Tag Archives: Birmingham City F.C.

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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WSC

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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Bournemouth

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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Why?

There are so many things I don’t understand that I often find myself asking Why? I don’t even understand myself and why I do some things. For example, why do I pay to watch Birmingham City games on Blues TV, even though I know that I could be signing up for 90 minutes of misery? 

I know why I buy a season ticket and go to games. It is because I enjoy feeling part of the crowd and I feel that I am doing something just by being there. I’m showing my support. Even if the game is terrible, I like chatting to the people who sit by me. But sitting at home by myself to watch a screen doesn’t feel like supporting my team. It doesn’t make any difference to them whether I watch or not.  One thing I do know, is that I’ll be watching Blues play Wycombe Wanderers tomorrow night. If we win, I’ll be glad I watched but I’ll be miserable if we play badly and lose.

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We won a game

I’m a fortunate Birmingham City fan because I have learned to recover from my team losing games. A few hours after a loss, I remember that it is only game and don’t dwell on any of the details of how we lost.  But the good feeling after a win remains for days, sometimes weeks.

This time after our win on Saturday feels a bit different. I feel happy about it, of course, but I also feel a little dazed, maybe because it seems a bit too good to be true.  That could be because I just listened to it on Radio WM and didn’t see the whole game. I saw the video clip of our goal on Twitter and watched it several times but didn’t see any of our moves that went wrong.  I just saw a very good goal without seeing all the things that didn’t work.  I’m not complaining about that. I hope that the goal has restored Scott Hogan’s confidence and that we can look forward to some more wins.

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Bank Job

While I was listening to Birmingham City’s game yesterday evening, it felt as though football was the most important thing in the world.  But when I calmed down after the terrible 0-4 loss, I knew that football, for me, is just the most important of the non-important things. I hope that, if I was able to choose between Birmingham winning the Premier League or Covid‑19 being abolished, that I would choose to end the pandemic rather than put Blues on the pinnacle.

Sooner or later the Covid-19 pandemic will end but when it does there will be many people left burdened by debt. I’ve just read Bank Job by Hilary Powell and Daniel Edelstyn, which is about debt. They explain why they feel the system is unfair. When banks got into trouble in 2008, the government bailed them out.  But people who get into debt do not get bailed out

The book describes how they moved into an old bank in Walthamstow and printed their own bank notes, which they sold to collectors. They raised £40,000, gave half to local causes and used the other half to buy local debt on the secondary debt market. They then abolished that debt and, to symbolise this, they blew up a transit van containing some of their bank notes.

It is an interesting, thought-provoking book.  It includes a quote from Fanny Malinen describing the Covid‑19 pandemic as a dress rehearsal for the future.  That made me wonder what the post pandemic world will be like. It could give us an opportunity to change some things, but will we?

There is a film of Bank Job, due to be released next spring.  Click here to read more about it. There is also a Guardian article with a picture of the van being blown up.

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Happy Christmas?

Whether or not you have a happy Christmas depends on what you base your happiness. If it depends on Birmingham City doing well then it may be time you changed your allegiance to a more successful team. One thing I have learned in over 70 years of supporting the Blues is how to recover from defeats and not to base my feelings on football.  Though, I must admit that recovering from the defeat by Middlesbrough took longer than usual.

If you were happily looking forward to a family reunion and your plans have been cancelled due to the change in what is allowed, then you have my sympathy.  I hope that it won’t be too long before you can spend time with family and loved ones.

As a Christian, my happiness at Christmas is based on celebrating the coming of Jesus to earth. I can celebrate Christmas regardless of any restrictions.  Whatever you believe, I hope that you can find something to be happy about now and that you still have hope for a better year in 2021. 

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Project Restart

I have just read Project Restart: From Prem to the Parks, How Football Came Out of Lockdown. It includes case-studies of how nine teams fared during lockdown: Burnley, Swansea, Tranmere, Forest Green, Solihull Moors, Royston Town, Northumberland Park, Stonewall and St Albans City Girls. These were chosen to represent a spread of clubs from the Premier League down to grassroots football.  They were also chosen from the clubs that the author could get information on; many football media teams were inaccessible.

He writes about the contrast between communicating with people at the higher levels of the game and those lower down. Attempts to talk to those at higher levels usually came to nothing.  But when it came to Zooming and phone calls to those from lower levels he says, “my only function was to sit back and listen as they told me about their achievements, plans and ambitions . . . what they had in common was an enduring love of the game and what it can do for people.”

The author, Jon Berry, is a Birmingham City supporter so he mentions that club too. In the chapter on Solihull Moors he writes about Darren Carter and his decisive penalty that took Blues up to the Premier League. Jon Berry believes that football is one of the most important of the unimportant things. Reading his book is like chatting to another fan and it is a good book to read if you are missing football conversations.

Jon Berry writes about hope; hope for next season; hope that the Covid-19 restrictions will end.  He says, “And that hope, among talk of second waves and localised lockdowns, might just be one of the reasons that football really is important.”

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Hope

I hope that Birmingham can play well and get a result on Saturday but I wish we were not playing Bournemouth.  The last time we played a League game against them at St Andrew’s was on October 25, 2014, and it was the nightmare game that we lost 0-8. Unlike many others, I stayed until the end of that game and it left a mental scar that will probably remain as long as I live. 

I can imagine bouncing back and getting a win against almost any other team but when I think of Bournemouth, I just remember watching my team trudging off the pitch, completely dejected and defeated.

I do expect us to perform better in tomorrow’s game.  The team is in a better state than it was in 2014.  Back then, Lee Clark had left, Gary Rowett hadn’t arrived and there were two caretakers in charge: Richard Beale and Malcolm Crosby. Now we have an experienced head coach, Aitor Karanka.  Whether we win, draw or lose I don’t expect our team to collapse as it did in October 2014.

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Two wins and three departures

We won two games last week and are in the top half of the table.  I’m struggling to believe it and have to keep checking to make sure it’s true.

The timing was different but the goal scoring order was the same in both games. Birmingham City scored first, then the other team scored and then we scored another goal and won.  My thoughts were similar in both games. We’ve scored, great, but can we hang on to the lead?  They’ve scored; can we hang on for a draw?  We’ve scored again; ref, please blow the final whistle now; why is the time going by so slowly? 

I do believe that Aitor Karanka, given time, will get our team playing more successfully. But I find it hard to believe that Blues will win the game I’m actually watching.  That is why I chose Puddleglum as a nom de plume; he’s a character in a children’s book who always expects the worst: enemies, floods and dragons.

The off the field news from Birmingham City was not so good.  An article by Brian Dick confirmed that three experienced members of staff had left the club:  Colin Tattum, head of media and communications;  Rita Greenaway, first team PA, and Suzanne Smith, erstwhile PA to the board and club coordinator.  I wish them well and think they will be missed. A Tweet by Panos Pavlakis said, “When it comes to Blues as an organisation, Tatts, Rita and Sue were three of the most trustful, reliable, switched on and straightforward persons I came across during my time there … shocking news for me tbh”

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Here we go again

I have to admit that I feel nervous about today’s game with QPR.  As always, I think anything could happen and if we end up losing our third game in a row then I’m going to feel miserable. 

Even if we do lose, I won’t despair completely. I believe that Aitor Karanka is working on a long term plan and that it will bring us stability and safety eventually.  It will take time to get all the players  we need and to work our way up the table and I believe that he should be given that time.  And if he is allowed to continue for two or three seasons, I do believe that we’ll see an improvement in performances and results.  My prediction for this season is that we won’t be in danger of relegation at the end of it.

I’ll be watching the game online and hoping we will get something from it.   I do know that football is just a game and that losing is not really an enormous tragedy but I don’t remember that during a game. It take me about a couple of hours to calm down after a bad game.  But if the team plays well and gets a result, the good feeling lasts the whole weekend.

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Will the pyramid collapse?

It is not unusual for my feelings about football to oscillate between fear and hope. What is unusual this season is that most of the hope is related to my own club, Birmingham City, and the fear is about football in general.  I came across a headline of an article recently that asked, “Football pyramid on the brink of collapse?” and that’s what I have been worrying about.

Here’s a chart of the top of the pyramid that I took from the Wikipedia article on the football league system. (Note that the Pyramid Image is by Simon Steinberger from Pixabay)

The Premier League was launched in September 1992 and the money from the Sky TV rights did not have to be shared with the clubs in the English Football League (EFL). People from the lower divisions and some League officials were against this breakaway. In his book The Beautiful Game, David Conn includes a quote from Gordon Taylor saying,

“The FA is trying to diminish the Football League and with it most of the professional clubs in this country. Its blueprint is a way for the leading clubs to seize virtually all the money, leaving the remaining clubs to wither and, for some, die.”

It feels as though the dying is starting to happen. Bury FC were expelled from the EFL and Macclesfield Town were wound-up.  Other clubs will struggle without gate receipts.  When giving evidence about the impact of coronavirus, EFL Chairman Rick Parry said it was “difficult to answer” how many might go out of business.

This makes me sad because I think of football clubs as community organisations and part of the glue that holds society together. I support my team because they are my team, not because they play the best football. I went and watched them play when they were in Division 3. I also think that the football pyramid helps to provide players for the top clubs and if there were fewer lower level teams then fewer talented players would be discovered.  That’s why the idea that the pyramid might collapse worries me.

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Thinking like a Norwegian

There was a very interesting article in the Guardian on Saturday, about how the inhabitants of Tromsø, in Norway, cope with living in a city which does not see the sun from mid-November to mid-January.  It seems that they cope with it well because of their mindset. The article said: 

“People who see stressful events as “challenges”, with an opportunity to learn and adapt, tend to cope much better than those who focus more on the threatening aspects – like the possibility of failure, embarrassment or illness. These differences in mindset not only influence people’s mood, but also their physiological responses, such as changes in blood pressure and heart rate, and how quickly they recover after the event.”

I have decided that I’m going to try to think like a Norwegian.  Watching Birmingham City play can be stressful but I’m going to try to think of it as a challenge to find something positive. After Saturday’s game I can say that we haven’t lost a League game this season and have scored twice the number of League goals that have been scored against us.

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Rotherham

Birmingham City have played two teams that were in the playoffs last season and got a win and a draw.  Today we are playing Rotherham, who were promoted back up to the Championship last season, and  I suspect I am not the only Blues fan fearing that we wll lose.  So often in the past, we have played well against good teams and then been beaten by a team that’s not so good.

I’m encouraged that Aitor Karanka seems to be aware of the danger of complacency.  In his press conference he said that it was a mistake to think you were better than your opponent. He also said that the Rotherham game was our toughest game so far. From what George Friend said in his interview, it sounds as if he is not complacent ahead of the Rotherham game and I hope the rest of the team feel the same. If Karanka manages to avoid losses against poorer teams then he will have achieved something important. If we lose today, I’ll think that it’s typical Blues. But if we win, then my hope for this season will be boosted.

Already, I am hoping that we will stay well clear of the relegation places this season.  I’ve tried to remind myself that it is the hope that kills me but I can’t help hoping.  It hasn’t helped to tell myself that you can’t forecast how a season will go from the first two games. I also know that it is too soon to judge if Karanka is a good manager for my team but I can’t help believing in him. I like the way that he is bringing in players who are good people as well as being good players.

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Blues News Poster

My copy of the Blues News Poster arrived yesterday. Buying this was a departure from my usual practice; I don’t usually buy any programmes, apart from the one for the last home game that contains most of the results. I think I must be missing Blues games more than I care to admit.

One thing I wanted to see was their list of players.  It was almost the same as my list but with two exceptions.  Connal Trueman was not on their list.  He’s been loaned to AFC Wimbledon to get more game time.  Click here to see his interview about this. The other difference was that they didn’t have Neil Etheridge on their printed list.  He obviously signed too late to be included.  

The back of the poster also included a nice message from Aitor Karanka, saying he was extremely happy to be head coach of the club.  I’m also happy that he is coach.  Somehow he has got past all my defences, built up to spare me from despair when things don’t work out, and I’m looking forward to this season. 

I’ve removed Connal Trueman and added Neil Etheridge to my list, click here to see what it looks like now.  I will add it as a cheat sheet when the transfer window has closed on  October 16.

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