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.
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.