Tag Archives: Football

Losing is not so bad

Losing a game is not so bad as losing your team. Birmingham’s 3-0 loss at Swansea on Sunday was discouraging but Bury being thrown out of the English Football League (EFL) on Tuesday was devastating. It feels as though the whole system is broken. 

The Guardian editorial on the collapse of Bury expresses how I feel in words more eloquent than I could write. I agree that “football is about more than money” and “That is why the end of Bury Football Club after 134 years is important. Before it was shut, 400 supporters had volunteered to mop and sweep the Gigg Lane ground hoping to show that the true value of their football club cannot be counted in pounds and pennies.”

One thing seems clear to me: the League is not doing a good job of regulating itself. The club statement mentioned the “extreme lack of communication from the EFL”.  That’s why I signed the petition calling for the government to legislate for the creation of an independent regulator for football and subsequently to oversee the implementation of such a body.

I will also support the Football Supporters’ Association call for supporters everywhere to applaud for one minute on the 27th minute of each game in a nationwide display of solidarity for Bury. “Why a minute of applause on the 27th minute? Because on 27th August a football club was expelled from the league for the first time in 27 years. Let’s show that we care and we are angry that this situation has been allowed to happen.“

I wrote a short post about Bury on the Blues Trust website and will finish with my football version of John Donne’s poem that I mentioned in that:

No club is an island, entire of itself; every club is a member of the League, a part of football. Any club’s death diminishes all fans, because we are involved in football. Therefore never send to know for which club the bell tolls; it tolls for you.

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SAD

SAD stands for Stunned And Depressed, which were my feelings following reports of Garry Monk’s departure. Stunned because sacking him seemed like a repeat of the mistake made when Gary Rowett was sacked. Depressed because he’d created a team and a way of playing that attracted the largest and most supportive crowds for years.

As a BBC article said, “To replace a manager at the height of his popularity is, at best, a bold move. Supporters will take a lot of convincing that it isn’t foolhardy.”

I’m not saying that Monk was the perfect manager; nobody is perfect.  But he understood that football was a team game and selected players who could play together. He also understood that fans were part of the team. As I wrote in a previous post, he  “treated us fans with respect and, in return, has earned our respect.”

Blues fans have reacted in a variety of ways. There’s been some talk about not going to games and returning season tickets but it’s hard to judge how many might actually do that. Fans want to support their team. For a boycott to succeed, fans have to be really angry or the football has to be really bad. Many Blackpool fans did get angry and their boycott sent a powerful message. This is how they described it in 2016:

“Blackpool fans are currently undertaking an ethical boycott against the club’s owners, whose treatment of supporters has arguably been as dreadful as their management of the club. This ethical protest has seen many Blackpool FC fans take a ‘Not A Penny More’ stance, which means they have chosen to not renew season tickets, and/or not to purchase match day tickets for home games, not to purchase any club merchandise and if they do go to home games, not to purchase programmes or refreshments inside the stadium. BST is also organising an ethical boycott of those businesses that sponsor the club as well as other local businesses run by the club’s owners. Quite simply, many supporters will not give the club another penny of their money and have withdrawn their custom.
This decision has not been taken lightly, but over 1,750 BST members, who dearly love their club as you do yours, felt that this was the best choice they could make in trying to rescue our club.”

The long years of protest have not been easy. “It’s hard to give up something you love” but Blackpool fans are celebrating now because the Oystons are no longer in charge of their club and their new owner, Simon Sadler, “is a lifelong fan of the Club”.

I don’t think Blues fans are angry enough to boycott games and who knows how bad or good the football will be. However, fans could show their unhappiness by not buying programmes or refreshments in the stadium. There are others who will want to support the team as usual, fans like Theo who has urged fans to  “back the manager, the players and your club.” 

I hope that all Blues fans can accept that we’re never going to agree on everything and fans that have different views to ourselves are still fans.  I find some things unacceptable, racism and violence for example, but on most issues, I believe that my fellow fans have as much right to hold their own opinions as I do.

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Conflict

Last week my mind was on conflict off the pitch.  I grew up listening to my parents talking about the second World War and the D-Day anniversary brought back memories of that.  On Saturday, I saw Captain Corelli’s Mandolin at the Rep, a story of what happened on a Greek island during that war.

On Sunday I went back to town, to look at the Knife Angel sculpture in Victoria Square. I’d passed it on my way to the Rep but didn’t have time to stop and wanted to see it again.  The sculpture was made from 100,000 knives retrieved from the streets of this county and took four years to make. It’s part of a campaign started by the British Ironwork Centre, to address the dangers of knife crime.

Also in Victoria Square on Sunday, there were a group of Sudanese people protesting about the people killed, injured, arrested and raped in their country.  Then I came home and watched news about the protests in Hong Kong. So, I was reminded of two of the many conflicts in this world.

Against this background, the contests on football pitches were a relief; it felt good to have conflicts in which nobody died. I listened to the penalty shootout as England’s men came third in the UEFA Nations League and then watched England’s women win their game against Scotland.

I think that’s what sport is meant to be – a relief from the more serious side of life. We can enjoy the excitement of a contest, without the violence of war or crime. Supporting local clubs can help hold communities together. When I go to Birmingham City matches, there are people there with opposite views to mine on just about everything apart from which team to support. Learning to accept them helps me to accept others who hold different views. Being a fan is not the most important aspect of my life but I believe it has value.

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Commitment

I don’t think that hating other football clubs is a good way to show commitment to your own club. I’ll be at the game on Sunday, hoping desperately that Birmingham beat the Villa but once the game is over, I’ll calm down. I’ll remember that if my dad had been born three miles further north, I’d probably be a Villa fan myself.  

Most Blues and Villa fans have some connection with Birmingham and the two groups have much in common. Fans from both sides agree on many issues such as the Justice for the 21 campaign. The view that Villa are more middle class and Blues more working class is an opinion not a fact.  A thesis on the rivalry between the fans of Aston Villa and Birmingham City Football Clubs stated that: “the fan groups were actually relatively homogenous in terms of their demographics and their location”.   

This week, Blackpool fans have shown their commitment in a positive way, by cleaning up their stadium following the neglect of the Oyston ownership. Birmingham fans have helped in a similar way in the past. I can remember a game against WBA on December 28, 1993, when it had snowed before the game and the club asked fans to come early and help clear the snow so that the game could go ahead. 

Not every fan can get to games; some are prevented by distance, infirmity or other reasons. I hope that those of us who can be there will limit our aggression to non-contact competitions such as who can shout and sing the loudest. I would like both the Blues fans and the police to go home with smiles on their faces.

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Inequality

We live in a crazy world.  Lionel Messi, the highest paid footballer last season, received $111,000,000. Does he deserve that much? More and more people in this country are relying on food banks. If you think that they deserve that, try watching I, Daniel Blake on BBC iPlayer and see if you change your mind.

Yesterday evening, I went to a performance of Commonism, at the Rep.  It’s a conversation between two men, one British and one Norwegian, talking about the world today and imagining how the future could be better. At the end, they hand out copies of their manifesto. This suggests a maximum limit on the economic resources any one individual can possess and a universal basic income. I imagine that it would be a lot easier to get poor people to accept a basic income than to get rich people to limit what they own. The performance was thought provoking and I had much to think about as I walked back to my bus stop, past all the rough sleepers.

When I got back home, I saw the news about the latest Brexit squabble in Parliament. It seemed a far cry from the conversation I’d just listened to, about learning to disagree well. There was also news of Burton’s heavy defeat at Manchester City and the nightmare journey to get to Manchester experienced by some of their fans. The result was not that surprising when you consider the value of their squads. Sky reported that,

“Burton Albion’s squad value this season is around the £6m mark   … Manchester City’s current squad is valued at just over £1bn, with their most expensive acquisition, Riyad Mahrez, joining the club last summer for £60m.”

In other words, one of Manchester City’s players cost 10 times more than Burton’s squad. That enormous inequality just doesn’t seem right to me, with most of the TV money flooding into the Premier League. I can understand why owners of clubs lower down the pyramid pay out too much in the hope of getting promotion.  Birmingham City paid out too much; we are still waiting to find out what price we’ll have to pay for that. We are not the only club with financial problems. The situation feels more serious than just a few clubs breaking some rules; it feels as though the whole system is broken.

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Elated and exhausted

It has been nearly a week since Birmingham City ended their season with a memorable win against Fulham. It was an incredible game, with a full St Andrew’s providing loud support from before kick off to the post-game players parade around the pitch.  It was absolutely wonderful and I felt elated.

But I also felt exhausted, worn out by the rollercoaster emotions generated by an end-of-season escape from relegation. Continue reading

Hope fulfilled

Birmingham City won a game, after losing 7 League games plus a Cup game.  And it wasn’t an ugly win; it was beautiful. Blues had 8 corners, 8 shots on target and scored from 3 of them.  Stockdale only had to make one save. It was hard to pick a man of the match because the whole team played well. Continue reading

Hope for Hull game

At this stage of the season, I think most Birmingham City fans would prefer winning ugly to losing better. The stats in Garry Monk’s first two games looked better but you don’t get points for possession or passion. In the game against Cardiff, Birmingham had 16 shots, with 7 on target, but one of Cardiff’s shots ended up in the goal. Continue reading

Snow, fog and not casting the first stone

The last edition of the Made in Brum fanzine had a good question on its cover: “Has Cotterill broken Blues or have Blues broken Cotterill?” For me the question is unanswerable because it isn’t either/or but both/and.  Blues handed Cotterill a near impossible job and he didn’t manage to do it. Continue reading