I didn’t like the result of Birmingham City’s game with West Bromwich Albion but there was a lot that I did enjoy. It felt like a real cup game, especially the second half, and like going back in time. My childhood memories of St Andrew’s are of large crowds, noise, excitement and rivalry without real animosity. I was pleased that the club put Jeff Astle’s picture on the big screen for the ninth minute as the WBA fans clapped and that home fans joined in the clapping. I don’t regard players or fans of opposing teams as my enemies. After all, we Blues fans have more in common with Baggies fans than we do with our own club’s owners in Hong Kong.
Other clubs achieved remarkable upsets. The top three teams in the Premier League lost and the fourth team, Manchester United, could only manage a draw. When Birmingham beat Cambridge in the League Cup back in August, it didn’t seem to dampen their fans’ joy at their promotion from the Conference. “We’re Cambridge United” they sang, “we’re back in the League!” How elated they must have felt to get the draw with Man U. As well as the glory, the money they’ll earn in the replay at Old Trafford will transform their financial situation. On Friday evening, I switched the TV on but mainly listened to the radio commentary for the first sixty minutes. Since radio is always ahead of TV, I know I have time to look at the TV if a goal is scored or anything interesting happens. By the end I was glued to the TV and telling Cambridge to hang on. It brought back memories of watching another game on TV just under three months ago, pleading with Blues to hold on for their glorious 0-0 draw with Wolves, at the start of the Rowett revolution. There is a lot more to football than the Premier League and I suspect that Cambridge fans derive just as much pleasure from supporting their team as Man U fans get from theirs.
And I’m sure Bradford City fans were much happier than Chelsea fans after their game on Saturday. It’s hard for any team to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. For a League One team to win there after coming back from a two goal deficit is astounding. Chelsea weren’t playing their best team but their “side was assembled for £200m, including £99m of subs – while the visitors, 50 places below them on the ladder, had only one player who cost anything”. It doesn’t sound as though Chelsea is getting good value for its money. An article discussing the disconnect between revenue and performance in the Premier League mentions several possible factors. Clubs try to buy good players rather than develop homegrown talent. Rich clubs don’t have to find creative ways to compete and that stifles innovation. Whatever the cause, teams lower down the pyramid sometimes seem to have more fun than those at the top.