Monday, 26 April 2010

Absolute digrace

Now, believe me, I don’t want this blog to turn into my own little opportunity at harking on about Birmingham City Football Club every week – I think I did that enough in my last entry. However, the decision to award Aston Villa a penalty in the 83rd minute of an already explosive derby game has left me as well as the other 3000 Blues fans at Villa Park feeling completely disorientated with refereeing in England. The decision wasn’t just bad – it was disgraceful.

I won’t go on too much but for those of you didn’t managed to watch the game, apart from 2 great saves from Joe Hart in the first half, we had Villa hanging on to their Champions League aspirations – Brad Friedel was quite magnificent. We didn’t deserve that yesterday. We deserved to leave with at the very least a point. Villa deserved nothing, yet given everything.

I will leave it up to Roger Johnson to sum up: “Certainly during the first half, I thought he was poor. He was listening to the crowd when giving decisions. Of course it’s going to be a feisty game, it’s a derby. I don’t know what experience he’s had in derbies but you’ve got to put your best refs in and he clearly wasn’t, he’s ruined the game. For me, he shouldn’t be doing these sort of games.”

Enough said.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Great Expectations

I’ve been a season ticket holder at Birmingham City Football Club for around 5-6 years. Being a London-based Blues fan has its problems – 110 miles each week for just a home fixture makes for interesting reading on my brother’s miles on the clock at the end of each season, but for me it is so worth it. If they were 210 miles away I’d still be there each week without fail.

I was there when they came up after winning the play-off final in 2002/03. I was there when we stayed there for three seasons before being relegated in 2005/06. I was there when they were promoted again the following year. I was there when they were relegated again and the Blues ‘faithful’ tore the goalposts apart after the game. I was there for the whole of last season where I witnessed some of the worst football I have seen and somehow we were promoted once again. I’ve been there since the start of this season, and what a season it has turned out to be.

Life isn’t exactly easy supporting a so-called ‘yo-yo’ club as you can see from above. As mad as it may sound, Birmingham winning or losing can have a huge impact on the rest of my week – thankfully the majority of weeks this season I’ve been ecstatic and the dog hasn’t been kicked quite as much as in previous years.

Taking points off Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham and mega-rich Manchester City at St Andrews has been quite sensational. The unbeaten run from October through to February which saw a period of 15 games without defeat elevated a team which took less than £10 million to put together into the top ten of the Premier League, and in the process making every sports journalist and pundit across the land eat their proverbial hats.

However, success brings its own problems – expectation.

As I sat last weekend watching Birmingham v Hull, you could have been forgiven for thinking it was a pre-season friendly. It was boring, unimaginative and lacked any sort of ambition from both sides. Unbeaten since September at home, teams outside the top five or six as it has become this season are now expected to leave Birmingham with nothing. A scoreless draw was played out in front of 26,000, a point that further cemented Birmingham’s target for their best ever league finish.

And what happened when that final whistle blew?


Don’t get me wrong, the performance was truly awful and by far the worst game I had witnessed all season. The battling qualities and ‘character’ of the team was there, but without an ounce of quality. But boos? I wasn’t just shocked, I was pretty disgusted. No doubt the small section of the Blues fan who did happen to boo the team off were probably the same group who spent the first half of the season sitting at home leaving the stadium embarrassingly half-full each week.

The team has punched well above their weight all season in the most unforgiving league in the world. Stephen Carr was retired at the start of last season and yet has turned out to be one of the best bits of business Alex McLeish will ever do. Scott Dann and Roger Johnson have created a formidable partnership with one of the meanest home defenses in the league and neither had played in the top flight before this season. Lee Bowyer and Barry Ferguson have been simply sensational in midfield, with Bowyer showing the maturity he arguably lacked in his early days and Ferguson providing the class that we so desperately needed.

Sadly, this is a sign of the times.

Next season will be even harder than the one about to pass. Whether Mr Yeung spends his millions remains to be seen. I will be at Villa Park on Sunday for my first away derby game. If they win 3-0, I will be ectastic. If they lose 5-1 like two years ago, I certainly won’t be booing. This season, they have made me proud to be a Birmingham City fan. I just wish all supporters shared the same ideas.