Tag Archives: BCFC

Not good

Birmingham City’s decade did not get off to a good start. They didn’t play well against Wigan and, at times, some of the players who can usually make decent passes seemed to launch the ball into the air without thinking where it might end up. It was a dispiriting game to watch. 

As usual, at half time, there was an announcement about voting for man of the match.  It was hard to think of one but I think if I’d had to choose one, I’d have chosen Kerim Mrabti. He scored our first goal and looked as though he was trying to play. I also felt sympathy for Lukas Jutkiewicz as he seemed to spend a lot of time with a Wigan player holding on to him.

The game is over now, thank goodness, and I’m not going to suggest what should be done. I think Daniel was probably correct when he said that he didn’t think Pep was the problem and that “the problem are the people above him”.  Sacking Pep Clotet might not lead to any improvement in results.  

One bad game is not enough to sever my allegiance to my team. Yesterday’s performance was not the worst Blues performance I’ve seen.  I stayed till the end of our 0-8 loss against Bournemouth in 2014 and that was much, much worse.  I have a ticket for our FA Cup game on Saturday and will be there hoping to see a better game.

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What a game!

Birmingham City scored 4 goals and lost in an incredible game yesterday.  Others will write about what they did wrong but I want to say a few words on what they did right. 

We were playing a game against one of the top teams in the Championship and it was a big game. Leeds brought 1,980 fans and there was a large police presence plus a drone in the sky hovering over the Bordesley Circus roundabout.

I went to the game hoping we wouldn’t be humiliated and we weren’t.  When we went 2 goals down after 21 minutes, I was afraid that we were not going to score and would lose by a large number of goals. But then Jude Bellingham scored, our team started to believe and the game changed. We equalised 3 times.  When Leeds scored their 5th goal in time added on, I was very disappointed but felt proud of the way my team had kept attacking and fought till the end of the game.

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Understanding

Every year I read through a poetry book that contains a poem a day for each day from December 1st to January 6th.  And this will be the third time I’ve mentioned the poem for Christmas eve: In the Days of Caesar by Waldo Williams.  There’s a phrase in it, “naïve with power”, that describes Caesar’s inability to understand something that people with no power had no difficulty in understanding. Like Caesar, the owners of our club have the power to make decisions but there’s a lot they don’t understand about fans.

On December 26th 2015, I wrote a post about the lack of understanding between owners and fans and my desire to have “owners with a willingness to listen to ordinary fans.”  I also hoped that we could finish the year with an away win against Sheffield Wednesday;  we lost 3-0.

On December 26th last year, I wrote about Garry Monk and the way he understood Blues fans, that we wanted “to see players who work hard and give 100%”.  I also wrote that I was looking forward to the game that day; we beat Stoke 2-0.  I don’t understand all that’s happened since then but I’ll always be grateful for the way Monk kept us up and got the fans to back the team on the pitch.

This year, I still think that owners and fans should talk and try to understand each other. But I don’t know how to achieve that. Our owners are the ones with the power and if they don’t want to talk to us, they don’t have to.

I won’t be travelling up to Blackburn today and have the utmost respect for the Blues fans that will be going to the game. As always, I’m hoping for a win and have included a picture of the result of our last game against Blackburn, to remind us that we can beat them.  Whatever happens, I hope the day goes well for our travelling fans and that they enjoy it.

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Thoughts on the WBA game

I went to the game on Saturday hoping we didn’t get beaten by too many goals and came away disappointed that we didn’t manage to hold on for a draw.  Our team played well and scored two goals. But they lacked the quality in finishing displayed by WBA’s Charlie Austin.

There was also an indication that someone at the club was not totally competent. When Blues scored their second goal and went ahead, the scoreboard display assigned the goal to WBA at first and displayed the score as 1 – 2 for a couple of minutes before changing to the correct 2 – 1. It’s not a major error but I find that kind of thing a bit worrying.

But overall, I was glad I’d gone.  There was a good atmosphere with loud vocal support from both sets of fans and my many layers of clothing kept me warm on a very cold day.

I hope all Blues fans have an enjoyable Christmas and a New Year filled with hope.

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Anything can happen

The best team does not always win in football; that’s what makes it so interesting. However, I wouldn’t bet on Birmingham City beating West Bromwich Albion today. I’m just hoping that they don’t score too many goals. This will be the first game I’ve gone to in December as I didn’t go to the QPR game on Wednesday.  I have a season ticket and rarely miss home games but I had something else to do that I thought more important.  It sounds like it was a good game to miss.

I’m glad they have removed the ‘caretaker’ from Pep Clotet’s job title. It sounded so stupid. I have no idea if this means his job is more secure. It probably still depends on results.  Supporters can only support their manager and the team on the pitch. I  hope we support them well today, regardless of our views on who should play and what formation is best.  

My biggest fear for the club is not their performance on the pitch but the indications of a lack of competence in some areas.  They don’t seem to be doing a good job of recruiting volunteer Supporter Liaison Officers and, at some games, their kiosk on the Kop side has not been open.  That seemed to indicate that there weren’t any volunteer SLOs on duty. Daniel has written about their credit scores and said, “The late payment of the CCJ doesn’t strike me as the actions of a company that is acting competently.”  For me, that is more worrying that losing a few games.  

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Thoughts on Fulham and WSC

Craven Cottage is one of my favourite away grounds. The location is great and I can’t think of a pleasanter approach to a stadium than the walk beside the River Thames. Four years ago, Birmingham City won there, 2-5.  I’m not expecting Blues to score 5 goals tomorrow but am hoping for a win. Our home performances have been good so it doesn’t seem unreasonable to hope.

We’ve also signed a new forward, Jérémie Bela. The article about him on the official site says, “Possessing fast feet, pace and good ball control, Bela is a goalscorer as well as goal creator.” I’m not sure if we’ll see him play tomorrow but we certainly need someone who can score goals.

I mainly read football news online but I do buy the When Saturday Comes magazine. It’s a good read and always contains something interesting.  I am reading through Issue 393 at present and have just read about how Haringey increased their crowd. They gave away free season tickets. The chairman argued for this by saying, “It will bring people in, and if they only buy a cup of tea, we’ll make some of the money back.” 

This report put me into daydream mode, in which I decided that if I owned Birmingham City FC I’d give away a few hundred free season tickets to the local residents who live around the ground and are inconvenienced on game days by the crowds, the road closure and bus diversions. My daydreams have grown more ambitious since I first started daydreaming about owning the club after it went into administration following the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. That put the Kumars’ businesses, including BCFC, into receivership. Back then I sat in the upper tier of the old railway end stand and I daydreamed that if I were the new owner I’d make sure there was always a working lightbulb in the ladies loo.

The current issue of WSC includes a plea for help.  Their newsagent sales have declined slightly and their advertising revenue has gone down because they are turning away all gambling ads.  So they need more income and are asking readers who can afford it to join a supporters club and contribute something each month. The Guardian newspaper has been running a similar scheme and is now supported by over a million people around the world. I’m hoping that WSC’s scheme will also be successful. If you have never read WSC, buy a copy and see it you like it.  And if you do read it, ask yourself if you want to help keep it running and if you can afford to join its Supporters’ Club.

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Getting old

Eight years ago, on 13 August 2011, I went to a meeting of Birmingham City fans to discuss setting up a supporters trust. Daniel Ivery had suggested on his blog that might be a better way to react to the club’s problems than waving a slogan on a bedsheet. I got involved with the steering group that set up the trust and have been involved in various ways since then. Most recently, I’ve been the secretary but I stepped out of that role after our AGM on Saturday.

I didn’t leave the job because I’ve given up on the idea of a supporters trust but because I’m slowing down as I get older and it seemed like the right time to hand over to someone else. In fact the fate of Bury FC has reinforced my belief in the usefulness of trusts. It looks as though Bury is going to be liquidated so now there’s a group getting ready to form a phoenix club. In their statement they said, “134 years of history will not die when Bury FC’s last rites are read. Bury FC is alive in every single fan.” Every football club needs to have some group that keeps an eye on the governance and finance and which will step in if things go pear-shaped.

It’s not clear how things are going at Birmingham City; the club still seems to be losing money. We might end up in financial trouble again if we don’t get promoted. Performances and results have improved but nobody can guarantee a top two position for a club. 

It was good to get another win on Saturday.  I had just taken a photo of what I thought was the half time score when Pederson scored a goal in time added on, so I had to take another photo.  Luton’s equaliser was disappointing but I kept hoping that we’d score again and Jutkiewicz did. The final whistle went, Pep Clotet came on the pitch to shake  hands and hug, and I went home happy.

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A few thoughts on the Blackburn game

I went to the game feeling my usual mixture of fear and hope. I had witnessed a great performance in the previous home game against Middlesbrough but long years of supporting Birmingham City made me doubt I’d see another one that evening  I was also worried about Sunjic being suspended and was right to be afraid; the team does not play as well without him.  But they played well enough and the goal was a great team effort with Colin in the right place to head it into the net.  

There were no defensive errors that led to goals. In the warm-up, Lee Camp seemed to spend quite some time practising saving low shots. But there was only one Blackburn shot on target during the game, and that was high and tipped over the bar. The fact that there was only one shot on target was due, I think, to poor shooting by Blackburn and good defence by Birmingham.  Towards the end of the game Blackburn tried desperately to get a goal and that led to a rather nervy end. I wasn’t the only Blues fan who was mightily relieved when the final whistle went.

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Rainbow after the rain

When I set off to go to the game on Friday, I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to go. But, as I was on the bus going to town, I saw a faint rainbow in the sky and that lifted my spirits. I don’t believe that God is a Birmingham City fan and didn’t interpret the rainbow to mean that Blues were going to win. But I remembered that God told Noah that the rainbow was a sign of His promise to all people and thought of other times when a rainbow had encouraged me.

That didn’t stop me worrying during the game. Darren Randolph kept making saves and, until Villalba scored, I was afraid we might not manage to get a ball go past him into the net. I was also worried about Jutkiewicz, who looked tired or injured after some hard tackles. After we went a goal up, I was afraid that Middlesbrough would equalise and sure enough, they did in the 87th minute. Then I spent a couple of minutes in despair that, despite our dominance in shots and corners, we’d failed to hold onto our lead.  Then Odin Bailey scored in the 89th minutes and I only had to worry for 5 more minutes of time added on until the final whistle came.  

It was a fantastic game, with a good performance from our players and from the crowd, with many staying to applaud the team off the pitch.  And Blues are 12th in the table, just in the top half.

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Blame game

We’ve lost three games in a row and some people are discussing who to blame. 

Is it Pep Clotet’s fault and should he go?  Or is Pep just following instructions from Ren Xuandong and should he be the one to go? For me, the most important factor is not who goes out but who comes in and I agree with what Daniel said in his editorial:

“The only way Blues move forward in my opinion is if the owners can realise that the club needs a CEO who knows how football works.
It needs someone who can run the day to day things without pushing experienced staff out due to their temper tantrums and inability to accept advice.”

I don’t think there is much chance of that happening. So, as I go to the game this evening, feeling the usual mixture of hope and fear, I think the fear will be dominant. I really don’t want to watch my team lose their 4th game in a row. I hope that there will be a decent crowd and that they’ll provide some good support.  I feel that’s the only thing you can do while your team is playing; you can only support the team on the pitch even if it’s not the team you would have picked.

It’s been nearly 5 weeks since I last saw Birmingham City play, a  family meet up took precedence over football when we played Preston, and I have thought about not going.  But I go because however bad it is, I feel better suffering surrounded by fellow sufferers than to be home alone listening on the radio. I’ve seen us lose 0-8 at home and it can’t be worse than that, can it?

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Losing is not so bad

Losing a game is not so bad as losing your team. Birmingham’s 3-0 loss at Swansea on Sunday was discouraging but Bury being thrown out of the English Football League (EFL) on Tuesday was devastating. It feels as though the whole system is broken. 

The Guardian editorial on the collapse of Bury expresses how I feel in words more eloquent than I could write. I agree that “football is about more than money” and “That is why the end of Bury Football Club after 134 years is important. Before it was shut, 400 supporters had volunteered to mop and sweep the Gigg Lane ground hoping to show that the true value of their football club cannot be counted in pounds and pennies.”

One thing seems clear to me: the League is not doing a good job of regulating itself. The club statement mentioned the “extreme lack of communication from the EFL”.  That’s why I signed the petition calling for the government to legislate for the creation of an independent regulator for football and subsequently to oversee the implementation of such a body.

I will also support the Football Supporters’ Association call for supporters everywhere to applaud for one minute on the 27th minute of each game in a nationwide display of solidarity for Bury. “Why a minute of applause on the 27th minute? Because on 27th August a football club was expelled from the league for the first time in 27 years. Let’s show that we care and we are angry that this situation has been allowed to happen.“

I wrote a short post about Bury on the Blues Trust website and will finish with my football version of John Donne’s poem that I mentioned in that:

No club is an island, entire of itself; every club is a member of the League, a part of football. Any club’s death diminishes all fans, because we are involved in football. Therefore never send to know for which club the bell tolls; it tolls for you.

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We won

I went to the Barnsley game with low expectations and by half time I felt that Birmingham City might never score another goal. The atmosphere was flat so I wasn’t the only one not impressed by the performance.

The atmosphere improved in the second half.  On 50 minutes the crowd applauded in memory of Richard Burgess, a fan who had died, and that seemed to wake everybody up.  The noise level went up as fans encouraged the team to get into the opposition.  Then Wes Harding crossed to Lukas Jutkiewicz, who headed the ball into the net, and the crowd roared. I’m a pessimist so my first thought was, “I hope we can hold on to the lead for 20 minutes.” A few minutes later, Steve Seddon sent a great pass to Alvaro Gimenez, who controlled it and lobbed the goalkeeper. I relaxed. Jefferson Montero came on for the last 10 minutes and looked good.

I went home happy, the first half forgotten.

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We lost

We lost on Saturday and our performance was not too convincing. Birmingham City didn’t score any goals and Nottingham Forest scored 3. It doesn’t mean that we are going to be relegated; that will depend on what we do in the other 43 games. 

I can tell when something is not working in a game but can’t work out why.  So I’m not going to offer any analysis of tactics or team selection but I’ll note a few random observations.

Seeing Pep Clotet described as ‘Caretaker Head Coach’ on the stadium screen felt weird.

I saw Maikel Kieftenbeld posing for pictures with fans at half time. And I heard that Grounds and Mrabti were in the crowd also. I liked that.

I also liked the way some of our fans started singing after Nottingham’s third goal. Our support was not bad.

It wasn’t the best day I’ve had supporting the Blues but neither was it the worst one. And tomorrow evening, the team has a chance to do better.

(I’m disabling comments on this because I won’t have time to keep an eye on them.) 

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Hope

I can sympathise with Brentford boss Thomas Frank, who said his team did ‘everything’ better than Birmingham City during their 1-0 defeat at Griffin Park. The stats back him up.  Brentford had 76% possession, 15 shots, 3 shots on target, 6 corners and hit the woodwork 3 times.  Birmingham had 1 shot and 2 corners. Birmingham won because their shot went into the goal and none of Brentford’s did. I just listened to the commentary on Radio WM and probably shouldn’t comment on the game, but I will. I think we were lucky.

Pep Clotet’s interviews and comments have been interesting. My impression is that he has accepted the fact that he is not responsible for deciding the system the team will play and he follows the instructions given by Xuandong Ren.  However, he is keen to make it clear that it takes time to change the way a team plays. In an interview after the game he said,

“We want to keep the hard-working mentality of this Club, the defensive organisation. We want to turn into more of a challenger for possession, slowly build that more offensive type of football.
You can either do a major turnaround, or do it slowly. Brentford, the way they play, it didn’t take three months – they did it over a long period. We don’t want to lose the type of Club we are. We want to add to it.”

If Pep accepts the instructions he is given and Xuandong Ren gives him the time and players he needs to make the changes, then we might just have something that will work.  As I said in my last post, there’s always hope.

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Fear and hope

In my last post I wrote that I was looking forward to this season with more fear than hope.  Watching the team get beaten 0-4 by Brighton didn’t change that. Brighton is in the Premier League and is a better team than Birmingham so maybe we shouldn’t be too worried by that defeat. But it did bring back memories of the way Blues attempted and failed to play a different style of play while Zola was in charge.  On the way out of the ground, I looked at the Peaky Blinders photo of our players trying to look like hard men and the expressions on their faces were very similar to those on fans’ faces, looking grim after watching that game.

I’m not the only one who has fears for the season; the When Saturday Comes season guide predicts that “we’ll almost certainly be relegated.”

There is hope too, of course, there’s always hope. Dan Crowley looked good and I hope our other new players will adapt quickly and do well. We didn’t have the best players in the Championship last season but they played well together and we fans felt part of the team. I hope that the new players won’t disrupt that team spirit and that they can all play together as a team. 

Respect to the fans travelling to Brentford tomorrow. I hope they travel safely and see a good game.

Open training pics

Brighton game pics

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