Losing a game is not nice.
Losing to Leicester didn’t feel too bad because we were playing a team
that was third in the Premier League and the players and fans kept on to the
end. I didn’t see any fans walking out when we went a goal down.
Losing to Reading felt terrible. I think the reason why it
felt so bad was not just the performance on the pitch but the sight of fans
streaming out of the ground before the game finished. We have a song that says
we fight to the end and our players often do that, but we fans don’t always stay
to the end if we are losing. Football clubs started out as clubs; they are now
run as businesses. I complain that some club owners treat their fans as
customers rather than supporters. When
lots of us leave early because we don’t like what is happening on the pitch,
then we are behaving like customers.
Rant over. It wasn’t all bad. Hogan scored again and we didn’t play too
badly in the first half. It felt strange to see Morrison playing against us and
I was glad to see him applauding our fans at the end. We are 8 points above the
As a Birmingham City fan, I don’t need to worry about the curse of constantly winning but I’ve been thinking about it since reading an article with the heading “Manchester City fans left unhappy by curse of constantly winning trophies”. The article says that fans of the top clubs expect victory and “anything else comes to seem like failure.” It also says, “The greatest triumphs, the ones that are longest remembered and most enjoyed, are those that are unexpected”.
That’s certainly true in my experience. Scoring a last gasp goal when time and hope has almost gone is much more exciting than an easy win. And it was what made Birmingham’s Carling Cup win in 2011 such a wonderful experience. Nobody expected us to win and we won with a goal right at the end. I have very fond memories of that day. I took a child to the game and on our way there I tried to tell him that we were probably going to lose. On our way back through London, fans from other London clubs saw his Blues shirt and came to congratulate us; it was like a triumphal procession.
Villa didn’t get a last gasp goal yesterday but went down fighting and weren’t disgraced. My impression from the radio commentary was that their fans applauded them at the end and didn’t exit from the stadium as quickly as the Arsenal fans did in 2011. I’m sure the Manchester City fans appreciated the result but probably not as much as the Villa fans would have enjoyed a win.
Hogan’s late equaliser was a great way to end the game and
it sent me home happy. I thought Blues were better in the first half but not so
good in the second so a draw seemed like a fair result. I always want Blues to
win, whoever and whenever they play, but I can’t say that I wanted Garry Monk
to lose. I remember how he kept us up in 2018 and feel grateful for that.
When Pep Clotet said that that he considered Hogan “a doubt”
for the game, the only thing that seemed clear was that Clotet didn’t want the
opposition to know whether or not he would play. I wasn’t surprised to see him
in the starting line-up and was very glad he stayed on till the end.
In the 12 games we’ve played this year, we have only lost once,
to Wigan on New Year’s Day, and we have only failed to score in the 0-0 draw
with Coventry. That’s not a bad record.
I am hoping our unbeaten run is continued at Millwall on Wednesday.
I had planned to spend the weekend in London but changed my
plans and stayed just one night so that I could go to the FA cup game against
Friday went well and according to plan. I had no trouble finding a seat on the train to London and I was able to check into my hotel room early. I spent the afternoon at Tate Britain, mainly to see the Year 3 exhibition of 3,128 class photos of London’s Year 3 children, over 76,000 children. A Guardian article described it as a portrait of “a city’s potential.” The smiling young faces in the photos left me feeling worried about the world in which they’re growing up. So I appreciated the laughs in the evening, when I went to see Frank Skinner putting on a masterful display of stand-up comedy at the Garrick Theatre.
On Saturday, my travel back to Birmingham and getting to the game went well but I don’t think the game went according to plan. Surely nobody would plan a goalless draw. It could have been worse; we would have lost if O’Hare hadn’t missed an opportunity to score right at the end. There was also some consolation in the novelty and the chants. The warmup before the game provided a first opportunity to see Moha Ramos, the substitute goalie, in action. And after the game, it was good to see Jude Bellingham giving his shirt away to a child. I was in row 4 of the lower Gil Merrick stand, which felt far too low down to get a decent view of the game but it gave me a renewed appreciation for the view from my seat in row 18 of the Kop.
I was disappointed that we didn’t score during the game but was
glad I’d gone. It would have been a pity to miss seeing Birmingham City playing
away at St Andrew’s.
As the BBC website said in its report: “In front of a paltry St Andrew’s crowd of just 2,697 on a foul night, Coventry set up a first meeting with Birmingham since beating them 3-2 in the League Cup at the Ricoh Arena in August 2012.” And we’ll be playing as the away team in our own stadium. I went to the game and enjoyed it. I find watching football much less stressful when I have an interest in a game but no deep emotional attachment. I wanted Coventry to win so that Blues could play away at St Andrew’s but if Coventry had lost, I wouldn’t have felt as distressed as I do when Blues lose.
Gambling and football
On Sunday, there was an article on the Guardian website about the gamblification of football and the relationship between the Premier League’s income from media and gambling.
“The basis of the Premier League’s immense wealth is its media rights, sold to broadcasters and then on to viewers in packages costing as much as £50 a month. Manchester City versus Liverpool, of course, is a very easy sell, Norwich versus Bournemouth not so much. But a bet can turn an armchair viewer into a Canaries fan for 90 minutes and boost the audience for lesser matches, while the package prices might rise without the revenue from adverts in the breaks.”
The most recent issue of When Saturday Comes, Issue 395,included an editorial on the incongruity of Wayne Rooney’s video about his problems with gambling being produced by 32Red, the betting company that funded his arrival at Derby. It included the information that “16 of the Championship’s 24 clubs have gambling firms on their shirts”.
The good news is that using credit cards to gamble is going to be banned. A BBC article said that “there are examples of consumers who have accumulated tens of thousands of pounds of debt through gambling because of credit card availability.”
Last weekend started well with a win against Luton. The timing was different to the Blackburn game but the events were repeated. Birmingham scored first, the opposition equalised with a penalty, then Birmingham scored again and Harlee Dean was sent off. Reports said that it wasn’t pretty and a tweet from Brian Dick said, “#bcfc have no need to apologise for that victory, substance over style is no bad thing. Hopefully the last two matches are a small acorn that will grow into something much more stable. Striker help so obviously needed, though.”
Blues Trust published a post designed to help readers decide if the sale and leaseback arrangement of St Andrew’s is a good or bad thing. It’s worth reading if you are interested in how the club is being run. Blues Trust’s view is that it would have been helpful if the club had been more open when the Trust asked about this in May and said, “major issues affecting the club need good communication and sometimes consultation”.
On Monday, an article on football finance included bad news on our financial situation but a nice tribute to our fans. “A shout out for the fans: ‘Despite their many issues, Blues have now seen their attendance rise 5 years in a row from the 15,457 low point in 2013/14, which reflects very well on their supporters. In fact, the 22,483 attendance last season was the highest since they were last in the Premier League in 2011.’”
On Friday evening, I went to watch a play about Laurie Cunningham and the racial abuse that he received. I was in two minds about going as I still had the remnants of a cough following a cold and am so glad that I did go. As one review said “the three-strong cast whizz through almost 100 years of football history, brilliantly swapping roles and characters in the same slick, smooth way that Cunningham was famed for on the pitch.”
It was thought provoking and also humorous at times. It included an incident where a drunk racist accosts Cunningham and his white girl friend. Cunningham knocks him down and the girl friend says, “Laurie, please stop!” The drunk hears the name and asks if he is Laurie Cunningham because he’s a Baggies fan who loves Laurie Cunningham. He ends up saying sorry and asking if Laurie can get him a ticket for a cup game!
The play made me think about the way that football can unite and divide. It can unite people from different backgrounds and different beliefs in the support of a team. It can also provide an opportunity for abuse of different races as some Bulgarian fans illustrated. There was also the incident at the game between Haringey Borough and Yeovil Town, when Haringey walked off. It is disgraceful that such racist abuse still exists in the game and that there is still a need for organisations such as Kick it Out.
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.
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.
SAD stands for Stunned And Depressed, which were my feelings following reports of Garry Monk’s departure. Stunned because sacking him seemed like a repeat of the mistake made when Gary Rowett was sacked. Depressed because he’d created a team and a way of playing that attracted the largest and most supportive crowds for years.
As a BBC article said, “To replace a manager at the height of his popularity is, at best, a bold move. Supporters will take a lot of convincing that it isn’t foolhardy.”
Blues fans have reacted in a variety of ways. There’s been some talk about not going to games and returning season tickets but it’s hard to judge how many might actually do that. Fans want to support their team. For a boycott to succeed, fans have to be really angry or the football has to be really bad. Many Blackpool fans did get angry and their boycott sent a powerful message. This is how they described it in 2016:
“Blackpool fans are currently undertaking an ethical boycott against the club’s owners, whose treatment of supporters has arguably been as dreadful as their management of the club. This ethical protest has seen many Blackpool FC fans take a ‘Not A Penny More’ stance, which means they have chosen to not renew season tickets, and/or not to purchase match day tickets for home games, not to purchase any club merchandise and if they do go to home games, not to purchase programmes or refreshments inside the stadium. BST is also organising an ethical boycott of those businesses that sponsor the club as well as other local businesses run by the club’s owners. Quite simply, many supporters will not give the club another penny of their money and have withdrawn their custom. This decision has not been taken lightly, but over 1,750 BST members, who dearly love their club as you do yours, felt that this was the best choice they could make in trying to rescue our club.”
I don’t think Blues fans are angry enough to boycott games and who knows how bad or good the football will be. However, fans could show their unhappiness by not buying programmes or refreshments in the stadium. There are others who will want to support the team as usual, fans like Theo who has urged fans to “back the manager, the players and your club.”
I hope that all Blues fans can accept that we’re never going
to agree on everything and fans that have different views to ourselves are
still fans. I find some things
unacceptable, racism and violence for example, but on most issues, I believe
that my fellow fans have as much right to hold their own opinions as I do.
Last week my mind was on conflict off the pitch. I grew up listening to my parents talking
about the second World War and the D-Day anniversary brought back memories of
that. On Saturday, I saw Captain
Corelli’s Mandolin at the Rep, a story of what happened on a Greek island
during that war.
On Sunday I went back to town, to look at the Knife Angel sculpture in Victoria Square. I’d passed it on my way to the Rep but didn’t have time to stop and wanted to see it again. The sculpture was made from 100,000 knives retrieved from the streets of this county and took four years to make. It’s part of a campaign started by the British Ironwork Centre, to address the dangers of knife crime.
Also in Victoria Square on Sunday, there were a group of
Sudanese people protesting about the people killed, injured, arrested and raped
in their country. Then I came home and
watched news about the protests in Hong Kong. So, I was reminded of two of the
many conflicts in this world.
Against this background, the contests on football pitches
were a relief; it felt good to have conflicts in which nobody died. I listened
to the penalty shootout as England’s men came third in the UEFA Nations League
and then watched England’s women win their game against Scotland.
I think that’s what sport is meant to be – a relief from the
more serious side of life. We can enjoy the excitement of a contest, without
the violence of war or crime. Supporting local clubs can help hold communities
together. When I go to Birmingham City matches, there are people there with
opposite views to mine on just about everything apart from which team to
support. Learning to accept them helps me to accept others who hold different
views. Being a fan is not the most important aspect of my life but I believe it
I don’t think that hating other football clubs is a good way
to show commitment to your own club. I’ll be at the game on Sunday, hoping
desperately that Birmingham beat the Villa but once the game is over, I’ll calm
down. I’ll remember that if my dad had been born three miles further north, I’d
probably be a Villa fan myself.
Most Blues and Villa fans have some connection with Birmingham and the two groups have much in common. Fans from both sides agree on many issues such as the Justice for the 21 campaign. The view that Villa are more middle class and Blues more working class is an opinion not a fact. A thesis on the rivalry between the fans of Aston Villa and Birmingham City Football Clubs stated that: “the fan groups were actually relatively homogenous in terms of their demographics and their location”.
This week, Blackpool fans have shown their commitment in a positive way, by cleaning up their stadium following the neglect of the Oyston ownership. Birmingham fans have helped in a similar way in the past. I can remember a game against WBA on December 28, 1993, when it had snowed before the game and the club asked fans to come early and help clear the snow so that the game could go ahead.
Not every fan can get to games; some are prevented by distance,
infirmity or other reasons. I hope that those of us who can be there will limit
our aggression to non-contact competitions such as who can shout and sing the
loudest. I would like both the Blues fans and the police to go home with smiles
on their faces.
We live in a crazy world. Lionel Messi, the highest paid footballer last season, received $111,000,000. Does he deserve that much? More and more people in this country are relying on food banks. If you think that they deserve that, try watching I, Daniel Blake on BBC iPlayer and see if you change your mind.
Yesterday evening, I went to a performance of Commonism, at the Rep. It’s a conversation between two men, one British and one Norwegian, talking about the world today and imagining how the future could be better. At the end, they hand out copies of their manifesto. This suggests a maximum limit on the economic resources any one individual can possess and a universal basic income. I imagine that it would be a lot easier to get poor people to accept a basic income than to get rich people to limit what they own. The performance was thought provoking and I had much to think about as I walked back to my bus stop, past all the rough sleepers.
When I got back home, I saw the news about the latest Brexit squabble in Parliament. It seemed a far cry from the conversation I’d just listened to, about learning to disagree well. There was also news of Burton’s heavy defeat at Manchester City and the nightmare journey to get to Manchester experienced by some of their fans. The result was not that surprising when you consider the value of their squads. Sky reported that,
“Burton Albion’s squad value this season is around the £6m mark … Manchester City’s current squad is valued at just over £1bn, with their most expensive acquisition, Riyad Mahrez, joining the club last summer for £60m.”
In other words, one of Manchester City’s players cost 10
times more than Burton’s squad. That enormous inequality just doesn’t seem
right to me, with most of the TV money flooding into the Premier League. I can
understand why owners of clubs lower down the pyramid pay out too much in the
hope of getting promotion. Birmingham
City paid out too much; we are still waiting to find out what price we’ll have
to pay for that. We are not the only club with financial problems. The situation
feels more serious than just a few clubs breaking some rules; it feels as
though the whole system is broken.
It’s Saturday, Birmingham City are playing at home and I’ll be going to St Andrew’s once more. It will be the sixth home game and Blues still haven’t won there this season. As always, I’ll be hoping for a win this time. Continue reading →
I felt depressed when the club’s statement said the transfer embargo had not been lifted even though it was just confirming what I had thought for some time. And the post on almajir.net describes a sobering situation. I have been trying to cheer myself up by looking for some positives. Continue reading →
It has been nearly a week since Birmingham City ended their season with a memorable win against Fulham. It was an incredible game, with a full St Andrew’s providing loud support from before kick off to the post-game players parade around the pitch. It was absolutely wonderful and I felt elated.
But I also felt exhausted, worn out by the rollercoaster emotions generated by an end-of-season escape from relegation. Continue reading →