Tag Archives: Football

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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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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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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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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Hugging Strangers

I enjoyed reading Hugging Strangers: The Frequent Lows and Occasional Highs of Football Fandom by Jon Berry. It is well written and many of his stories about supporting Birmingham City resonated with me.  When my dad took me to games, I was one of the few little girls there and it felt like being in a different, much louder and more exciting world.

I took a long break from attending games when I went to university and lived abroad but I always checked their results. I went to only one game in the 1980s, an end of season relegation escape on May 15 1982, in which Mick Harford scored the goal that kept us up. I enjoyed the game but what I saw of destructive fans and aggressive policing made me decide never to go to any other games. I changed my mind about that when I went to the Leyland Daf Cup Final at Wembley, on May 26 1991. I went to the game feeling apprehensive about the possibility of hooligans being there but my mind was put at rest by the friendly group of men sitting around me. And when a stranger, celebrating our victory, kissed me on the way out of Wembley, I didn’t mind at all. I started going to games again.

Cover of Hugging Strangers book

Reading Hugging Strangers is like chatting to a friend about Blues, except than none of my friends deliver such quotable expressions as Jon Berry writes. I liked his description of Blues’ story as  “great moments, dreadful half hours”.  He wrote that “Fry was quite mad . . . the perfect fit for us.” He also aptly described my habit of protecting myself “by starting off expecting the worst and then being happily surprised if it doesn’t happen.”

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Thank you

I’d like to thank Pep Clotet for what he has done for Birmingham City FC and wish him all the best for the future.  The headline for an article about media comments on him leaving included the words ‘Not been an easy club’ and I think that sums it up nicely. The impression was that he was given a difficult mandate. In an article on why he is leaving, Brian Dick commented:

“He was charged with implementing a change in playing style, based around young home-grown players while mounting a tilt for the play-offs. He’s made some progress towards the first two but perhaps the final demand was always going to be too high an expectation.”

I have absolutely no inside information on why he is leaving. But my impression is that it was a difficult job and he did his best. I hope his next job will be easier.

Thank you, Pep.

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Abide with us

Today was going to be FA Cup Final day but it may not take place until August. Singing Abide with me is one of the traditions of the day and some fans plan to honour that by singing it at 5.30 pm today, the time the game should have started. They have set up a Just Giving page, to give money for NHS/Keyworker families decimated by losing a loved to the dreadful C-19 disease. This page also has a video of these fans singing a socially distanced version of the song.

Five years ago they were part of the fans choir who stood on the pitch at Wembley and sang it.  Someone had the idea of getting fans involved instead of it being sung by one person. They had a competition to choose one fan from each of the 64 clubs involved in the third round. The competition consisted of writing a memory of the FA Cup and not testing the ability to sing in tune, which is how I managed to be the Birmingham City fan in that choir.  I wrote a post about it.

I don’t show up in most photos of the whole choir but if you look carefully in the gap bewtween the Arsenal fan and the tall Everton fan you can see part of me, including the BCFC logo on my shirt.

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Football after Covid-19

While nothing much is happening with Birmingham City, I have been reading some discussions on how football should change after Covid-19. An article by Mark Palios, the chairman of Tranmere Rovers, said, “The professional game cannot survive without fundamental reform in respect of its major cost: player wages.” Darragh MacAnthony, the owner of Peterborough, suggested factoring that would allow money due for the Sky TV rights to be paid to clubs earlier in exchange for paying a penalty. Parachute payments have also been mentioned. Over half of the money that the Premier League gave to the English Football League (EFL), £260m out of £400m,  went to the nine clubs that were relegated in the previous three years.  

For me, the main question is whether it is possible to get the richer clubs to share what they have. The Premier League was formed in 1992 so that it could do a deal with BskyB and get a bigger share of the TV money instead of having to share it out between all 92 clubs in the League. The raison d’être of the Premier League was to get more money so I don’t expect the top clubs to want to give any away.

I don’t understand football finance but it seems clear that something has got to change.  Players at Premier League Chelsea have not yet managed to reach an agreement on pay cuts.  Colchester United, in League 2, have released four first-team players due to financial pressure, including their club captain. There is a tremendous gulf between top and bottom Leagues.

In the early days of professional football there was some sharing of gate money so that the teams with big crowds didn’t have too great an advantage and the game remained competitive. Match gate receipts were shared between the home team and away team with the away side being guaranteed £15 a match in 1888. From 1919 to 1983 the away team was given 20% of the gate money.  Now the home team gets all the money in League games so teams with big stadiums and large crowds have an advantage. The gate receipts from FA Cup games are still shared, with each team getting 45% and 10% going to a central pot.

I think that the game is getting less competitive at the top. In the 27 years since the start of the Premier League, 6 different teams have won it and 4 of those were in the top 6 for matchday income per match in 2018-19. In the previous 27 years, there were 9 different champions. My personal preference would be for the game to be as competitive as possible. I think the way to do that would be to reverse some of the changes made so that income from gate receipts and TV is shared more equally.  I’m afraid that seems rather unlikely to happen.

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Losing

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 relegation zone.

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The curse of constantly winning

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.

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Sheffield Wednesday thoughts and photos

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.

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