A Message to Birmingham City: Stop Obsessing with Villa and Concentrate on the Play-Offs

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Birmingham City are perhaps the least heralded of the four candidates as we enter the Championship play-off period and there has certainly been a quiet and undemonstrative manner about the progress of Chris Hughton’s charges.

They have been playing catch up all season of course. Heavy involvement in the Europa League left them short on fixtures completed for months but a fabulous 2-1 win in Bruges in front of over 5,000 ecstatic away supporters signalled their strength and the rise has been inexorable.

Blues fans now have to overcome their natural scepticism and gallows humour, borne out of years of yo-yoing. Just over a year ago, they were revelling in the travails of Wojciech Szczęsny so another promotion back into the Premier League may seem humdrum.

Against Reading yesterday, most of St. Andrews seemed far more gleeful at the prospect of Aston Villa dropping a division than their authoritative and impressive victory over the champions – and therein lies a clue to the mediocrity of the last half century – clubs that measure themselves against A. N. Other can seem forever distracted – unlike yesterday’s opponents, unconcerned by any fierce jealousies and so free to calmly concentrate on their own game.

For this is a Birmingham City that deserves more attention. Hughton has assembled the eleven that mimics the best Premier League teams in style and formation. Two all-purpose strong men sit in midfield, wingers provide pace and flair and the forward line contains one target man and one in the hole.

To further elaborate, Senegalese duo Guirane N’Daw and Morgaro Gomis recall messrs Obi Mikel, Essien, Ramires, Song and Diaby in the strength and presence they bring to the central areas – N’Daw in particular has been dominant at times this campaign, his return for the forthcoming lottery most welcome.

Controlled as they are, this leaves the wide men to produce much of the creativity – for much of this season, Chris Burke has been the right side incumbent, confirming the excellent impression he made as a Cardiff City player – for the three years we have been running this website, he has been omnipresent in any list of the division’s best. Rested yesterday, he enjoyed a late cameo, but replacement Wade Elliott, another lower division stalwart, had a fine day – the late disappointment of a penalty miss taking none of the shine from a performance punctuated by an earlier, successful spot kick.

On the left, Andros Townsend is another eye catching Spurs loanee to place alongside the subject of our Monday profile subject Harry Kane and another man who has graced the turf at Millwall’s New Den. Birmingham is his eighth temporary home and he was superb here, causing immeasurable problems for stand-in Royals right back Matthew Connolly. Blues may well choose to keep him if they make the step up.

That aforementioned continental style strike pairing featured the man of the match on the day – a player I have been impressed with via the idiot box and the producer of one of the best individual performances I have seen this year. Nathan Redmond was a dervish and full of tricks but what was most pleasing about his contribution was the way he never wasted possession and was always looking for an astute pass. In this he may have the edge over the almost equally impressive Wilfried Zaha down at Crystal Palace – and for a man who turned 18 a month ago, his beautifully measured slider that set up sub Adam Rooney for the opener was a delight. Rooney had replaced the injured Nikola Žigić early in the piece.

In our critique of last Sunday’s PFA awards, I mentioned that Curtis Davies was the only man sslected in the divisional team whom I was yet to witness in action in 2011-12. Nothing he did here would suggest he does not merit his place in that XI – looking as classy as ever and a reminder of how highly rated he was in his formative years. At 27 he still has a ton of time to make a comeback in the Premier League and why not at Birmingham? Alongside, I was also taken with Pablo Ibáñez, discarded by West Bromwich Albion but unlucky with a header that thrummed off the post here and very comfortable in possession.

David Murphy at left back is fast turning into a Blues stalwart and if right back Peter Ramage has done the rounds of a few clubs now without ever achieving stunning success, he and replacement keeper Colin Doyle both did well – the latter even going to so far as save a third penalty of the encounter from countryman Ian Harte.

With the likes of Keith Fahey, Marlon King, Jordon Mutch and Jack Butland to call on in addition to those who took part here, City have an embarrassment of options and will need those fans to stop thinking about things claret and blue for the 180 minutes of the Blackpool games.

For behind the seemingly rosy picture of a squad bursting with good things, the no doubt astronomical wages being paid to Davies, Ibáñez, Žigić and others are the most obvious evidence of underlying problems. Last week, the club’s holding company failed for an almost inconceivable fourth time to file its financial results for the year to 30 June 2011, while President and majority shareholder Carson Yeung faces money laundering charges in Hong Kong. Staying down would magnify the horrific realities - so it’s probably best to stop thinking about the Gingerman of Aston.

Rob Langham (pen name: Lanterne Rouge) is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 44 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Football Attic, Twisted Blood, In Bed with Maradona, A United View on Football and The Blizzard.

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34 Comments on "A Message to Birmingham City: Stop Obsessing with Villa and Concentrate on the Play-Offs"

  1. Spotlight Kid says:

    I agree with 90% of this appraisal of BCFC, the bit regarding the players and the balance the inestimable ‘Hoots’ Hughton has brought to a beleaguered and relegation shocked side.

    However to say BCFC supporters’ supposed ‘obsession’ with Villa is the root of non achievment is maybe stretching the point. Presently there is good cause for disgruntlement after wee Eck’s failure to hold onto Prem status, compounded by his defection to the other side. However, far from being an obsession, the Villa thing has become more of a comedy sideshow to the rise of the Blues this season, and the football being served up by a committed squad under the most unpromising of circumstances.

    I will not pretend that many view the declining fortunes of Villa under Eck with a sense of schadenfreude; but within the soap opera of footy, isn’t that understandable, inevitable even?

  2. chris b says:

    Of course Birmingham fans want success but it has always been the case that blues fans would rather Villa did badly than blues did well given the choice. Thats why their support is so fickle. 8000 fans to 20000 (if they are lucky) on any given week.

    • Steve W says:

      All Birmingham Fans Chris? How do equate for Villa’s loud cheering when Blues went down? Or the conitued singing of SotC? BTW we haven’t averaged 8k for more than 20 years – but as a Villa fan I know HISTORY is your passion!!!

  3. MATT says:

    One seems to forget the Come on Arsenal banner displayed at History fc prior to the League cup final triumph that blows your theory out of the water somewhat! Good to see success for them would be staying up! Birmingham are you listening? Yes we are! KRO!

  4. Paul says:

    Birmingham are championship.

    • KeepRightDan says:

      Paul needs to be more imaginative with his posts.

      • Paul says:

        no need, I’m stating facts, not speculating.

        • KeepRightDan says:

          Yeah, but you haven’t made any point. You could just have easily said ‘apples are fruits’ or ‘birds can fly’. Birmingham are a championship side but I imagine any person reading this article will already be aware of that.

  5. Frank Heaven says:

    A crucial few weeks ahead for Blues. Following the announcement this week that their financial results will be postponed again, till after the play offs, there’s only one conclusion that can be drawn: that Birmingham City are now a basket case in the Rangers or Portsmouth league, and only promotion back to the Premier League can save them from administration or worse.

    If they fail in the play offs, the carnage doesn’t bear thinking about. It’s likely Blues will be staring down the barrel of a long period in the wilderness. In which case, hating the Villa will be about all they will have to sing about – so may as well leave them to enjoy it.

  6. bluenose says:

    chris b,paul and frank heavens responded in such a predictable way it is becoming quite laughable , fickle fans at villa park surely not after all the chorus of boo’s after boltons winner went in was just to lift the players wasnt it , and all we have to sing about is hating the villa yes it is one of my favourite ditty’s along with the management position of a certain mr hughton who’s football ethic of entertaining , passing football has slowly disolved the negative defensive football of a scottish manager who currently reigns in the dugout of the villa, the expression of grasping at straws seems to be quite fitting amongst the villa faithfull of which only 5,000 have renewed their season ticket , yes we are currently in the championship , but believe this under the guidance of chris hughton and his backroom team there will be a fresh wind blowing over birmingham so watch this space kro

  7. steve avfc says:

    Yep, agree entirely with that fact that you inbreds will never except the the villa are bigger, better with sucess always just around the corner.But I agree we both will never except one team is better than the other even when its obviouse. Hope you come up so we can meet again soom fine and sunny day.
    VTID, SOTC

    • Bluenosesol says:

      Not 100% sure of what an inbred is, as have never come across one as a Bluenose. I suspect one of their major traits would be very poor grammar and spelling and a failure to articulate oneself to any logical degree?

  8. Bari says:

    Interesting that anyone should think it’s Birmingham fans & not Villa’s that are obsessed. An article about Birmingham City has drawn as many comments from fans of our rivals as it has from Blues fans. Now who’s main song contains reference to their rivals – certainly not Birmingham City!

  9. Im a Birmingham city fan,and that was a great read,a well published article,your knowledge second to non,excellent from a non bias party.although you will never understand the pain from the years of being second best to the darling club founders of the football Leauge,who think there the best thing since sliced bread,your totally right we need to be fully behind our boys at this pivotal stage of the playoff lottery or the consequences could be drastic.K.R.O

  10. Paul says:

    Firstly, fair review of blues team.

    A few things though. I would not expect a team like Reading who have no local rival to understand the passionate hate that exists between the second city’s two clubs. So don’t bother trying.

    Also who on earth are you calling mediocre? I’m fairly sure Reading only exists in order to host an annual festival, plus you share your stadium with a rugby team. Ala football giants…… Wigan athletic.

    Final point. Blues financial plight is bugger all to do with wages. It has far more to do with out owner having his assets frozen. If that happened to half the clubs in this division they would be equally fecked.

    Anyway.

  11. Paul D says:

    yeah- cos no other club sings about their local rivals do they? Even ManU, in their late 90′s pomp (winning the treble, I seem to recall), used to sing ‘City, Manchester City, nobody knows their names…”. Get over yourself ffs..

  12. BCFCfan says:

    A message to Reading: Enjoy relegation next season

  13. bluenose says:

    yes we might fail at getting to the premiership but the “mighty”villa are very close to joining wolves falling throught the trap door relegation beckons and i cant wait for vile to play barnsley on acold tuesday night

  14. eric says:

    I have been a Blues fan since 1954 and hate hearing fans shouting s–t on the Villa when we are not even playing them. Support your team and stop giving others a profile.

  15. Lanterne Rouge says:

    I’d certainly like to re-emphasize again what an excellent performance it was by Blues – and I hugely root for Chris Hughton – a really dignified, decent man who has shown himself to be one of the best young coaches in British football. Redmond was a revelation to me – and it will be his performance from this day that lingers longest in the memory – fascinated to see how he develops. As for the play offs, it would be interesting to know how confident Birmingham are? – I think it looks one of the toughest line ups in many a year and wouldn’t like to call it. For sure, Blues played better than the Blackpool and West Ham sides I saw in the flesh recently – but the Tangerines will attack unceasingly and West Ham will be the usual bag of Allardyce tricks. Relieved not to be involved.

  16. Steven says:

    The only time I heard Reading fans was when they were singing about Southampton, who in return don’t give a damn about Reading. In fact, nobody really does. Just another run of the mill club in the middle of nowhere with no big rivalry, bit like Coventry.
    As for Blues fans getting “obsessed” with Villa, lets turn the other cheek. Most of Villa’s songs are about Blues, they went to stupid lengths to create an “Astonal” badge before the Carling Cup Final and even had a “Good luck Arsenal” banner in the Holte (We didn’t have any banner at St Andrews when Villa were at Wembley). They celebrated like they won a major trophy when we went down, some of the fans didn’t want McLeish simply because of his Blues connections (Not because of his negative football, but because he moved across the Expressway). Some of their fans went to the extreme and dressed up as murderer Tracie Andrews in the Carling Cup Quarter Final at St Andrews simply because she killed her boyfriend, who was a Bluenose. Yes, and it’s just us that sing songs about our rivals.

  17. Sean says:

    very decent article, however to suggest Birmingham have ‘an embarrassment of options’ is not really true. In fact I believe Blues have used the least amount of players of any Championship side this season (21). Yes some of these players are on steep wages but in comparison with the transfer fees and wages being paid by West Ham, Leicester, Southampton etc. they don’t compare in the amount of resources and it has been a titanic effort for this small, yet skilled squad to have preformed so strongly.

  18. paul says:

    steve avfc

    Did you ever go to school? If it is a legal requirement to attend full time education in the UK for 12 years, what exactly were you doing?

    Thick Villa idiot.

  19. Jesus says:

    Birmingham obsessed with Villa? Seems Reading know all about us….come on you’re in the Premiership concentrate on that and not us…KRO

  20. Paul says:

    Keeprightdan…….no need, I’m stating facts, not speculating.

  21. Bcfc says:

    Its called rivalary which reading no nothing about, and villa fans can hardley talk go on youtube and the holte end is jumpin up n down in joy last season when we got relagated, as for reading … Chino wearing faggits

  22. steve avfc says:

    You noses are getting very upset about my blog.
    When you can get over your club being nothing to the likes of the villa.
    As Olef Melberg once said , I quote ” birmingham city – I just don’t like ”
    As for the bad grammer, its so that you can read it easier

    • diocletian says:

      It’s so you can read it easier…..really?

      Just a few obvious points from the earlier post you made;

      inbreds will never except (ACCEPT) the (THAT) the villa are bigger, better with sucess (SUCCESS)always just around the corner.

      never except (ACCEPT)one team is better than the other even when its obviouse(OBVIOUS).

      Hope you come up so we can meet again soom (SOME)fine and sunny day.

      I would love to know how bad spelling and grammar makes it easier to read, but maybe it’s an inbred thing I will never understand.

      I recommend you try the Key Stage 1 English books, most 6-7 year old should be able to help you out if you struggle at first.

  23. steve avfc says:

    diocletian

    Look you nuckledragging perdantic small heath twat. If you do come up and disease the premiership then we can all but expect it.. Get over yourself and get out more instaed of trying to be the school teacher on this blog.
    If you want to meet me and talk face to face , then i,m in lower holte L6 , seat 165
    but then you will be to busy correcting people on this blog to have the bollocks to meet
    Get a fucking life

    • Dean says:

      An internet hardman. Can we crown him King of the Internet now?

      I’m a Blues fan. I want Villa to stay up. Because if they went down, they’d enjoy a season in the Championship. As I do not want them to enjoy football ever, I would rather they suffer and finish 17th forever. With McLeish in charge for this and next season, that could well be their fate.

      Back on topic, and the play-offs is a terrific distraction. As Frank Heaven said above, the finances are basketcase and could well mean that we end up like Pompey. Which would be a huge shame for the players and staff that have come in and tried so very hard this season.

  24. steve avfc says:

    Just thought I would sign off by saying (if you didn’t already know)
    Your a little club, with little money, with little support , with little chance of staying up if you did come up.
    You will always be in our shadow and will never lets us down because you are a shit premiership team when you do manage to come up.
    You also should be put out of business for employing ginger twats who go on to manage the greatest club in the world and fucks it up
    THANKS FOR FUCK ALL

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