Tag Archives: BCFC

Blues News Poster

My copy of the Blues News Poster arrived yesterday. Buying this was a departure from my usual practice; I don’t usually buy any programmes, apart from the one for the last home game that contains most of the results. I think I must be missing Blues games more than I care to admit.

One thing I wanted to see was their list of players.  It was almost the same as my list but with two exceptions.  Connal Trueman was not on their list.  He’s been loaned to AFC Wimbledon to get more game time.  Click here to see his interview about this. The other difference was that they didn’t have Neil Etheridge on their printed list.  He obviously signed too late to be included.  

The back of the poster also included a nice message from Aitor Karanka, saying he was extremely happy to be head coach of the club.  I’m also happy that he is coach.  Somehow he has got past all my defences, built up to spare me from despair when things don’t work out, and I’m looking forward to this season. 

I’ve removed Connal Trueman and added Neil Etheridge to my list, click here to see what it looks like now.  I will add it as a cheat sheet when the transfer window has closed on  October 16.

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Smile

My expectations for this new season should be based on sensible reasons but they aren’t. I’m feeling hopeful because I like the manager and I like him because he has a nice smile. I’ve just watched his press conference and when he smiles, I feel he can work wonders. That feels like a stupid reason for a fan to hope but maybe it’s not as stupid as it seems. A manager needs to be able to encourage players and maybe his smile and some encouraging words can work wonders. Surely a manager who smiles can raise team morale more than one who looks to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. And a team that hasn’t won a game since February, needs its morale lifted.

Aitor Karanka has already forged an arrangement with Xuandong Ren and seems to have more of a say in transfers than previous managers did. That’s an achievement. If he can also get the players to trust him then this season could be the start of something good.  I hope it is.

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New Season

When Saturday Comes has published its new season special and Birmingham City play Cambridge today in their first competitive game of the season.  I feel that I should be excited but it’s hard to get excited sitting in front of a computer watching a game being played with no spectators.

For me, going to a game is about more than the football. It’s about being part of a community that supports our team, a community that celebrates or cries together.  Football without fans at the game is not the same. 

When the squad numbers were published yesterday, I was pleased that Maxime Colin had swapped the number 5 shirt for number 2.  He is one of my favourite players and now he has the same number as my all-time favourite, Jeff Hall. I’ve been looking at the list of players and trying to work out who they all are.  You can see my attempt at a list here, but it was done in a hurry so there may be mistakes.

In WSC’s  new season special, the Blues writer predicts a mid-table finish, which seems possible to me.  However, I did think it rather unkind to suggest changing the name of the Tilton to the Marc Roberts Stand to commemorate a full season of “long throws straight into the keeper’s arms.” If we score from a Roberts throw today, I might get a bit excited.

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Hope

It’s the hope that kills you they say. And they are right. If I could stamp out hope and expect the worst before every game of football, I wouldn’t feel so crushed when the worst happens and there would be times when I’d be pleasantly surprised by Birmingham playing quite well. 

But I can’t help feeling hopeful about this season. It started when Xuandong Ren appeared at the press conference introducing Aitor Karanka as the club’s new head coach. When Ren said that he had been looking for a partner to take the club forward, I started to hope that he had found a coach that he could work with and whose views he would respect. He said that Karanka would  have the time and authority to build and lead this football club going forward.

My hope has continued to grow as the club has taken time to bring in new players and they seem to be the ones that Karanka wants, players who play in a way that fits in with his plan and have the kind of personalities that will contribute to a good atmosphere in the squad. The performances in pre-season have helped me to believe that we have a head coach who knows what he’s doing. And the three goals against Walsall were encouraging.

I’m not hoping for promotion this season or that we’ll win a cup. I’m just hoping for steady progress and that we’ll be well clear of the relegation zone at the end of the season. It takes time to build a winning side and I’m hoping that Karanka will be given the time he needs to do that. 

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Uncertainty

Uncertainty is one of the attractions of footfall; not knowing what the result will be adds to the excitement. But uncertainty can also be a pain. In seasons in which relegation is a possibility, I look forward to the last game and knowing whether or not we will be staying up.

This season is different. 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.  I’m quite good at thinking about things to worry about. I hope we win tonight but don’t expect we will.

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A sad ending

Pep Clotet left Birmingham City yesterday, after we lost 1-3 to Swansea.  He was given an impossible job and tried to do it. 

Brian Dick said in his article that he was given a hospital pass, a term used to describe a pass that makes it likely the recipient will get heavy contact from an opposing player and could end up in hospital.  He wrote,

“Yet it’s all sadly predictable. Clotet was chucked a hospital pass from Day One – thrust into the hotseat and an atmosphere of acrimony. Deprived of the club captain, leading scorer and record signing and told he would have little influence on transfers. ‘And while you’re at it get us playing attractive football, with young players in the top half of the division. Cheers’.”

I have no idea what will happen next. I’d like a good manager to arrive and save us from relegation. But I fear that no good manager would want to work under the same conditions that Pep Clotet worked. 

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Fulham

Craven Cottage is one of my favourite away grounds.  The walk from Putney Bridge underground station to the ground has to be one of the pleasantest approaches to a football ground in this country.  I enjoy going there even when we don’t win.  And when we win, like we did in 2015, the game is lodged in my brain as one of my favourites. 

I won’t be walking alongside the River Thames today, hoping for a good game.  I’ll be looking on my laptop, dreading another loss. At least nobody will see me if I’m crying by the end of the game. 

Whatever happens, I feel sad that I’m never again going to be in a stadium watching Jude Bellingham play in a Birmingham City shirt.  I hope that his move will work out well for him.

I’ll include some pictures from 2015 to cheer myself up.

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Hull

When I think about Birmingham City playing Hull City, two games come to mind.  The first was in September 2017, when I went to watch the game in Hull.  It was Lee Carsley’s third and final game as caretaker manager. His first game in charge had finished as a draw against Derby and the second was a win against Sheffield Wednesday. In the third game at Hull, we were beaten comprehensively, and the final score was 6-1. I spent a couple of nights in Hull and liked the place but not that game.

The second game was a home game in March 2018. I didn’t feel too hopeful when I went to the game as we had lost the previous 7 League games. Also, it was snowing and the game was played in atrocious conditions.  It was Gary Monk’s third game as manager and it ended in his first win. Blues put in 8 shots on target and 3 of them went in.

I have no idea how we will get on tomorrow but I was encouraged by our performance in the game against WBA. I expect I’ll feel the usual mixture of hope and fear before the game.

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Matchday rewind

The Leyland Daf Cup Final was a very significant game for me. It was the game that brought me back to Birmingham City.  My dad took me to games when I was a child but I stopped going around 1959. However, I didn’t stop checking their results and continued to check them when I lived abroad. I attended one game in May 1982, when Birmingham beat Coventry with a goal by Mick Harford and avoided relegation.  I was back in England with my American husband and wanted to give him a taste of British culture.

We went to Coventry cathedral in the morning and the game in the afternoon.  He received more of a taste of British culture than I had planned as we saw fans tearing the backs off seats and police with dogs to escort them back to the railway station.  I enjoyed the game but decided that I didn’t want to experience that sort of aggro again.

We were back in England again in 1991 and I didn’t even try to get a ticket for the game at Wembley because I knew I didn’t stand a chance, having not gone to any games since 1982. On the Wednesday before the game my husband said he was going to town and came back with a ticket to the game.  He had talked someone at the club into selling him one of the few odd remaining tickets.  

So I went to the game.  On the way there I wondered if I was being foolish to go on my own to a game where there might be hooligans. But I sat among a really friendly group of men who remained good humoured even when Tranmere equalised. When Gayle scored the winning goal I stood up and yelled like everyone else and went home happy but exhausted. I started going to games again the next season.

The rewind of the game reminded me of what a good game it was.  But it wasn’t the game that made me decide to start going again, it was the friendliness and good humour of the people around me.  I felt I belonged with them.

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Easter Saturday

It’s Easter Saturday and the weather is beautiful, it doesn’t seem right to be staying at home. But that’s what I’ll be doing. It’s what I’ve done for the last 3 weeks and what I’ll probably be doing for many more weeks to come.  The Church of England prayer for today talks about crying to God from “the depths of our isolation” and seems very suitable for the present situation.

I miss the excitement of football and the way you never know what to expect. Performances can range from pathetic to peerless.  I’m reading books during this time and there can be surprises in them.  But finding out that the woman you thought was an evil interloper is really his daughter does not compare with watching your side score just after your goalie saved a penalty.

An EFL letter has been sent out, saying that this season, including playoffs, can be finished in 56 days.  They also said that training should not start before May 16 but did not say when playing games might start.  May 16 is 5 weeks from now, which seems a long time.  But, of course, that date isn’t fixed; there are so many uncertainties.  Richard Bevan, of the League Managers’ Association has said that football should only start again “once all players have been tested for coronavirus” and who know when that might be.

So I’ll continue to read books and miss football.

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Strange but still good Friday

This has felt like a very strange Good Friday. On previous Good Fridays I have joined in with the prayer walk round Harborne and gone to the service on the High Street.  This year I just walked on my own around the retirement apartment block where I live.  We’ve been asked to stay within the building or gardens and I’m staying home as instructed and keeping 2 metres away from people I see. 

What seems like ages ago, I had planned to do the prayer walk and then go to the game against Swansea. But today, neither will take place.  Back in 2015 I wrote a post about going to a football game on a Good Friday and how I’d decided to go and remember the significance of the day in the quiet, reverence of the morning service and in the less reverent crowd in the afternoon, a crowd that probably had some similarities to those that watched and mocked as Jesus died. Watching the game and mocking the opposition is what football crowds do.

For me this day has still been good because of the significance it has for me. Whatever you believe and do this Easter, I hope you are safe and well.

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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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Sad, proud and glad

I experienced a range of emotions at the FA Cup game with Leicester. I was sad that we conceded a goal and lost the game; I never like losing. I was proud of our players and the effort they put in. I was also proud of the support from the Birmingham City fans, who supplied all the noise in the stadium. I was glad that I’d gone to the game.

I had hesitated about buying a ticket.  As I get older, I’m finding it harder to stand for 90 minutes at an away game and I don’t usually go to away games at night. But I’d been to the other cup games, against Blackburn and twice against Coventry.  I thought it would be nice to go to all of them.

I also remembered an experience 9 years ago, when I almost didn’t go to a game. I had other commitments before and after the Blues game in Bruges so couldn’t spend a night there. My only option was to go on a coach that left Birmingham at 3 am on Thursday morning and arrived back at 5 am on Friday. I can remember standing in the queue waiting to buy a ticket, wondering if I was getting too old to cope with such a schedule. But I went and thoroughly enjoyed it. I decided then that age is just a number and I shouldn’t let it stop me doing things I enjoy.

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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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