Category Archives: Football

Football on Good Friday

The first time I went to watch football on a Good Friday was in 2015 and I was in two minds about going.  I wrote about that in a post on this blog; I said,

“However, I have decided to go and, on reflection, it doesn’t seem so inappropriate. Good Friday commemorates a public execution where the condemned were mocked as they died. The atmosphere on that day was probably a bit closer to that found at football matches than to the quiet, reverence of Good Friday services. So I’ll be remembering the significance of the day in two contrasting settings: on a prayer walk round Harborne in the morning and in among a less reverent crowd in the afternoon.”

There will be no crowd this evening and this time without crowds has underlined just how important they are to me. I have realized that being part of a crowd is one of the things I enjoy most about going to a football game. I do not understand much about tactics; I can tell when the team are playing well or badly but I cannot analyse why. What I like best about watching is being part of the crowd, feeling that just by being there I am doing my bit to support them. Watching online or listening on the radio just does not give me that feeling.

If you want to know why Good Friday is important for me, then you can read a post that I published in 2013.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

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Losing by three goals to none

Birmingham City lost 0-3 to Bristol City a week ago and that made me feel distraught. We lost 3-0 to Watford on Saturday and I felt bad but not distraught.

I think there are two reasons for the different reactions. The first is that our win against Reading on Wednesday evening awakened in me a strong hope that Blues will not be relegated at the end of this season. We played well against a team near the top of the table and won. That hope did not make me believe that we were going to win every game from now on, but it was strong enough to keep me from despair.

The other reason for feeling better about our loss to Watford is that they are a good team, currently second in the table, and my team did not stop trying. In the Bristol City game, it felt as though my team felt overwhelmed and stopped trying. In Saturday’s game, they kept fighting till the end and did not play that badly.  I do not know if my team will manage to avoid relegation but if they do go down, I want them to go down fighting.

After our loss to Bristol City, I started wondering if this was the time to step back from supporting the Blues.  I was not sure that I wanted to go to games if there was a chance that I would see a performance like that. I’ve seen them lose many times and I can take it, but I do want them to look as though they are trying to win.  Now I want to go back to St Andrew’s to see them play but feel I might step back from some other things. For example, I do not have the patience or the time to oversee comments anymore. So I am going to try not allowing comments and see if that makes looking after this blog feel better.

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Change of manager

In theory I know that there are more important things in my life than Birmingham City FC. But in practice, I do not behave like that.  I spent a lot of Monday and Tuesday, checking to see if there was any new news about the change of manager.  Only when the club finally announced that Karanka had left and Lee Bowyer had arrived, did I manage to stop checking.

An article in the Guardian quotes Lee Bowyer saying, “I’ve got to try and implement what I want very quickly.”  And the result of that implementation might be displayed this evening when we play Reading.  I am hoping that Bowyer can wake up the sleeping giant and that Blues play well and earn a point or three.

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Another goodbye

It has been reported that Aitor Karanka’s departure from Birmingham City will be formally announced this morning. Football is a results business and we have lost the last two games and are hovering just above the relegation zone. I was hopeful when Karanka was first appointed because he seemed to have a good relationship with Xuandong Ren, which I hoped might mean that the rapid turnover of managers would end. But it seems that he was sacked by Wenqing Zhao. 

I must admit that when I saw a picture of Karanka trudging off after the loss to Barnsley, I thought that he looked like a defeated man. He also sounded like one in his post-game interview.  It has been announced that the club hopes to have a replacement by the game on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see who that is.

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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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