Spyin' Kop - Birmingham City (H) - 9/11/09

Posted by andythecatuk on November 8, 2009, 02:05:53 AM

After Wednesday’s bitterly disappointing European result Rafa and the boys need to get their heads up and fully focus on what is going to be, for my money anyway, a very tough game against a decent outfit in Birmingham City – anyone who saw their game against Manchester City last Sunday will know that if they turn up with the right attitude then this will by no means be a formality.  With five defeats and counting already in the PL this season, the Reds will need to ensure that they are right on their game from the off on Monday evening.  I popped over to a number of different BCFC forums to canvas the opinions of their fans ahead of the game.

I’ve only ever been in three fights in my thirty one years on this earth, well I say ‘fights’- probably ‘physical altercations’ would be a better way of describing them.  The first of those was in the five-a-side changing rooms when I was about eleven over a young lady and as I recall we got pulled apart after a couple of rubbish slaps in each others direction - that’s me and the other lad by the way and not the girl.  The second time was about seven years later when somehow I happened to be with a group of blokes who had the week before (unbeknownst to me of course) got themselves into some sort of turf war with another bunch.  As the two groups decided to sort it out ‘man to man’ I was the unfortunate sod who, in the wrong place at the wrong time, got twatted around the ear by some big oaf who clearly hadn’t heard his girlfriend’s cry of “No, not him – he’s nothing to do with it!”  All of which brings me very neatly on to my lasting memory of Birmingham City FC.  I remember it being a fairly rubbish day back in late September 2005 when I made my last visit to St Andrews – (game finished 2-2 and I think it rained a lot) and as I say, my lasting memory is that of walking past a pub near the Bull Ring (on my way back to the station) when some absolute dick came out, decided to zone in on me, (wrong time and place again) and twat me around the head.  The only reason I mention it is that when I started to get back my first responses to the questions below from the various forums I visited, I was concerned that it must only be him and his mates replying – I was genuinely surprised by some of the vitriol there seemed to be towards Liverpool FC and the city in general.  Luckily, not long after, the answers started to come in from a much larger number of sound, friendly and constructive individuals, who clearly know their football, and you will find that the majority of the article below has been made up of their contributions.  Don’t get worried; I’ve left in a smattering of sarcasm, mild abuse and somewhat extreme comments, so that one or two of you can post the almost customary now:
“That <insert name here> seems like a right knob” (I’d suggest inserting the name ‘TrevorFrancisTrackSuits’ by the way), but I’ve sifted out a fair portion of nonsense contributors, so as not to detract from the constructive and well thought out opinions of the vast majority.  So, without further ado, here’s the article, including the original introduction that should have opened this before I had that bout of verbal (or should that be typed?) diarrhoea.

Public Health Warning: This is an extremely long article – be warned!  The responses I got from the Birmingham fans were many and varied so I didn’t want to leave much out – and besides, the game is not until Monday night, so what better way to kill the time……?!

Spyin’ Kop – Barclays Premier League – Birmingham City (H)


Date: 9th November 2009
K.O: 8.00pm
Venue: Anfield Stadium, Liverpool
Capacity: 45, 632


Birmingham City Honours*

•   Second Division / The Championship
o   Champions: 1892–93, 1920–21, 1947–48, 1954–55
o   Runners up: 1893–94, 1900–01, 1902–03, 1971–72, 1984–85, 2006–07, 2008–09
o   Play-off winners: 2001–02

•   Third Division / Division Two
o   Champions: 1994–95
o   Runners up: 1991–92

•   FA Cup
o   Runners up: 1931, 1956

•   League Cup
o   Winners: 1963
o   Runners up: 2001

•   Inter-Cities Fairs Cup
o   Runners up: 1960, 1961

•   Associate Members Cup / Football League Trophy
o   Winners: 1991, 1995

•   Birmingham Senior Cup
o   Winners: 1905
(*shamefully stolen from Wikipedia – if it’s wrong, blame them)

Form Guide (last six matches – all competitions)

Liverpool: DLLWLL
Birmingham:  DWLLLL

Betting Guide*

Liverpool to win: 1/3
Birmingham to win: 10/1
Draw: 7/2
*Odds correct with http://www.willhill.com as at 8/11/09

What have you made of your start to the season – has it been better or worse than you expected?

DB-91: Better - good home wins and tight performances against top four sides so far shows signs of promise.
Kwacky: A mixed start but better than expected - we've had twice the injury problems your lot have had, but now we're pretty much at full strength. We are playing football which is pleasing to see.
Fat Buddha: Worse than I expected, but better than most expected and things seem to be improving.
Andy: About the same - we've won most of the games we were meant to win and lost most of the others. One thing is for certain - the team are trying to play football for the first time since Maggie Thatcher was in power, and things are on the up.
Alastair: The last two games (home to Sunderland & Man City) have produced four points and some of the best football seen at St Andrews for some considerable time, and this has definitely provided some optimism for the rest of the season. 

Although still relatively early days, what are your feelings on where you will be come May – is survival the first and only target or do you feel you can achieve more in light of the change of ownership?

Fat Buddha: Depends on whether we keep Eck (Alex McLeish) or not - if we do, I would expect to finish around half way.
Andy: I think we'll finish towards the top of the bottom half of the table.  Despite the hype, the Premier League is nowhere near as difficult as the first time we were promoted and there are very few teams to be in awe of.
Weeps: Survival is the first and only target - feck anything else.
Barking Poslethwaite: I would take 17th now if it was offered.  Survive this year and then think about moving on.
Leechy: Survival is the priority for every promoted team.  If we can stay outside the relegation zone until January, then I'd expect the investment our new owners are putting in to help us stay up comfortably.
Jim Jimmeney: Survival is of great importance to us, anything else would be complete and utter abject failure so I would definitely settle for 17th but think we could achieve a 13/14th place finish if we get it right.
Alastair: That’s a difficult one.  Being a Birmingham fan has never been easy and just as you begin to think that things are looking up something happens to kick you in the ***** (Alastair censored himself by the way!) and bring you back down to earth.  However, based on the last two performances, my glass is currently half full and I will confidently predict that we will maintain our Premier League status with a 14th – 16th place finish!

You may have heard that one or two Liverpool fans are somewhat aggrieved at our foreign owners right now, what is your take on Carson Yeung and his plans for taking Birmingham City forward?

Kwacky: Fred West and Maggie Thatcher would be welcome provided the last lot went.  Yeung and his pals have done a lot in a short space of time to win the fans over.
Fat Buddha: They seem like a good bunch of enthusiastic amateurs. Too early to have any real opinion - time will tell.
Andy: Early days yet, but so far they are making a concerted effort to get the fans onside and we have to give them a chance.
Barking Poslethwaite: I was sceptical but have been converted. The new owners have revitalised the spirit.
Leechy: I think a lot of fans are delighted with the takeover, the club had gone stale under the old regime of Sullivan, Gold and Brady.  The new owners have brought a real sense of positivity to the club that has been missing for a long time.
Jim Jimmeney: Very early days and I do have some trepidation - foreign owners are only buying English clubs because there is profit to be made not for any love of the team - the more foreign owners there are also increases the chances of PL games being played abroad or some form of Euro league being created which I am totally opposed to.  If we did get relegated this season I think it would be a disaster for us but if we stay up and then push on it could be good times ahead - at present the new board are saying all the right things (but what else would they do?) and the supporters have taken to them.  Clearly there is also the potential of a massive fan base in China if we do become more successful which I would have no issue with…I wouldn't mind a red away kit with a bit of yellow in it either!
Alastair: I think the business model that has been put forward sounds good in theory. Birmingham City to become the Chinese people’s Premier League football team! Obviously this depends on retaining Premier League status and attracting some high profile players and, probably, at least one or two Chinese internationals to really generate some popularity in China.  If just 0.5% of the 1.3 billion population in China buy a shirt at £30 each that would generate approx £200 million if my Math’s is right!  So far, the new owners seem to have made the right noises and seem to be listening to the fans and addressing the big complaints that many fans had about the old board.

I’ve heard from a Brum fan colleague that ridiculous things are/have been happening with ticket prices at St Andrews this season – what’s the situation and do you think low attendances are having an impact on results or team morale?

DB-91: Prices have been lowered and hopefully, along with decent home performances, it will bring back a lot of the stay away fans.
Kwacky: Season ticket holders can bring a mate to two games for a total of £10.00.  The new owners have already reduced prices with promises of deals for existing season ticket holders. The fans will come back.
Barking Poslethwaite: Problems with ticket pricing have been endemic for a few seasons. The new board have a chance to rebuild trust but it will take time for the regular attendances to grow.
Bluebeatle: It would take a book to answer this - recession, prices, years of winning bugger all, Small Heath/Deritend no longer being the catchment area, owners that bailed us and then lost interest…I could go on but it’s not just us is it?
Jim Jimmeney: I don't think ridiculous is the right word, attendances are low so the new owners have reduced prices as a bit of a PR exercise to try and get the stay-aways back; logical would seem to be a better choice of words.  However I think our low attendances have more to do with the apathy of some of our fans than the ticket prices.
Alastair: Ticket prices have been far too high at St Andrews for at least 4 years. From the 2002/2003 - 2004/2005 seasons, the prices increased each year but most games were sold out as the novelty of the first 3 years in the Premier League carried the gate.  Ticket prices were not reduced in 2006/07 (when Championship football at St Andrews was for many games more expensive than Premier League football at Vile Park).

How have the players Alex McLeish brought in in the summer fitted into the team so far?

Kwacky: Chucho (Christian Benitez) looks promising but no goals as of yet.  Ferguson is a revelation. Scott Dann and Roger Johnson look like the bargains of the century.
Fat Buddha: Much better than anyone could have hoped for - Johnson, Ferguson and Dann were very astute buys. Benitez may yet become a sensation, but I have my doubts. Joe Hart is a right laugh.
Andy: Pretty good in general - Dann and Johnson are looking like quite a partnership, Ferguson is looking composed and consistent in the middle and Benitez is a real live wire up front, he'll score soon and what are the odds that his first goal for the Blues will end up getting your Benitez the sack?
Barking Poslethwaite: Johnson, Dann and Vignal (when fit) in particular have looked the business. Benitez needs a bit of luck in front of goal. I think McLeish did a good job with the money he had to spend.
Leechy: Very well in general - Roger Johnson has been fantastic, Christian Benitez upfront will give any defence problems, Barry Ferguson (whilst not the most talented player) never stops battling, Joe Hart has been a little erratic and Scott Dann (a Liverpool lad I think) has been very good considering his young age.
Jim Jimmeney: For the most part they have fitted in well - there are a couple of poor exceptions but the majority of new signings are an improvement on what we had.

And while we are on the subject of the manager what do you make of him in comparison to previous gaffers – are you pleased with the direction he has taken the club since arriving?

Fat Buddha: Delighted.
DB-91: Suspicious at first, however I'll give him the benefit of the doubt with the increased money pot he's got this season.
Kwacky: Honest guy who seems to understand the game. It's taken a while to win the fans over and he's still not got everyone on side but things look promising. He has brought in intelligent footballers and clearly has a long term plan. I just hope the new owners back him and give him a chance.
Andy: See the previous answers regarding the quality of football.
Weeps: The ball is on the floor. Success wise it’s about the same.
Barking Poslethwaite: We could have done lots worse. I hope McLeish stays around for a few years; we need some stability and building on and off the field.
Bluebeatle: I like Alex and I think he's going to be a better manager under the new owners because they'll want him to go for it (the players are punching above their weight at the moment) and I think he'll start playing a more attacking game as the season moves on.  He's got a long way to go before I love him like Barry Fry though. 
Leechy: Well he got us back to where we were when he took over but we look a better team now.  If we stay up this season then he's done a good job.
Jim Jimmeney: I will be burnt at the stake on this forum for saying this for this but for me Big Eck’s career so far (prior to Brum) is ‘close but no cigar’, and as he was brought in to take us to the next level which he hasn't achieved yet, to date I do not see him as an improvement on Bruce.  However, I will reserve judgment until the end of the season - he has earned the right to prove he can take us to the next level, so (for me at least) he should be judged on whether he can do it or not - if he does he will have succeeded, if we remain a yo-yo club he will have failed.
PJ: Yes I am, some fans were against him but to be fair to the bloke he got us promoted on next to nothing.
Les: I think McLeish has made some good signings and is doing a good job and I hope he gets the time and money to continue.  I liked Steve Bruce - he's honest and players like him, but the football under him wasn’t that great.

Which players in the squad have been your star performers so far this season?

DB-91: Roger Johnson, Chucho, and Scott Dann has done well too.
Kwacky: Ferguson and Johnson. I've left out Dann as he missed the start of the season.
Andy: Johnson, Ferguson, Benitez
Barking Poslethwaite: I laughed when they told me Barry Ferguson was a Premier League player - I'm not laughing now. Johnson and Dann have transformed a shaky Championship defence into something that looks credible in the top flight.
Bluebeatle: Paulo Nuttini has been phenomenal.  I think he's the midfield link up player we've been after for some time now and he's Scottish so speaks the lingo down here. 
Leechy: Roger Johnson and Christian Benitez by a mile, Johnson has easily made the step up to the Prem, Benitez may not have scored but it's not for the want of trying, and we look a much, much better team when he plays.
Jim Jimmeney: Roger Johnson, Barry Ferguson, Stephen Carr and Seb Larsson seems to be getting back to his best again.

And who is just not pulling their weight in your opinion?

DB-91: Wouldn’t go that far but Joe Hart looks wobbly and inexperienced in my opinion between the sticks.
Fat Buddha: Cameron Jerome, although it’s debatable whether he has any weight to pull and before the last two games, Seb Larsson.
Andy: People who haven't performed to their best would include Larsson and McFadden, but they work hard enough and on their day are both capable of being match winners.
Weeps: All are pulling their weight in my opinion.
Barking Poslethwaite: I wouldn't slag off anybody – I can't think of anyone who hasn't made a decent contribution when called upon.
Leechy: No-one really, early season I think some fans would have said Seb Larsson, but he seems to have pulled it around now.
Jim Jimmeney: No-one really, some are playing better than others but you can't fault the commitment for the most part.  Expect lots of replies telling you O'Connor and Jerome are lazy, but ignore these replies because they aren't.
PJ: Larsson and Jerome.

Imagine Carson hands you the cheque book to spend the reported January transfer kitty – who do you want to sign and why?

DB-91: A decent attacking midfielder and a goal scorer to link up with Chucho as Jerome just doesn’t have the ability beyond rapid pace.
Fat Buddha: Someone I have never heard of who has been diligently scouted, will cost thruppence ha’penny and will be a superstar, which is unlikely.
Andy: Assuming we get 29 million we need a goal scorer - probably from Europe or South America as anyone from the Premier League will be hideously overpriced and come with baggage, a younger version of Lee Bowyer to run the midfield, and a right back to challenge the impressive Carr for his place.
Barking Poslethwaite: Chamakh from Bordeaux - an affordable old-fashioned English-style centre forward. We need a goalscorer.
Leechy: I would say that the main thing is we've gone from the £2-5m player bracket being our top end, to the £5-8m bracket.
Jim Jimmeney: Kevin Nolan - put him in the middle next to Ferguson.  Left back but not Gareth Bale, if we could get Paul Konchesky off of Fulham I would be happy enough.  Martin Petrov.  A goal scoring striker like Robbie Keane or Roman Pavlyuchenko (risky but I think he can score goals in the Prem) if they would come, as I think Spurs will be selling one or both of them.  Maybe Kenwyne Jones or Benni McCarthy.  Loan move for Daniel Sturridge.
PJ: Fernando Torres.   Someone who can hold the ball up and a left back, e.g. Roman Pavlyuchenko and Gareth Bale.
Les: We could do with an out and out winger with pace and I wish Kevin Phillips was ten years younger, but apart from that I think we’re okay.

And taking into consideration your newly acquired wealth, are we likely to hear any new chants from the travelling Blues on Monday night?

Kwacky: We ran out of ideas for decent songs a while ago.
Andy: Probably something food related, but other than that just the usual dole scrounging, bin dipping classics.
Weeps: ‘See you, in the Europa league. See you, in the Europa league’.
Barking Poslethwaite: Rafa must be used to hearing he's going to be sacked in the morning so, no, probably nothing new.
Jim Jimmeney: We have a couple you won't have heard since our last visit but it doesn't really have anything to do with the wealth, just our sense of humour.  I would imagine 'Hey Scousers, where's my stereo?' and ‘Sign on, sign on’ will get a verse or two too.

Following Liverpool’s well documented “bad spell” it would seem the media are hot on the story of attempting to push Rafa out of the door at Anfield.  Just out of interest, do you have a take on the situation as a fan of football or could you not care less, move on to the next BCFC related question please?!

DB-91: Couldn’t care less about the media darlings – sorry.
Kwacky: I'm a BCFC fan. As mentioned above, your injuries were nothing compared to our problems but no one cares about us. But we don't hawk sympathy.
Andy: Your current 'crisis' is completely of Benitez's own making, and he deserves the stick that he is getting - if you think you are in the middle of an injury nightmare then you should try being a Blues fan for a season. We will be hoping to twist the knife into an already open wound.
TrevorFrancisTrackSuits: My take is that you have the weakest squad of the top four and no money to spend.  You'll end up selling Torres in the summer to provide funds for a new manager - top six side this season, top half next.  Things are only going to get worse for your club especially now that you're out of the Champions League - in short, you're fecked.
Barking Poslethwaite: 67 players bought and yet without Torres and Gerrard you're buggered - not exactly a ringing endorsement of Rafa.  It's cruel, but I think we are all enjoying this.
Leechy: You've got a lot of injuries and the players that have come in simply haven't been good enough.  Is that Rafa's fault - it depends whether he was given the money to strengthen further; although he spent an insane amount on Glen Johnson so it could still be his fault.
Jim Jimmeney: I think you are missing Alonso something rotten and apart from Johnson, Gerrard and Torres, I think you look a lot poorer than last season.  Mascherano currently looks about as interested in playing for you as he did playing for West Ham and Carragher looks like a shadow of his former self and in general you look unsure at the back.  Rafa took you to your best finish in years last season but already a finish outside the top four looks possible this season. The comparative lack of financial backing from the board can't have helped this season but he has had plenty of financial backing previously, maybe it is a time for a change not least because his and the supporters goals seem to be quite opposing right now.
PJ: I have always liked Liverpool and I always will but at the moment without a shadow of a doubt you are a two-man team. Aquilani looks promising but he needs to get some games under his belt.
Les: I don't know what to think about your manager - I thought he would have built a better squad by now and should be better in the league, but then again you usually do well in Europe and would a replacement do any better?  I always thought Kevin Keegan would have been a great manager for you.

You are Alex McLeish for the evening on Monday – what team and formation do you look to put out at Anfield?  Do you have ay injury worries ahead of the game?

DB-91: Attacking, go at Liverpool and don’t sit back waiting for them to throw the pressure on us.
Fat Buddha: A fluid 4-5-1.
Andy: 4-4-2 - same team as against City with Carsley replacing the suspended Ferguson.
Barking Poslethwaite: I'd go back to 4-5-1 but I suspect I might be in a minority.  Ferguson is a big loss for us, but other than that we have less injuries now that at any time in the last five years, I think.  It may be a surprise to you, but we are used to having five or six players unavailable through injury - welcome to the real world.




No injury worries - Ferguson's suspended for his netball antics against Man City but that's about it.  I'd expect us to have a real go at you with your defence looking so frail.
PJ: Simple - play 4-5-1 and stick Chucho on his own up front, ask him to close down and be a nuisance for 60-70 minutes and then bring on Jerome and let him do the same, get in at the defenders ankles and you never know what will happen.

A lot of LFC fans are of the opinion that we are currently like a wounded animal and someone is due a real good hiding – do you think that this will be the Blues or do you think with morale and confidence at a low there could be no better time to face Liverpool?

DB-91: So far the blues haven’t been tonked by any team badly, touch wood that still remains from Monday but then again this is the blues so who knows.
Kwacky: I do worry about Monday - Liverpool are a good side and it's easy for people from the outside to say you've only got two players. That said, we're well organised, with one of the best defensive records in the league.  I'm hoping for a decent midfield battle.  No doubt if you fail to win the press will say you had a bad game -just like every other side who have failed to beat us.
Andy: Give it your best shot, we have played well against the bigger teams this season and we won't roll over for anyone, this is the perfect time to go to Anfield and if we can take the lead then I can see your team falling apart under the pressure.
Weeps: A real good hiding?  Won 1 in 7?  If that’s the case, someone we face is due for a fecking good hiding - I'd be worried if I was you.
Barking Poslethwaite: We have been sufficiently well organised not to look like being hammered by 4 goals plus, so I'd like to think we'd give you a contest.
Leechy: It's hard to say, you've obviously got better players than us in general so we'll have to gain a result through determination and teamwork.  We don't get heavily beaten very often though so I think you may have to look elsewhere for your big win.
Jim Jimmeney: Could go either way, I wish you guys had beaten Lyon as I think you may then have rested on your laurels against us, now Anfield will be desperate for the expected win and your players should be fired up, however if you don't break us down early I can see us frustrating you guys and the crowd turning.  We always manage to produce a good performance against the 'big four' clubs and we also have a good record against you in the Prem so don't be surprised if we nab a point off of you (or all three if you put in another poor performance or underestimate us).
PJ: A bit of both to be honest.  If Liverpool turn up and play their best no question it could be at least 3-0, but as you say confidence isn't the best and it could work in our favour.

And finally, a la Mystic Meg (where’s she got to nowadays?) would you care to predict the result/scorers for the game?

DB-91: 1-1. Lee Bowyer equaliser.
Fat Buddha: 2-0 to you feckers.
Andy: 2-0 Blues. Benitez & Ridgewell.
Weeps: 2-0 to Liverpool - just going to be another big four ‘day at the office’.
Barking Poslethwaite: A point would be a bonus for us.  I think we might go down 2-0 - dodgy penalty in front of the Kop and a tap in from Kuyt.
Leechy: 1-1
Jim Jimmeney: Hopefully she is decomposing under a rock somewhere - I am going for a brave (or foolhardy) 1-2.
PJ: Liverpool 1-1 Birmingham City.

Once again, a big thank you to those Birmingham fans who took the time and trouble to respond to my questions – with the exception of one or two absolute morons (whose answers were designed purely to antagonize and so therefore left out of this article) – I found them to be a friendly welcoming bunch with a good understanding of the game.  Wishing them luck for the rest of the season, obviously though not until we’ve kick started ours again on Monday night!

© Andy Smith 2009

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