I didn’t have any great expectations when I went to watch Birmingham City play Leeds on Saturday. That’s probably why I enjoyed it. If you compare our players with Premier League stars they probably seem terrible. I don’t know; I don’t watch Sky or BT. My comparison is with last season and this season is an improvement.
I think 12.15 is a ridiculous time to start a game and the game was on TV so I feared a small crowd and a flat atmosphere. The crowd was small, 15,266, but was the largest home crowd so far this season so seemed ok. The 2,600 Leeds fans boosted the numbers and the atmosphere wasn’t bad.
Brek Shea looks like a useful addition to the team and he helped to set up the chance that Wes Thomas took so well to score and break the goal. The photo of the Leeds fans below shows them mocking the ground staff who struggled to mend the net in front of live TV cameras. Players took a drinks break, chatted to each other and then started kicking balls around while they waited. The clock was showing 45 minutes played by the time the goal was mended and they had 9 minutes of time added on.
Of course I was disappointed when Leeds equalised but it didn’t ruin it for me. The team we have are going to make defensive errors, give the ball away and miss chances; they wouldn’t be playing for us if they didn’t. And referees are not going to give all the penalties that fans think they should. Both teams looked like they wanted to play and it wasn’t boring. Demarai Gray lit up the game when he came on. It’s fun to see young players taking their chances when they get them. And it looks as though we may see more of that; Lee Clark has given a squad number to 15-year-old Josh Martin and recalled Koby Arthur from his loan spell.
On the pitch at half time, they presented a framed shirt to a fan who hasn’t missed a match in 40 years. It occurred to me that he would have been at St Andrews for the Leeds game in 1985. Recalling the crowd trouble and the young man who died that day made me appreciate the lack of trouble this weekend. The young couple sat next to me admitted they were Leeds fans when asked; they behaved impeccably and I enjoyed chatting to them. And on the way out I chatted to a couple in a mixed marriage; she supported Blues and he was a Leeds fan. We all mingled peacefully as we walked back to town. There were a lot of police on duty but, thankfully, they didn’t seem to have anything to do.
The game was not bad.