Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Birmingham City: The Only Way is Up

It was 27th February 2011, a historical Sunday when Birmingham City overcame Arsenal to win their first major trophy in half a century. It was a mere three months later when the Blues were relegated to the Championship after a two year stint in the top-flight of English Football.

The financial trouble was almost immediately apparent with tabloid newspapers latching on to a new financial problem every other day. Soon after, the fire-sale started with big names leaving City for pastures new. Craig Gardner, Roger Johnson and Sebastian Larsson were just a few of the stars to leave the sinking club.

With much of the 2010/11 starting line up gone and a dark cloud hanging over Birmingham City, the last thing the club needed was more instability and when the club announced that Alex McLeish had departed for local rivals Aston Villa, things only got worse. 
The board acted swiftly and brought in a replacement with proper pedigree; ex-Newcastle manager Chris Hughton, who had led Newcastle out of the Championship just a year earlier. 

New Birmingham Manager Chris Hughton

The new man got the approval of most of the fans and his first act was to bring in Veteran Centre-back Stephen Caldwell who quickly became a staple of the City defence. He then strengthened the squad with a variety of players including Jonathon Spector, Wade Elliot and young striker Chris Wood.

After a mediocre pre-season, City had a bad start to the season with away losses to Derby County and Middlesbrough and a disappointing draw at Watford. However as the team began to gel, things started to improve, the first sign of this improvement was the 3-0 mauling of Nacional in the Europa League in which impressive youngster, Nathan Redmond, bagged his first goal for the club.

Nathan Redmond Celebrates his first goal for the Blues

The confidence of the win spurred them to take another 3 points and record a 3-0 home win against Millwall with young striker, Chris Wood, on loan from West Brom scoring a hat-trick. Things were looking up for the Blues but they were brought back down to earth with a bump after recording three successive losses to Braga, league leaders Southampton and billionaire giants Manchester City.

After mustering a poor draw with Barnsley the Blues went on to win 5 games in a row starting in the Europa League with an away win at NK Maribor and, most recently an away win against Bristol.
Should the Blues continue in such a fine vein of form, they could well be contenders for promotion.

With a new look squad, a fantastic new manager and a brilliant, distinctive style of play, the Blues have been the dark horse of the league, they currently sit in 14th place with 3 games in hand over nearly every other team in the league, nine points from those games could see City propel themselves to second place, only a point behind the current leaders, Southampton. 

Everyone was very quick to dismiss the Blues at the start of the season but we now see that they might just execute a swift return to the Premier League and if not then it’s not necessarily the worst thing as it would give them a chance to stabilise themselves both on and off-pitch. Whichever way it goes, it’s clear that there’s only one way for the Blues to go and that is up.

Birmingham City play Leeds United on 26th October at St. Andrews, 19:45 Kick-off.