all passed the fit and proper person test in order to have part ownership of the club but I don’t know how that is checked.

I am also hoping that the fan-led review of football will lead to some constructive changes. In a press release announcing the terms of reference, it said, “The review will be wide-ranging in nature and will examine the potential for changes to ownership models, governance, how finance flows through the game and how to give supporters a greater say in the running of the game.” 

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Final game

In my last post, before the game with Cardiff, I wrote that I would “not mind if Lee Bowyer experiments with the team and we lose”.  He did experiment, we did lose, and I did mind. But I still think it was the right thing to do.  Before the game with Blackburn, I thought that it was ok for him to experiment again but realised that I would mind if we lost. Before the game Bowyer talked about resting players and his team selection made it clear that the team was experimental. That helped me feel prepared though it felt strange that Bowyer was not there.  I hope that whatever family business kept him away was not too bad and that it ends well.

I felt cheered when Birmingham scored a goal although it was disappointing to only keep the lead for three minutes and to be 2-1 down at half time.  It helped when Jutkiewicz equalised early in the second half, but it was downhill from there as Blackburn scored another three. But I felt better about the game than I felt about our loss to Cardiff.  I think that was because we scored two goals and it did not feel like a team of kids being overwhelmed by professionals.

Now the season is over and the players and us supporters have some time to recover and get ready for next season.  I’m hoping that by then we will be able to go to some games.

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No-fear final game

I don’t enjoy final-game escapes from relegation, so It feels good to be safe with a couple of games still to play.  As I thought about this, following our win against Derby on Saturday, it seemed as though we had had mainly final-game escapes.  But when I checked our games since we were relegated in 2011, I found that we had escaped on the final day of the season four times and had been safe before that six times.  Here is a summary of where we finished in those seasons.

In table
2018-19176458652 (61-9)

I went to all the end-of-season games, except for last year when no crowd was allowed. The results of the final games of the season determined whether Birmingham City would be relegated in the 2013-14, 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2019-20 seasons.

For me, the most memorable of these games was the one against Bolton on 3rd May 2014. The game was goalless in the first half but then Bolton scored two goals and their second was scored by Lukas Jutkiewicz.  When Zigic scored in the 78th minute and we learned that Doncaster was losing to Leicester, hope was revived.  Blues fans started singing “One goal, we only need one goal”.  And Caddis got that goal in the 93rd minute and it was followed by the most incredible outpouring of joy among our fans.

In contrast to that, all I remember feeling after our win at Bristol City in 2017 was exhaustion.  That was probably because Che Adams scored in the 16th minute and we held onto that lead for the rest of the game. I found it hard to believe that we would not concede a goal in the remaining 74 minutes but somehow we managed to hold on and win.

The 3-1 home win against Fulham in 2018 was played in front of a large St Andrews crowd, which made it more exciting. In my report of that I said I was elated and exhausted by that game. 

The situation when we lost 1-3 to Derby on 22 July 2020 was more complicated.  I’ll quote what I wrote in my report before the game, “An EFL statement has said Wigan will have points deducted after their game but that they can appeal. So there is a possibility that we might not know tonight if we are safe or not. If Wigan get 12 points deducted and end up in 22nd place and Birmingham City end up just above them in 21st place, we won’t know if we are really safe until we know if Wigan’s appeal is successful.  If it is successful then I think Wigan would stay up and we would go down.”  But, despite our loss on the last day, we finished 20th and stayed up. The main thing I remember about that game was that it was Jude Bellingham’s last game for us and how sad he looked at the end of it.

I’d like us to win the last two games of the season but will not mind if Lee Bowyer experiments with the team and we lose. It feels great to look forward to the end of the season without the fear of relegation.

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Five reforms and one last chance

This isn’t a post, it’s just a suggestion of what you should read. The first article I’d recommend is one by David Conn in yesterday’s Guardian, entitled After the Super League fiasco: five reforms that could save the game

The five reforms are:

  • Fairer distribution of money
  • ‘Golden share’ in clubs for supporters
  • Supporter representatives on club boards
  • Strengthened and continual ‘fit and proper persons’ test
  • An independent regulator

Also in the Guardian, there’s an article by Andy Burnham: After the Super League fiasco, we have one last chance to reclaim English football. He suggests legislation based on the German 50 +1 principle. It’s also worth reading.

Football on Good Friday

The first time I went to watch football on a Good Friday was in 2015 and I was in two minds about going.  I wrote about that in a post on this blog; I said,

“However, I have decided to go and, on reflection, it doesn’t seem so inappropriate. Good Friday commemorates a public execution where the condemned were mocked as they died. The atmosphere on that day was probably a bit closer to that found at football matches than to the quiet, reverence of Good Friday services. So I’ll be remembering the significance of the day in two contrasting settings: on a prayer walk round Harborne in the morning and in among a less reverent crowd in the afternoon.”

There will be no crowd this evening and this time without crowds has underlined just how important they are to me. I have realized that being part of a crowd is one of the things I enjoy most about going to a football game. I do not understand much about tactics; I can tell when the team are playing well or badly but I cannot analyse why. What I like best about watching is being part of the crowd, feeling that just by being there I am doing my bit to support them. Watching online or listening on the radio just does not give me that feeling.

If you want to know why Good Friday is important for me, then you can read a post that I published in 2013.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

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Losing by three goals to none

Birmingham City lost 0-3 to Bristol City a week ago and that made me feel distraught. We lost 3-0 to Watford on Saturday and I felt bad but not distraught.

I think there are two reasons for the different reactions. The first is that our win against Reading on Wednesday evening awakened in me a strong hope that Blues will not be relegated at the end of this season. We played well against a team near the top of the table and won. That hope did not make me believe that we were going to win every game from now on, but it was strong enough to keep me from despair.

The other reason for feeling better about our loss to Watford is that they are a good team, currently second in the table, and my team did not stop trying. In the Bristol City game, it felt as though my team felt overwhelmed and stopped trying. In Saturday’s game, they kept fighting till the end and did not play that badly.  I do not know if my team will manage to avoid relegation but if they do go down, I want them to go down fighting.

After our loss to Bristol City, I started wondering if this was the time to step back from supporting the Blues.  I was not sure that I wanted to go to games if there was a chance that I would see a performance like that. I’ve seen them lose many times and I can take it, but I do want them to look as though they are trying to win.  Now I want to go back to St Andrew’s to see them play but feel I might step back from some other things. For example, I do not have the patience or the time to oversee comments anymore. So I am going to try not allowing comments and see if that makes looking after this blog feel better.

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Change of manager

In theory I know that there are more important things in my life than Birmingham City FC. But in practice, I do not behave like that.  I spent a lot of Monday and Tuesday, checking to see if there was any new news about the change of manager.  Only when the club finally announced that Karanka had left and Lee Bowyer had arrived, did I manage to stop checking.

An article in the Guardian quotes Lee Bowyer saying, “I’ve got to try and implement what I want very quickly.”  And the result of that implementation might be displayed this evening when we play Reading.  I am hoping that Bowyer can wake up the sleeping giant and that Blues play well and earn a point or three.

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Another goodbye

It has been reported that Aitor Karanka’s departure from Birmingham City will be formally announced this morning. Football is a results business and we have lost the last two games and are hovering just above the relegation zone. I was hopeful when Karanka was first appointed because he seemed to have a good relationship with Xuandong Ren, which I hoped might mean that the rapid turnover of managers would end. But it seems that he was sacked by Wenqing Zhao. 

I must admit that when I saw a picture of Karanka trudging off after the loss to Barnsley, I thought that he looked like a defeated man. He also sounded like one in his post-game interview.  It has been announced that the club hopes to have a replacement by the game on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see who that is.

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Wembley half full, half empty after the Carling Cup Final 2011

Ten years ago

The photo at the top of this post is the one that I used on my very first post on this blog. I had been listening to the 2013 League Cup Final as I set up my website and I wrote that I hoped Bradford fans had stayed to applaud their team, who had lost to Swansea. When Arsenal lost to us, most of their fans left quickly and Birmingham City fans found ourselves in a stadium of two halves. One half filled with Blues fans and the other half almost empty. I hoped that, if we had lost, we would have stayed to thank our team for the effort they had made.

I think that supporting a team means supporting them when they lose as well as when they win.That is why I stayed to the end of our 0-8 loss to Bournemouth in October 2014.  And I was more upset by the many Blues fans who left before the end than I was by the way the team collapsed.

I’m hoping for a decent performance this afternoon and will be delighted if Blues win.  It would be a good way to mark the tenth anniversary of winning the League Cup.

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When Saturday Comes describes itself as “the half decent football magazine”. It is one that I subscribe to and its arrival injects a little bit of happiness into the day.  The March edition also brought a surprise.  It included a report of a Birmingham City game that Birmingham won. The game was our 0-1 win at Middlesbrough.

As well as a description of the game, it included some sympathy for George Friend, returning to his old club with an empty ground rather than a ground filled with fans with good memories of him.  It also commented on Aitor Karanka, saying “the feeling persists that it was the 0-0 draws that pleased him most.”

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I usually comment on a game after it has been played but today I’m writing the first paragraph before the game.  I want to describe my feelings before it starts. As a Birmingham City fan I have learned to cope with defeats. But the 0-8 defeat by Bournemouth was one that left a deep scar. The worst bit was that a large part of the crowd gave up and left before the end. Today there won’t be a crowd of Blues fans to walk out early but we could still lose. And I’ve realized that what I want to see is a better performance that will help to heal some of the hurt I felt back then. According to the 11v11 website  we have played 19 games against Bournemouth and have won 3, drawn 4 and lost 12.  So I am not really expecting us to win today.

Today’s game ended in a loss for Blues but we lost by one goal not by eight.  And we played better with Hogan scoring two goals. And, to me, it felt as though we had a chance of getting another goal right up to the final whistle.  It wasn’t to be but it was so much better than that game in October 2014.

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