Talking point: Who do Championship fans want to be relegated from the Premier League?
Despite my initial misgivings. Despite the presence of the best football team I have ever witnessed with my own eyes, Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, on the other channel. Despite neither of them being a Football League club. I watched the Carling Cup semi-final second leg between Birmingham City and West Ham United at St Andrew’s. Wow.
This really was a very special cup tie, that brought to mind all the most thrilling equivalents from my own club’s recent history. Fast, frenetic, filthy and frill-free, it was a night littered with F-words, not least from one particularly portly Birmingham-supporting gentleman who unleashed a lengthy volley of abuse at a linesman, captured for posterity by the television cameras.
It summed up a tense evening in the West Midlands for supporters of two proud clubs that have woefully under-achieved in the Premier League this season. A trip to Wembley at the end of February was the goal, but, even in victory, it would be scant consolation for Birmingham should they be relegated in May.
Such is the importance of top-flight status these days. Nevertheless, watching this game felt strangely like preparing a scouting report. In all likelihood, at least one of them will be counted among The Seventy Two next season.
The ebb and flow of the game was unrelenting, with both sides enjoying long periods of dominance. Deep into extra time it went, back and forth like a slow pendulum, much like the home side’s recent ping-pong between the top two divisions.
Birmingham is a familiar destination for supporters of Championship clubs in the last five years, the Blues having been promoted from the second tier in both 2007 and 2009. In total, they have spent twelve years out of the Premier League since its inception in 1992. Upton Park, on the other hand, has only hosted league football outside of the top flight for three years in the same period.
For an in-depth insight into what it would mean to Birmingham City if they were to drop out of the Premier League, look no further than The Swiss Ramble’s offering from earlier this month. West Ham’s own tale, published last summer, can be found here.
From a Football League perspective, either side would be a palatable addition to the Championship. Both St Andrew’s and Upton Park are great football venues, packed with character and history. Compare and contrast with the DW Stadium.
Anyone from Blackpool downwards in the current Premier League table is probably still at threat of relegation.
So, for those of you who think your club is destined to remain in (or perhaps even be promoted to) the Championship next season, which three teams would you most like to visit next season?