Keep right on is a brilliant football anthem and it expresses a fundamental truth about football: “there will be joys and sorrows too.” And you need to learn to cope with both if you want to survive in football and in life.
For Birmingham City fans, the sorrows came before the joys in the Christmas games. There was little joy in watching us lose 0-4 at home on Boxing Day and the snowstorm in the second half must have made it miserable for the players. The officials obviously thought so as they added just one minute at the end, the shortest time that could be added on, and the referee blew his whistle to end the game before that minute was up.
Fortunately the conditions were better for the game on Sunday; the temperature was barely above freezing but there was no swirling snow to contend with. I wasn’t there but listened to the commentary on Radio WM and it sounded as though in some ways it was similar to the game against Reading. Birmingham scored from three of their chances and Nottingham Forrest only scored from one of theirs; both sides might have scored more. I was so glad that Clayton Donaldson scored; he always works so hard for the team. I hadn’t been sure he’d have anything left to give after his efforts on Boxing Day and thought that Wes Thomas might start instead.
Gary Rowett’s decision to keep the same starting eleven was surprising. I think they must have wanted to play and have the chance to make up for the loss two days earlier. Our players are not the most skilful or consistent in the League but it seems that they do want to play. I think it helps that our manager is not a drama queen; he doesn’t over react to bad losses or good wins. I’m sure that his knowledge of football helps too but a manager needs more than technical expertise. He needs to be able to inspire men to want to go out and try again after they’ve had a bad game. And an important component of Rowett’s man management is his ability to stay calm in both triumph and disaster, to deal with both the joys and the sorrows.