So last game then. Well, for Blues anyway. I’m still working on extra games to go to. Before Sky TV, a season could stretch out depending on how many games had been postponed due to the weather. Now, due to FA and EFL rules, the last round of a league’s fixtures have to kick off at the same time so nobody gets an unfair advantage. I mentioned Sky because of their coverage. Regardless of how many games have been played previously, the last round of fixtures throw up games that everything hinges on. Relegation and promotion battles. Throughout my time with watching Blues, a huge percentage of last games, have had something hinged on it. Sky, because they want the viewing figures, force kickoff times to be changed. In the last 10 years, Blues have had some right awkward kickoff times to contend with. The fixture gods this season, blessed us with a home fixture. Sky decreed that 12:30 on a Saturday should be the time. At least it wasn’t Middlesbrough away on a Sunday with a 12:30 kickoff. So why can’t Sky cover a game at 3 o’clock on a Saturday? Only the F.A.cup final is allowed to have a televised 3 o’clock kickoff by royal decree. Even the final has now fallen foul of television schedules mind. By the way, the first train service to Middlesbrough from Brum on a Sunday, would not arrive in Middlesbrough until well into the second half with a 12:30 kickoff. Neither Sky nor the football authorities care about something like that though. Sky may have injected a lot of money into the game, but they’ve also wrecked it for the fans who actually go to games. I long to go back to the pre-Sky days. Things were so much more simpler then. (Takes rose tinted glasses off.) So although a Saturday and at home, the early kickoff still meant a rescheduled pre-match drink. At least 2 hours precious drinking time would be lost. Remember Hughsey? He’d been in touch, he was coming over to Brum for the game. Nope, I don’t know why either. Seems that the defeat to Huddersfield hadn’t put him off. So not only had I got to work out what pubs were open and not, I’d also got to fit in meeting up with my mate from Telford. Sounds like I’m moaning doesn’t it? Well I am and I’m not. I think the main problem is the way the Blues season has gone. When I think about how it’s gone and is at the moment, I flip between a mood of anger, despondency and sheer apathy. Anyway, back to the day. With the Welly not opening until 10 o’clock, (A time that is still brilliant for a non-Wetherspoons by the way.) I headed to the Briar Rose (Which is a Wetherspoons.) I was joined by JK, before he went off somewhere else to get breakfast. Leaving there just before 10 o’clock, I walked the short distance up the hill to join Steve and Hereford Gary who were waiting outside for the Welly to open. Doors opened, we took over our usual table. Jinksy had got the excuse he was working and so I wasn’t to see him until after the game. Worcester Pete came in, as did Birdy. After acknowledging what I’d written about Annabelle, he went up to the beer garden. Seeing Birdy, it was inevitable that he would be eventually followed by Craig, but with his son in tow. Yes, yes, I know it’s Edward, but I just can’t stand the name. He’s a good lad, it’s just that name they’ve lumbered the poor kid with. Bryn and Gav turned up, and again, after saying hello to em, they headed upstairs to the ‘roof terrace’. I love how ordinary things can be made to sound posh….. Shiny paper, empty box. Whilst drinking and waiting for my friend from Telford to turn up, me and Steve got chatting to a Blackburn fan about our two club’s fortunes. Eventually, Hughsey and a mate of his he knew from work Rory, turned up. Just as the rest of us had decided to head down to the White Swan. Once at the Swan, and after saying hello to John and the rest of the Spotted Dog/White Swan crew, we headed outside and onto the pavement to drink. A small mob of Blackburn fans ‘gave it the big ‘un’ as they went passed with their obligatory designated police officer. Bemused, we laughed at them. It was the equivalent of a chihuahua barking at a rottweiler. Had Blackburn got what is perceived as a ‘proper’ firm, there’d have been marshalled by barking dogs and flashing blue lights. A bit like Millwall were last home game and Wolves always are. With the Vile however, it’s much more for their protection. With time moving on a lot quicker than usual because of the ridiculous kickoff, we moved on to Bob’s, where I introduced Hughsey and Rory to ‘sour’ beer. We then walked up to the ground and for what was the last Blues game of the season.
Right, I’m going to have a really good rant and rave here about everything that’s rotten about Birmingham City right now. So if you’re easily shocked and offended, or you just really don’t give a monkey’s, then miss this bit out. Well where do I start? There’s just so much sludge to wade through. I’m going to start with buying my season ticket. After more than a season, I was raring to get back down to St Andrews. Rightly so given that football was halted abruptly by the government due to the Coronavirus pandemic and then after resumption, fans were banned, we got a discount for the games we hadn’t been able to go to. That’s the only positive thing that was to come out of the season. Because of ineptitude and lack of care, having mail delivered to the hovel I live in, is sporadic at best and completely nonexistent the rest of the time. According to the ticket office, collection wasn’t an option. It was either have it sent out, or have it sent digitally to my phone. Being a technophobe, I plumped for having it sent out to me. Will I be able to go back to collecting it next season? Who knows. After weeks of worrying and fretting, it arrived. The League Cup or whatever its sponsorship name is, paired us at home to Colchester. This was when alarm bells started to ring. Strong rumours of the Kop and the Tilton being permanently closed due to structural problems meaning a safety certificate could not be issued, turned out to be true. Usually for the early rounds of the League Cup, only the Kop, Tilton and the away end in the Railway End, are opened. The Kop and the Tilton stands remained shut. Remember, the club had had a whole year to sort out preparations for this situation. They’d already been informed of the structural problems by the safety inspector previously, and the club had chosen to ignore the warnings. Instead of using the season when there wasn’t any spectators allowed, to carry out the remedial work required, they’d stumbled idiotically to the point where the inspector had had no option but to refuse to issue a safety certificate. So we were to go into the first home League game of the season with more season ticket holders than the capacity. Knowing that this was always going to happen, the club should never have sold season tickets. We were all put into a ballot for the first game of the season. We were to be informed whether we’d been successful in the draw by email. (The club hasn’t and probably never will have my email address.) At this point, I was on day shift. I got home on the Thursday evening before the Stoke game, to find an envelope with a ticket inside. I was to miss out on Bournemouth, but by that time I was back on night shift. I have still to receive the promised compensation for that game and I don’t believe for one second I’m going to get it. Me being stubborn, I don’t see why I should have to claim it back. It should just be standard procedure. It is with proper companies. The lack of remuneration is the least of it as far as I’m concerned. We were told that work was being carried out so that the upper tiers of the Kop and Tilton could be opened. A home game became a ‘will it or wont it’ search for news as the hours and sometimes minutes ticked by until the Friday deadline. Firstly the upper tier of the Tilton was opened, followed finally by the Kop. Now onto what was happening on the pitch. The emotional first game up in Sheffield and the win that had accompanied it, was already a distant memory. It was obvious that the problems with the ground was having an adverse effect on the players, because they were performing much better at away games than they were at home. The displacement of fans, and the stigma away fans attached to the stands being partially shut, should’ve galvanised the home crowd to get behind the side. It didn’t. Not only had the capacity been chopped by 10,000 but an already poor atmosphere was chopped too. That’s not to say that there was 10,000 missing fans, but had we actually managed to have a good season on the pitch, then they definitely would have been missing. St Andrews can be raucous and intimidating, and has been many times in the past. Thing is with away games, eventually you have to have some kind of balance as it’s a house of cards waiting for a gust of wind. Talking of gusts of wind, a lot was made of Troy Deeney signing for Blues. A self confessed Bluenose, a big dressing room character and a not too shabby a player. I’ll admit right now, that I’ve been bitterly disappointed by Troy Deeney. He’s failed to deliver anywhere near what I was expecting, and my expectations weren’t exactly that high. I did believe he was going to be the missing jigsaw piece that would push us on to make a serious attempt at promotion though Just an attempt mind, I wasn’t expecting us to race away with the league or anything that far fetched. The rest of the signings we’d made were either out of contract players, or loan signings. Even Troy Deeney had been out of contract. After the good start we’d made, including the perfect victory at Luton, we headed to bottom of the table Peterborough. With a huge away following from Brum, I myself was confident we’d have another victory under our belts. How wrong was I? The home side made us look a lot less than ordinary. It was a serious wake up call. The wheels had already well and truly come off the promotion bus. We then hit a series of injuries. At one stage we had no fit senior centre halves. Even the excommunicated Harlee Dean made an appearance before he too succumbed to injury. The youngster Nico Gordon was even drafted in to partner a fit again Marc Roberts after a couple of games of the fullbacks (or wing backs, or defensive wingers, or whatever you want to call them.) Kristian Pedersen and Maxime Colin paired in the centre. On loan from Wolves keeper Sarkic got injured and went back. We had to then put up with a now Covid free, Neil Etheridge instead. The impressive Tahithe Chong picked up an injury that was to put him out for the biggest part of the season and that was to be a blow to our attacking nous. I could go on and list at least a dozen more injuries that had an effect on the team at important points. Was it training? Was it mindset? or a bit of both? When a team is successful and within touching distance of a trophy or promotion, players will play through pain without moaning. When a team is struggling, any excuse is made not to play. Scott Hogan is very much a hit and miss confidence striker. Whilst he’ll get you goals when his confidence is Sky rocketing, so the opposite can be said too. When his confidence is lower than a snake’s belly, it’s like playing with 10 men. Heading into the January transfer window, it was obvious to any owner of a golden labrador and a white stick, that we needed pace going forward. I’d seen electric milk floats move quicker than Blues on the attack. Lee Bowyer was even allowed to spend money on a player. Juninho Bacuna was acquired out of Rangers reserves. Now I’m really not making excuses here, but the standard of the officials this season has been the worst I’ve ever known it. It not just Blues that have fallen foul of it, but it hasn’t helped. Yes, I know it’s been the same for all clubs, but like I’ve said, it hasn’t helped. After an initial upsurge in performances after the transfer window, things turned sour again. Rumours circulated of a fallout between Director of Football, Craig Gardner and Bowyer. Apparently, Bowyer wanted to sell Craig’s sister Gary. Craig pulled rank and so sister Gary stayed. As I write this, Bowyer has met the powers that be, and as there’s been no announcement of his much rumoured departure, it appears that he’s staying. Do I want Lee Bowyer to stay? This where the apathy comes in, I just don’t care. I believe that things have become so bad at Blues, that it wouldn’t matter who comes in. Let’s turn to the despondency. In the fortnight prior to this game, much was reported in the media about the ‘impending sale’ of Blues and how Craig Gardner had been ‘working tirelessly’ in a quest for new owners. After the initial glut of money that was pumped into the club for playing transfers and subsequent wages, it’s gone down hill faster than a cannonball rolling down the side of Everest. Rumours circulating about Bowyer had been replaced by rumours of ‘interested parties’ who were ‘involved’ with taking Blues over. Media interviews were held with those who were supposed to be brokering the deal. Reporters ‘in the know’ whipping up what was already a toxic situation with ongoing protests. The end of this match resulted in what you see in the following photos.
I will only believe a takeover of Blues is happening when BSHL announce a bid has been made on the HKSE. Until that happens, it’s just a lot of noise our end and the silence from Hong Kong is drowning it out. I’d really like to believe that a takeover is imminent but I just don’t. Now to the sheer anger. Wow, where do I start with this one? The lack of financial support that Lee Bowyer has had, the sneaky goings on behind his back, the downright disloyalty show by Gardner towards his employers, the owners. The blasé attitude shown by the owners to what’s happening. The blatant lies from Ian Dutton over the repairs to the stands. A lack of news regarding season ticket prices and sale dates for next season. Something that with the rising cost of living having an impact, needs to be addressed and addressed quickly. How on earth can people budget for something they don’t know the price of? How can people with families to support vindicate the expense? I still want to carry on attending as many away games as possible and at the moment, I’m in Gold band. I even believe I’ll be in Platinum next season. Something that hasn’t had any benefit to. Both Platinum and Gold were lumped together. That was good for me, but ultimately a kick in the tender parts for the most loyal fans. At the moment, with the combination of anger, despondency and apathy weighing heavily, I’m seriously wondering if I’ll bother next season though. From what I can see, hear and read, and given my knowledge of the workings of football and business, (Not a great lot I know, but still enough.) I expect the ownership issues to drag on well into next season. Too late for any serious movement in the transfer window and I don’t for one second believe the stands will be repaired and open in time for the season’s first home game. I could of course be wrong, but what’s the chances given the last five years?
Oh, I almost forgot. There was actually a game on. Neither Deeney nor Gary Gardner even made the substitute bench. Make of that what you will. The game was won with the two best goals I’ve seen at St Andrews this season. Unfortunately, both were scored by Blackburn. Blues did pull a goal back from the soon to be out of contract and departing Kristian Pedersen, but it was academic by then. Talking of Academy. George Hall and Jobe Bellingham were thrown on for a few touches. Both looked promising. I remember Jobe getting a rousing reception when he’d warmed up on the touchline against Colchester. In the intervening months, he’s physically shot up a good 6 inches. A good pre-season, and he could well be ready for the start of next season. George Hall looks like he could be one Hell of a player. Strong, direct and skilful. Along side Jordan James, Nico Gordon and Marcel Oakley, we could of the nucleus of a really good side. I fear we won’t though. The future should be bright, but all I can see is darkness.
I headed back to the Spotted Dog and joined Jinksy, Dave and Pat Webb in the garden. We were soon to be joined by the Swedes and Norwegian Ivar.
Eventually, Hughsey and Rory joined us too. From there, me, Hughsey and Rory moved on to Digbrew. I hadn’t been in Digbrew since well before the pandemic. To be honest, i’d grown tired of a lack of Cask ale choice and what they did have, was pretty standard stuff.
I was pleased to see they’d got a sour beer on. Hughsey even joined me in having one. After saying farewell to Spoons and Jude, (I should see them at some point over the summer.) we moved back into town and the Colemore. The conversation flowed until Hughsey needed to get the train back to Telford, (I don’t miss that train journey back to that place.) and Rory had to get home to his missus. (I don’t miss having to do that either.) I walked down with them to the bottom of the ‘ramp’. All Brummies know where the ramp is. It’s as iconic as the rotunda. Not wanting to go home just yet, I contemplated with what to do next. So the Welly it was. Sitting there in the pub in quiet reflection, Taffy and Ivar came in. For whatever reason, me and Taff’s humour bounces off each other. Poor Ivar didn’t know what was going on and just sat there laughing. It rounded the day off perfectly. Yes Taff, I’ve forgotten the ‘fringe’ quip you made. Too be honest though mate, there were more ‘one liners’ than you could shake a stick at. Any of them would have improved this rubbish had I remembered one, but such is a day out watching the Blues. Yeah, I probably will end up renewing my season ticket. I’d miss the social aspect too much if I didn’t. Keep Right On!
Between initially writing this post, fine tuning and proof reading it, (Yes I do actually proof read the rubbish I write. At least attempt to anyway.) Blues announced next season’s season ticket prices and sales dates. They’re by no means exonerated, but the reduction in price is both substantial and welcome. It’s almost like they’ve hacked into my phone and read what I was going to post. Is it a step forward? Repair the stands in time for next season and it would be.