I went to St Andrews on Friday evening, for the event organised by Blues Collective. It had been advertised as a Question and Answer session with Paul Devlin, Geoff Horsfield, and Michael Johnson but Kevin Francis was a surprise addition to the line up on the night. One thing that came over loud and clear was that they all still felt they had a connection with Birmingham City and its supporters. They care about the mess the club is in. It was also clear that if they had the job of signing players for the club, they would be looking for some with heart and grit who would give 110% every game.
They didn’t agree on everything. When someone asked if they would recommend that fans buy season tickets, Michael Johnson said yes, he would. He said the young players need our support and it’s the staff who work behind the scenes that will suffer if no money is going into the club. Paul Devlin disagreed and said that fans could force the issue by not going to games.
The players were happy to answer all questions asked and gave their views on various players and managers; they also gave an account of the battle of Ancona after the Anglo-Italian cup tie there in 1995. They chatted during the breaks in the Q&A sessions and posed for photos. I fear that many of the young players today will be not be able to connect with fans in the relaxed way that former generations can. The modern game has changed and there is a gulf between fans and footballers in the top tiers; contracts and salaries are more important that connection with club and supporters.
The modern game has also affected the connection between owners and clubs. More and more clubs are being taken over by owners who have no previous relationship with the club they buy. This doesn’t always lead to disaster, for Manchester City it led to a Premier League title, but it has created problems and instability at many clubs including Birmingham City. And, worse still, the ownership situation is driving some of our fans away and loosening their ties with the club. And without fans the club is nothing.