Spyin' Kop: Liverpool v Birmingham

Posted by Millsee on January 31, 2006, 08:40:45 AM

There is little to compare with the opportunity to get ever closer to your nearest rivals and an automatic Champions League spot. One event that might just top that is the return to the fold of a true legend. For this game is so special, it not only allows Liverpool to move to within one point and a game-in-hand of Manchester United in second place, but is also likely to see a return of Robbie “God” Fowler.

Liverpool put in a dour performance against a weak Portsmouth side at the weekend with the manager choosing to rest a number of first team players. The travelling supporters were treated to the first start for Jan Kromkamp, and this transfer seems to be another astute move by Senor Benitez. John Arne Riise showed again why he is regarded as having his entire range footballing skills encamped in his left boot.

Birmingham desperately need points. They currently reside in 18th place, deep in the relegation zone and 4 points behind the team above them, Middlesborough. Birmingham have made heavy going of their recent cup games, drawing to lower league opposition in Torquay and next season’s Premiership new-boys, Reading. This game is likely to see a start for new signing Chris Sutton.

Reds will want to wish a speedy recovery to Karen Brady, Birmingham’s Managing Director who suffered a brain aneurism last week. Surgery is expected early this week.

Liverpool v Birmingham City
Wednesday, 1 February 2006
Anfield Stadium, Liverpool
KO 20:00

The Referee: Uriah Rennie.

Club Information

Birmingham City Football Club
Nickname: The Blues
Founded: 1875
Ground: St Andrew's Ground, Birmingham
Capacity: 30,016
Chairman: David Gold
Manager: Steve Bruce


FA Cup Finalists 1956, 1931
League Cup Winners 1963 , Finalists 2001
Division Two Champions 1995, 1955, 1948, 1921, 1893


Birmingham City were founded in 1875 under the name of Small Heath Alliance and it was not until 1905 that the club became known as Birmingham City. In the following year, the interest in the club led to their move to the current St Andrews stadium site - the opening fixture against Middlesbrough attracting a gate in excess of 30,000.

The Blues' first appearance at Wembley came in the 1931 FA Cup Final, losing to arch-rivals West Bromwich Albion by 2 goals to 1. That Cup Final fell in the mist of the heyday of City’s record goalscorer, Joe Bradford, who managed a strike-rate of 267 goals in 445 appearances as well as finding the net seven times in his twelve England caps.

Birmingham’s next spell came in the mid-1950s starting with promotion to the top flight under Arthur Turner in 1955. The following year the club achieved their highest ever league position - finishing sixth. They also reached the FA Cup Final, only to be confounded by Manchester City's pain-defying and neck-breaking goalkeeper, Bert Trautmann.

In 1960, City played Barcelona in the final of the Inter-City Fairs Cup, going down by an aggregate of 4-1.

Ten years later the City fans began their long love affair with Jasper Carrot lookalike, Trevor Francis. Francis went on to score 133 goals for the club before becoming English football's first million pound player as he joined Nottingham Forest. He was to return two decades later to take the club to the brink of the top flight as manager.

City under-achieved until the arrival of porn-magnate David Sullivan and the Gold brothers in 1993 - and the steady rise since then, coupled with the stunning redevelopment of the St Andrews ground is now seeing them established as genuine Premiership players.

Barry Fry helped the club achieve promotion to the First Division as manager in 1995, then Francis arrived to make the side play-off perennials only for a series of heart-breaking defeats in the semi-finals to leave fans feeling they would always be the bridesmaids.

Francis did lead Blues out at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff in February 2001 for the final of the Football League Cup - another agonising defeat on penalties against Liverpool proving scant reward for a stunning cup run.

When the manager was succeeded by Steve Bruce in late 2001, few people would have anticipated the immediate success the former Manchester United captain would bring. Again the club qualified for the play-offs, and this time the semi-final was overcome at the expense of Millwall. The final was a nerve-jangling affair in Cardiff, settled in a penalty shoot-out with the teenage Blues-supporting midfielder Darren Carter thumping home the winning kick.

Recent Form

D: Reading (A) 1-1
W: Portsmouth (H): 5-0
W: Torquay (H): 2-0
L: Charlton (A): 0-2
D: Torquay (A): 0-0
W: Wigan (H): 2-0


Liverpool beat Birmingham City on penalties to win the 2001 League Cup on their way to the treble. The Reds have only lost twice at Anfield since 1936 in the league, although City completed a league double over Liverpool in the 2004-05 season. Liverpool beat City 5-0 in 1986 with Gillespie popping in a hat-trick.

Spyin' Kop

This week’s Spyin’ Kop is brought to you with the assistance of two unoffical BCFC websites. First up is Aydan Anderson from BlueNosesOnline.com. Joining Aiden is Kym Smith, News and Features Editor for VBB Football. Kym is also one of the feature writers for Keep Right On. (Enough plugs there, Kym?!)
First and foremost, let's hope Karen Brady recovers quickly from her brain surgery. How is she at the moment?

AA: Hopefully she’s OK. She should be having an emergency operation on Monday to remove an aneurysm in the brain. Basically, for all you non-doctors out there, that’s when an artery in the brain swells up. Fortunately for Karen, the docs have caught it at an early stage and she will hopefully make a full recover. So fingers crossed that Karen will be back at the club by the end of Feb.

KS: As far as we all know, she's doing fine, and we all have our fingers crossed for her.  We were pretty shocked when we heard the news last week, as you don't expect relatively young, healthy people to be affected with something that could be fatal if it's left untreated.  We've heard that she will be having surgery any day now, and she's planning on being back at work as soon as possible.

Things aren't going particularly well for you in the league. You're going to need to put a good run together to ensure your premiership status for next season. How confident are you that you'll stay up?

AA: If we continue the form that we’ve shown over the last few weeks then yeah we can definitely stay up. The signing of Chris Sutton and the fact that a few of our better players have come back from injury has given everyone in Brum a lift. The 5-0 demolition of Portsmouth last weekend along with a good draw against Man Utd has certainly given us a chance and let’s hope we can take it.

KS: How confident am I personally? Depends what day of the week it is, what side of bed I've got out of and whether it's Full Moon or not! We've been uninspired, flaccid and plain diabolical. Seriously though, I've alternated with being depressed and severely depressed until we started to pick up a bit around Christmas; Pompey was the mother of all crunch games and we did what we had to do.  Now we have to get into the winning habit again (don't forget we did the double over you last season... Yeah....OK...!) and put in some good results, get a bit of a breather from all the injuries we've had, and add a sprinkling of good luck to keep us in touch with the teams around us. Or, to put it another way, are there three teams worse than we are? I'd happily see Boro go down instead....

I've got to ask, otherwise readers of this article will never forgive me: Discuss the conjecture: "Steve Bruce has got a big fat head."

AA: Yes we are aware that Steve Bruce’s head is larger than normal, and yes we’re also aware it may have more than a passing resemblance to a potato.

KS: <falls about laughing>  Strange, you're not the first person to pass that comment!  Our friendly neighbourhood Villa fans delight in calling him "Potato Head".  Poor old Steve, he's not the prettiest flower in the garden, is he?  I bet you'd have loved him if he'd been a Red though.

How do you think Bruce has done in the transfer window this season? Any ins or outs you are particularly pleased with?

AA: Well there’s only been the one signing so far and that was Chris Sutton who has been fantastic for us so far. Sutton could prove to be one of the signings of the season and his ability to link up the play in the final third will be vital for us. He seems to have the knack of being able to create space for other players and bring the midfield into play which will be very useful for us given the quality of our attacking midfielders. In the three games he’s played for us so far he has been man of the match in all of them, and the team has scored six goals with Sutton playing a part in the majority of them. Hopefully before we play your lot on Wednesday we will have another one, maybe two signings in. One of which will surely be a defender. Anthony Gardner and Martin Latka are the names being branded about but we will have to wait and see what happens.

KS: From the summer, securing the permanent signing of Jermaine Pennant was a real bonus, as despite his rather chequered past he has got real talent.  Mikael Forssell could still be good, but he's taken a long time to come back after serious injury.  Chris Sutton looks like a great acquisition for us as well; despite being a golden oldie he has made a difference in his first couple of games for us.

It must have given you a fair old shock playing Torquay. How was that for you?

AA: Apart from the result the Torquay away game was a great day out. The chance to visit a real football ground with a good atmosphere. Obviously the fact that we were lucky to scrape a draw wasn’t the highlight of the trip but we eased past them in the replay. The extra games are a bit annoying though, especially now we’ve got another one to fit in after our 1-1 draw against Reading at the weekend.

KS: Oh, they well and truly laid out the banana skins for us on our trip down there!  Lower league teams just love being the underdog, and they always manage to raise their game for the occasion; look at what Burton Albion did to Man Utd on their home ground.  It also didn't help that some of our guys seemed to leave their brains on the team coach. We managed to get our acts together for the replay though.

Do you have any peculiar chants we should be aware of? The last time I
saw you play at Anfield was the FA Cup game in January 2002. Owen was being substituted in the second half and as announcement came on, the reaction was something like this:
Announcer: …replacing number 10, Michael Owen…..
Announcer: …..is number 9, Nicolas Anelka…..
Considering Owen had just won the Balon D'Or, it was a somewhat ironic "who?", I thought.

AA: Yeah, well that chant has been around for a while now. Every player gets the ‘Who?’ treatment regardless of their stature. I think it originated when a player came on and the whole crowd mumbled who at the same time. It’s just kind of stuck since then. Apart from that there’s one you might be interested in that goes a little something like this:
“There’s only one Emile Heskey,
Only one Emile Heskey,
He used to be shite,
But now he’s alright,
Walking in a Heskey wonderland.”

And of course we’ve got the greatest football anthem in the world in “Keep Right On”. You’ll Never Walk A-what?

KS:  "WHOOOOO?" has been around for a while now - even the likes of Thierry Henry get treated to it! Our most famous song is "Keep Right on the End of the Road" of course, but you're also very likely to hear "Sh*t on the Villa" if our away fans are in a good mood. Funny though, when you play Aston Villa, you're likely to hear them singing "Sh*t on the City" to the very same tune!

You did well earlier in the season, breaching our increasingly leakproof defence, twice. What are your views on the team Benitez has built at Anfield since then?

AA: You have done well. Weren’t you on a nine game winning streak until the United game? The players you’ve bought in seem decent as well. Kromkamp has always looked a useful player, not too sure about Agger or the lad you signed from Hull though. And I always thought Mellor was a useful player.

KS: I think Rafa's doing a fantastic job, and I would be seriously chuffed if you managed to oust Chelsea from the top next season.  You've now got one of the most solid defences in the league and some great midfielders.  I was quite sad on your behalf when Michael Owen went to Newcastle, as I thought he would have sorted out the hole at the front that hasn't quite been filled.

What are your thoughts on the return of Robbie Fowler to Anfield?

AA: It’s a win, win situation. If he recaptures the form of old then you’ve got a world class player for free. If he doesn’t then you haven’t lost anything. I personally think he will do OK. He’s not going to be the Fowler of old but he will score a few and will be a useful player coming off the bench. I don’t think, however, that he will challenge Chris Sutton for the title of the best free transfer of the season. And I had to laugh when I heard a Liverpool fan genuinely predicting that Fowler could make the world cup squad. I knew you Scousers liked a good joke but that is just too funny.

KS: Eeeeek!!


Very first thought; he is bound to score past us.  More rational thought; after hearing an interview with him on the radio earlier, the guy sounds as though he is absolutely delighted to be going back home and I reckon he'll do really well for you.

Who do you think is your most important player(s), and who are the ones that you wouldn't mind seeing the back of?

AA: Jermaine Pennant, Matty Upson and Emile Heskey are our three most important players. They are the spine of the team. Upson is a quality centre half when he’s not having to cover a make shift left back. Pennant is pure class and should be on the plane to Germany and Heskey, as you all know, gives 100% and is always involved. On the other hand though Olivier ‘bombscare’ Tebilly has been the most  unimpressive player this season, although to be fair to him he is always played out of position. Nicky Butt is another that I’d be happy to see the back of.

KS: If we can keep him fit (bearing in mind he's had a long lay-off for major surgery), David Dunn.  He is a playmaker and has such class.  Jiri Jarosik has been excellent for us as well.  I know he looks like Lurch, but he has a cracking shot on him.  I'
m waiting to see what sort of impact Chris Sutton has as well.  As to the ones I wouldn't mind seeing the back of, I wouldn't have shed a tear if we'd had an option to send Nicky Butt back to Uncle Graeme.  And if Rafa is short of defenders, we'd be ecstatic if he offered us £3M for Tebily.  He's good entertainment value, and your fans would never need a laxative again!!  £500,000?  £50,000?  Five quid and a lucky bag??

Any young up and coming players in the squad that we might want to take a look at?

AA: There are a few good young players at the blues. Jermaine Pennant is one you have already been looking at and he is the jewel in our crown at the moment. But just coming through are few very useful looking players. Neil Kilkenny is a young midfielder who has broken into the first team this season and looks very good on the ball. Elsewhere there’s a young left back called Marcus Painter who has played a few times and looks solid.

KS: One you may well see is Neil Kilkenny.  He's our tiniest midfielder, and looks like a little lad compared with some of the big guys on the team.  He's very sharp though; always wents the ball and will run at people and get forward.

What's your best and worst Birmingham memory? You may, for obvious reasons, mention Trevor Francis crying like a baby after the League Cup Final in 2001.

AA: The best memory would be the 2002 Play Off Final against Norwich at the Millenium Stadium. After the disappointment of the previous three years (where we lost in the semi-finals) it was such a great feeling to see the Blues finally make it back to the Premier League. Also the double over Aston Villa in our first season was a great moment for the club, as was our double over you lot last season. Not too sure about a worst memory as there have been so many. Probably getting relegated to Division two in 1994, or losing to Watford/Barnsley/Preston in the Play Off semi finals.

KS: I thought you might mention that one somehow....... My worst memory personally is watching us get hammered by Man City a few weeks ago.  It was made even more diabolical by having to sit with their fans!!  It was the first time I've ever left a game before the end, and I was so cold I couldn't feel my legs from the knees down.  My best memory is probably watching us beat Arsenal on the last day of the 2004-5 season; I never thought we would manage it, and we all got caught up in the Baggies pulling off the Great Escape.

Which Liverpool player will you fear the most?

AA: Stevie Gerrard is by far the best player in your team, and without him you I don’t think you would be as high up the league as you are. Apart from Gerrard, Cisse is a quality player although he hasn’t done it for you just yet. Robbie Fowler is another one, he always seems to score against us.

KS: As a Blues fan, I almost feel I ought to say Peter Crouch, as he's an ex-Villa player and they just love to score against us.  The one I really fear though is your very own home-grown superstar, Steven Gerrard.  I love him to bits when he plays for England though.

What line-up do you think you will you put out?

AA: Well our captain Kenny Cunningham is injured as is central defender Martin Taylor and left back Jamie Clapham so we will probably have a makeshift defence again. The team should look something like this:

Melchiot, Tebilly/New signing, Upson, Lazaridis
Pennant, Johnson, Izzet, Dunn/Jarosik
Heskey, Sutton

KS: We're so short of centre halves they might be looking for fans who have bought their boots with them!  Rumour has it that we may be unveiling our new loan signing, Martin Latka.  It's difficult to guess the midfield, as I don't know whether David Dunn will start, but I would hope it will be:
Taylor - Lazaridis - Upson - Latka - Melchiot - Pennant - Izzet - Jarosik - Johnson - Sutton – Heskey
With Dunn and Forssell on the bench for when your defenders' legs get tired!

Finally, want to embarrass yourself with a prediction?

AA: I’m confident we can get something. I’ll go for a 1-1 draw with Sutton notching his first goal for the Blues.

KS: Errr...... no.  2-0 to Liverpool?  If we can take a point off you, I assure you that you'll hear my screams from Birmingham! (hmm.... that sounds really bad, doesn't it? I'm sure youre readers are nice people and will not think I'm being rude)

Thanks to Aydan and Kym for their assistance in this week’s Spyin’ Kop. A real pleasure reading their responses, with (somewhat embarrasingly) some rather tight deadlines!

© Millsee 2006

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