Today was going to be FA Cup Final day but it may not take place until August. Singing Abide with me is one of the traditions of the day and some fans plan to honour that by singing it at 5.30 pm today, the time the game should have started. They have set up a Just Giving page, to give money for NHS/Keyworker families decimated by losing a loved to the dreadful C-19 disease. This page also has a video of these fans singing a socially distanced version of the song.
Five years ago they were part of the fans choir who stood on the pitch at Wembley and sang it. Someone had the idea of getting fans involved instead of it being sung by one person. They had a competition to choose one fan from each of the 64 clubs involved in the third round. The competition consisted of writing a memory of the FA Cup and not testing the ability to sing in tune, which is how I managed to be the Birmingham City fan in that choir. I wrote a post about it.
I don’t show up in most photos of the whole choir but if you look carefully in the gap bewtween the Arsenal fan and the tall Everton fan you can see part of me, including the BCFC logo on my shirt.
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.
I’ve just updated my list of current Birmingham City players. The differences in the squad lists on the back of the programmes for Birmingham City’s fourth round FA Cup game and the replay prompted me to do this. In Tuesday’s programme, David Stockdale, Agus Medina, Alvaro Gimenez, David Davis and Odin Bailey were dropped from the list on the back of the first programme. Moha Ramos, Scott Hogan, Caolan Boyd-Munce, Ryan Burke, Ryan Stirk, and Jack Concannon were added.
I’m assuming that people who read this will have seen the replay on Tuesday, read a report and/or watched the video highlights but I’d like to record a few thoughts on the game. The first half wasn’t good. Josh McEachran was carried off on a stretcher and the 0-0 half time score made me wonder if we were going to see a repeat of the stalemate we saw in the first game. I hoped that somebody would score and win it and that it wouldn’t extend to an extra 30 minutes and penalties. I don’t like penalty shoot-outs; they make me very nervous.
Coventry were leading by one goal at 90 minutes but 4
minutes of time were added on and Dean scored. The two men sitting by me, who
had left at 90 minutes, had heard we’d equalised and came back to watch. Coventry scored again and we equalised again
so it went to penalties. When it was clear they were going to be taken at the
Tilton end, some Blues fans ran to get behind that goal and the stewards couldn’t
stop them. And once Lee Camp had saved a penalty, I didn’t feel nervous anymore.
It was a great game to watch and I’m so glad I went.
As the BBC website said in its report: “In front of a paltry St Andrew’s crowd of just 2,697 on a foul night, Coventry set up a first meeting with Birmingham since beating them 3-2 in the League Cup at the Ricoh Arena in August 2012.” And we’ll be playing as the away team in our own stadium. I went to the game and enjoyed it. I find watching football much less stressful when I have an interest in a game but no deep emotional attachment. I wanted Coventry to win so that Blues could play away at St Andrew’s but if Coventry had lost, I wouldn’t have felt as distressed as I do when Blues lose.
Gambling and football
On Sunday, there was an article on the Guardian website about the gamblification of football and the relationship between the Premier League’s income from media and gambling.
“The basis of the Premier League’s immense wealth is its media rights, sold to broadcasters and then on to viewers in packages costing as much as £50 a month. Manchester City versus Liverpool, of course, is a very easy sell, Norwich versus Bournemouth not so much. But a bet can turn an armchair viewer into a Canaries fan for 90 minutes and boost the audience for lesser matches, while the package prices might rise without the revenue from adverts in the breaks.”
The most recent issue of When Saturday Comes, Issue 395,included an editorial on the incongruity of Wayne Rooney’s video about his problems with gambling being produced by 32Red, the betting company that funded his arrival at Derby. It included the information that “16 of the Championship’s 24 clubs have gambling firms on their shirts”.
The good news is that using credit cards to gamble is going to be banned. A BBC article said that “there are examples of consumers who have accumulated tens of thousands of pounds of debt through gambling because of credit card availability.”
Last weekend started well with a win against Luton. The timing was different to the Blackburn game but the events were repeated. Birmingham scored first, the opposition equalised with a penalty, then Birmingham scored again and Harlee Dean was sent off. Reports said that it wasn’t pretty and a tweet from Brian Dick said, “#bcfc have no need to apologise for that victory, substance over style is no bad thing. Hopefully the last two matches are a small acorn that will grow into something much more stable. Striker help so obviously needed, though.”
Blues Trust published a post designed to help readers decide if the sale and leaseback arrangement of St Andrew’s is a good or bad thing. It’s worth reading if you are interested in how the club is being run. Blues Trust’s view is that it would have been helpful if the club had been more open when the Trust asked about this in May and said, “major issues affecting the club need good communication and sometimes consultation”.
On Monday, an article on football finance included bad news on our financial situation but a nice tribute to our fans. “A shout out for the fans: ‘Despite their many issues, Blues have now seen their attendance rise 5 years in a row from the 15,457 low point in 2013/14, which reflects very well on their supporters. In fact, the 22,483 attendance last season was the highest since they were last in the Premier League in 2011.’”
My expectations before a game affect how I react to what
happens. I went to the Wigan game
expecting Blues to win so their poor performance and loss left me feeling
depressed. I went to the FA Cup game thinking we needed to win to restore some
confidence in our players but not at all confident that we would.
The game started well with Crowley’s goal on 4 minutes. But on
60 minutes, Sunjic conceded a penalty and was sent off less than 2 minutes
after coming on. It seemed unlikely we could win with 10 men so Bela’s late goal
came as a pleasant surprise.
It wasn’t the best of games. The attendance was 7,330, which was our “lowest attendance for a competitive match at St. Andrews since 2016”. An Observer article on the game showed a picture of the empty Tilton and it’s hard to create a good atmosphere when the Tilton is empty. There were several times when Blackburn looked certain to score but didn’t. We were lucky but it is about time we had some good luck. Most pleasing of all was the way our players kept fighting until the end of the game. I went home happy.
News of Birmingham City’s accounts broke on Friday, when they were filed at Companies House. It was not good news. The club lost £37,461,303 for the financial year. Read Daniel’s analysis on almajir.net if you want the details. This confirmed that I’d chosen the right picture for my mood indicator picture, with half indicating my happiness with the performance of manager and team and the other half showing my uncertainty over our financial situation.
I went to the FA Cup game on Saturday and was glad I’d gone.
West Ham won the game, but our team put in a good performance and our fans were
incredible. As I get older and find it
more tiring to stand for 90 minutes, I treasure the away games because I don’t
know how many more I’ll be able to attend. I feel privileged to stand among
such loyal and loud supporters.
Newport County v Leicester City
I usually support Leicester when they play because I’m fond
of Demarai Gray but I also like underdogs. When I watched Newport play
Leicester on TV, my preference for underdogs was the strongest and I was
delighted when Newport won. There is
still some magic in the Cup.
The FA Cup replay this evening is a big game for SolihullMoors and Blackpool. Some of the magic of the Cup may have departed for the bigger teams but it is still there in the early rounds when teams compete toget through to the third round and a chance to play a big club. TheMoors and Blackpool are competing for a chance to play Arsenal.
There’s also the money, of course. TV money, gate receipts
and prize money from the FA Cup are not important for Premier League clubs;
they get far more from playing in the League.
But FA Cup money can make a tremendous difference for clubs lower down
the pyramid. For example, an article
on the maths behind a jackpot FA Cup run reported:
“Warrington Town’s 2014-15 FA Cuprun made them around 70% more than their income for the whole of the previousseason. By far the biggest chunk of this came from their televised ties againstExeter and Gateshead.”
The same article reported that Arsenal’s winning cup run in
2013-14 made them £4.2 million but that was only 2% of their revenue for that
season. This helps to explain why some of the bigger clubs don’t take the Cup
too seriously and don’t use their best players in the early rounds.
Money is also the reason why only 10 of the 32 third-round
FA Cup games will start at 3 pm on Saturday, 5 January. The FA has
arranged a new £820m overseas TV contract and some of the games will be moved
to different times because of this. Malcolm Clarke, the chair of the Football
Supporters Federation, is quoted as
“The third round of the FACup on the first Saturday in January was always one of the great highlights ofthe season, and to have less than one third of the games kicking off at threeo’clock on Saturday definitely to some extent diminishes the magic of theday,”
The 12.30 kick-off for Birmingham’s game against West Ham
will also mean an early start for fans travelling down to London on the
In the last game I watched, I saw my team lose but didn’t
see them stop making an effort. In the game at Blackburn, they showed their
character by the way they came back to get a draw. I believe that anything can
happen in the Cup and that we could beat West Ham. Moors fans will have similar feelings today
and will have been dreaming about watching Arsenal play in their stadium. I
hope their dreams and mine come true. There is still some magic in the FA Cup.
Solihull Moors FC has a great slogan: Moor than eleven. Every successful football team has more than eleven involved in that success. Yesterday evening, the Moors earned a replay against a team from higher in the pyramid. That was achieved by players, coaches, other staff and fans too. It was also one of the more exciting no-score draws I’ve watched. Continue reading →
On Saturday, I went to the cup game fearing that Blues would get hammered. Their poor second half against Brentford had left me thinking that our players just couldn’t manage to play a whole game in the style that Zola wants them to play. Continue reading →
I enjoyed watching Birmingham City play Bournemouth in the FA Cup. Both sets of players played as though they wanted to win and it felt like a proper cup game. There was a good atmosphere, created by the enthusiastic support from both sets of fans. Though I think the Bournemouth fan who took his shirt off may have supported too enthusiastically and regretted it later. Continue reading →
It was the thought of standing on the Wembley pitch that made me want to be part of the Fans Choir for the FA Cup Final. And it was an amazing experience to stand on that turf but not the best part. For me, the most enjoyable and memorable experience was meeting the other fans and the way so many strangers quickly became friends. Continue reading →
I have no complaints about Birmingham City’s position in the table with no relegation battle or promotion hopes to add significance to the final few games of the season. Playing for a win that won’t affect our position in the table is not as exciting as trying to avoid the drop but is still worth doing. I always want Birmingham City to win and I hope the players feel that way too. It certainly looked as though they wanted to get a result on Tuesday evening when they came from behind twice to get the draw. Continue reading →
I’m looking forward to Birmingham City’s cup game against West Bromwich Albion tomorrow. It’s close to a sell-out and it’s been a long time since that happened at St Andrews. It should produce a good atmosphere and, if all the seats around me are filled, it will feel a little warmer than it does when the winter wind whistles through the gaps left by empty seats. Continue reading →
My first experience of watching a football game on TV was not a happy one. It was the FA Cup Final in 1956, when Birmingham City was beaten by Manchester City. I’d seen Birmingham City lose before, of course, but it felt totally different and much worse than watching a defeat as part of a crowd. We didn’t have a TV at home so we watched it at Grandma’s house and that didn’t help. At home I could have moaned but that wouldn’t have seemed polite at her house. I had to put on a happy face and thank her for letting us come and watch our hopes being demolished. Watching the TV coverage of the World Cup in 1966 was a much happier experience. But I have always preferred being in the crowd to watching on TV. Continue reading →
It felt strange that Birmingham City didn’t have a cup game this weekend. It felt even stranger to be the only one of the local teams in the Fourth Round draw and to get there without kicking a ball in the Third Round. But there we were and we found out that Birmingham City or Bristol Rovers or Crawley Town will play Swansea City. Continue reading →