Tag Archives: BCFC

Final game

In my last post, before the game with Cardiff, I wrote that I would “not mind if Lee Bowyer experiments with the team and we lose”.  He did experiment, we did lose, and I did mind. But I still think it was the right thing to do.  Before the game with Blackburn, I thought that it was ok for him to experiment again but realised that I would mind if we lost. Before the game Bowyer talked about resting players and his team selection made it clear that the team was experimental. That helped me feel prepared though it felt strange that Bowyer was not there.  I hope that whatever family business kept him away was not too bad and that it ends well.

I felt cheered when Birmingham scored a goal although it was disappointing to only keep the lead for three minutes and to be 2-1 down at half time.  It helped when Jutkiewicz equalised early in the second half, but it was downhill from there as Blackburn scored another three. But I felt better about the game than I felt about our loss to Cardiff.  I think that was because we scored two goals and it did not feel like a team of kids being overwhelmed by professionals.

Now the season is over and the players and us supporters have some time to recover and get ready for next season.  I’m hoping that by then we will be able to go to some games.

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No-fear final game

I don’t enjoy final-game escapes from relegation, so It feels good to be safe with a couple of games still to play.  As I thought about this, following our win against Derby on Saturday, it seemed as though we had had mainly final-game escapes.  But when I checked our games since we were relegated in 2011, I found that we had escaped on the final day of the season four times and had been safe before that six times.  Here is a summary of where we finished in those seasons.

SeasonPosition
In table
Goals
for
Goals
against
Goal
difference
Points
2011-12478512776
2012-13126369-661
2013-14215874-1644
2014-15105464-1063
2015-16105349463
2016-17194564-1953
2017-18193868-3046
2018-19176458652 (61-9)
2019-20205475-2150

I went to all the end-of-season games, except for last year when no crowd was allowed. The results of the final games of the season determined whether Birmingham City would be relegated in the 2013-14, 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2019-20 seasons.

For me, the most memorable of these games was the one against Bolton on 3rd May 2014. The game was goalless in the first half but then Bolton scored two goals and their second was scored by Lukas Jutkiewicz.  When Zigic scored in the 78th minute and we learned that Doncaster was losing to Leicester, hope was revived.  Blues fans started singing “One goal, we only need one goal”.  And Caddis got that goal in the 93rd minute and it was followed by the most incredible outpouring of joy among our fans.

In contrast to that, all I remember feeling after our win at Bristol City in 2017 was exhaustion.  That was probably because Che Adams scored in the 16th minute and we held onto that lead for the rest of the game. I found it hard to believe that we would not concede a goal in the remaining 74 minutes but somehow we managed to hold on and win.

The 3-1 home win against Fulham in 2018 was played in front of a large St Andrews crowd, which made it more exciting. In my report of that I said I was elated and exhausted by that game. 

The situation when we lost 1-3 to Derby on 22 July 2020 was more complicated.  I’ll quote what I wrote in my report before the game, “An EFL statement has said Wigan will have points deducted after their game but that they can appeal. So there is a possibility that we might not know tonight if we are safe or not. If Wigan get 12 points deducted and end up in 22nd place and Birmingham City end up just above them in 21st place, we won’t know if we are really safe until we know if Wigan’s appeal is successful.  If it is successful then I think Wigan would stay up and we would go down.”  But, despite our loss on the last day, we finished 20th and stayed up. The main thing I remember about that game was that it was Jude Bellingham’s last game for us and how sad he looked at the end of it.

I’d like us to win the last two games of the season but will not mind if Lee Bowyer experiments with the team and we lose. It feels great to look forward to the end of the season without the fear of relegation.

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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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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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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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