Looking Back At Your Own Blues History

I don’t know how many of you are aware but within the next twelve months or so, I shall be emigrating to the other side of the world. Stuff like work, study, my family, Blues… they all came into the equation and after sorting out many of the problems attached to most of the above subjects, I found myself thinking finally about Blues.

There’s no doubt about it that being so far away from the club will have a huge impact on me. I tip my hat to any football supporter – regardless of team – who can get up at 3 AM week in, week out and feel wins, losses, agony and ecstasy as much as those sitting in the overpriced seats at the stadium.

I spent 2004 abroad and keeping up with the football and Blues was one of the hardest things. I may well have posted stories of a kindly West Ham United fan who used to record all the games for me and arrive at work early in the morning to drop the tape (and in certain instances a long play video recorder too!) off for me to rush home and watch the latest Blues game.

People from home also sent recordings and on certain occasions, I’d be watching games – living games as if they mattered in the moment – three weeks after they’d happened. In fact, I believe I still have a tape marked “Arsenal 0-0 Birmingham City – The best defensive display – EVER!” written on it in my cupboard.

And so that brings me onto today. Today – with some effort – I hauled down my oversized box of Birmingham City memories. I guess some would say that I’m a hoarder. I would say that I’m a treasurer of memories in the form of garbage… Some would count it as art.

Today was the day I had to work out exactly what I was taking with me across the world and what I was leaving behind. In essence, throwing away. I sorted through 16 years of programmes, newspapers, magazines, scarves, hats, shirts, flags and anything else you care to mention.

As far as I’m concerned, you’re not human if you open a box such as the one I opened today and not spend quite a bit of time looking through it. I did just that as I was being hurried up by Mrs Aff. When the box was open and emptied, this is what I found before me (click for a bigger version):

Lots and lots of stuff!

For some reason, I do not have a programme for the first ever game I went to. December 1991, Birmingham City 3-1 Fulham. Ian Rogerson scored twice and Nigel Gleghorn scored once. I stood at the very back of the Kop and my overwhelming memories are of the chant of ‘Blue Army!’ and two signs – the ‘Dempsey Roofing’ one hanging from the side of the old and battered Railway End and the ‘We have a part to play in Birmingham City’ sign in the corner where the Railway End meets the Main Stand.  I had turned 11 just a few days earlier.

Flicking through my stuff, I found a black and white picture (I don’t know why it was black and white) of the team I first knew as a ‘proper’ Blues fan. The players I just mentioned as well as a young Paul Tait. He was my first ever favourite player and I remember my dad telling me about him possibly never playing for us again. I relived that today as I came across a picture of Taity lying in a hospital bed with his girlfriend sitting next to him. What a terrible haircut Taity had…

I found my first ever Blues shirt – the awful Triton Showers paint splash kit from the very early 90’s. I also found my Wembley ‘95 shirt that mom and dad presented to me on the morning of the game. Bonus! Also found a red and black striped ‘Auto Windscreens’ shirt as well as a black and white striped away kit from around 10 years ago. Tucked away was also my first ever England shirt from Euro ‘96. What a kit!

I also flicked through stuff and came across plenty of players that I had memories of. For some reason, Jason Bowen was heavily featured. I remember Bowen, overwhelmingly for the two goals he scored in the opening five minutes of an Anglo-Italian Cup tie at St Andrews. Possibly against Genoa? In typical Blues fashion, I believe we lost the game 3-2 but Bowen’s second was a lovely right footed volley after he ghosted in on the far stick in front of the Tilton.

I was beginning to come into my element and find stuff from my first few proper years of supporting Blues. Years when I started forming opinions of my own and deciding who needed to be bought in and who needed to be sold.

I came across articles and pictures of Kevin Francis scoring two dynamite headers to topple Middlesbrough in the League Cup and a quote from Steve Claridge about the mighty Leeds United having “no identifiable weaknesses” in the week leading up to the League Cup semi final – again in which Super Kev scored a belter. How times change!

Wembley in 1995 and Jose Dominguez and Ricky Otto all found places into my bulging collection. I have a copy of the ill-fated Blues official newspaper with Dominguez holding a load of fireworks with the headline “Jose can fire Blues to the top!” on the front page. Liam Daish and one kidney, Dave Barnett and his kung-fu, a giant poster of the double-winning side of 1995, the programme of Blues Vs West Bromwich Albion where the classy Jonathon Hunt cracked home a 25 yarder to snatch a point not far from the end.

I found lots and lots of Trevor Francis related stuff. I’ve always been told him about him and my brother is named after him. I collected a lot of posters and stories and then he became our manager. It made it all the more easy to find information out and I now have a solid collection of vintage TF pictures, stories and quotes.

He became our manager and Steve Bruce joined on £17,000 a week. I know this because I came across an old fanzine with the headline “Okay, hands up! For seventeen grand a week, I can’t take a penalty!” I can’t for the life of me remember who the penalty was against. I remember Peter Ndlovu missing one against Port Vale not far from the end of the season and a fanzine I came across described him as taking it about as hard as “…a dwarf kicking a steel door in.” Fair enough!

Through the TF years and many favourite players as well as heartbreaks. 3 playoff semi-finals and one League Cup final. I didn’t make the game in Cardiff but I have the programme, ditto the Wembley 1991 final. I have the front of the Birmingham Mail and a tearful TF embracing the unlucky AJ. Speaking of AJ, he adorned many the front of Blues programmes throughout the late 90’s… he’ll go on to be a star that lad! I also came across one of my most prized programmes – the game we beat Manchester City 2-1 thanks to very, very, very, very, VERY late goals from Nicky Forster and Martin O’Connor after Citeh had took the lead in the 88th minute. My ticket that day was a birthday present.

I also found lots and lots of fanzines including Issue #1 of ‘Made In Brum’ – a fanzine I’m now fortunate to contribute to. I found copies of ‘The Zulu’, ‘The Heathen’, ‘Wake Up Blue’, ‘Made In Brum’ and a few others. Blues also published their own magazine a few years ago. I have the first copy of that – Mike Newell is in it. I resisted the temptation to spit on it.

Into the Premiership we came and the quality of the programmes suddenly went up – and so did the price. These days I don’t buy a programme because like a lot of other things in football, I don’t believe they’re value for money. Fanzines all the way and I have a solid collection.

The match reports of our first ever Premiership derby win over Aston Villa were a pleasure to read. It was the first time in my life that I recall us beating them from across the Expressway. It was a sweet night and I get goosebumps from looking back to that Clinton Morrison goal. I just wish I could’ve been inside the stadium.

The Prem years rolled by… Dugarry, Savage, local derbies, quality players, full crowds, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal… the Creme-de-la-crème of world football being seen at St Andrews – most of it on the side of the opposition, mind!

The final piece of paper I filed away made me smile the most. It encapsulated everything that supporting Blues is all about. My mother-in-law lives in Australia and whenever Blues are featured in newspapers, especially at the beginning of the season, she sends the article to me.

At the beginning of last season, she sent me about 5 pieces of paper out of the Herald Sun newspaper. It predicted that Blues would finish 7th in the Premiership. Ultimately, we all know the story. We were relegated, pretty pathetically in all honesty. I folded the piece of paper up and had a bit of a chuckle. It seems that after all these years, we’re still self-destructing when we should be going on to achieve. I’m going to keep that piece of paper as a reminder, as if I need it. I simply didn’t have the heart to throw it away.

At the end of the sorting out, my Blues memories amounted to twenty kilograms. It’s going to cost around £100 to get it all shipped over to Australia. But I couldn’t leave it behind. It’d be like leaving the club behind, and no matter where I am in the world, I simply couldn’t do that.

Donations for the get Aff’s stuff to Australia so as to make sure he’s not lonely can be sent to… Just kidding.

Today was a good day. Looking back at everything I’d gone through as a Blues fan. It got me wondering about other people and what supporting Blues has been like for them personally. Do you keep a box of memories or store it all up in the old memory?

What does your own Blues personal history say?

I have a number of duplicate programmes which I’m willing to give away free to good homes. All you need do is cover the postage. I’ll list them here now and if you’re interested, you can contact me here. All programmes are for home matches.

- Vs Slough Town – FA Cup – 12/11/94 (x3)
- Vs Leyton Orient – Division Two – 17/12/94 (x2)
- Vs Liverpool – FA Cup – 07/12/95
- Blues at Wembley – Autowindscreen Shield Final – Vs Carlisle United – Club souvenir edition
- Vs Wolverhampton Wanderers – Division One – 01/01/96
- Vs Huddersfield Town – Division One – 12/03/96
- Vs Sunderland – Division One – 17/03/96
- Vs West Bromwich Albion – Division One – 20/03/96
- Vs Portsmouth – Division One – 02/04/96
- Vs Port Vale – Division One – 06/04/96
- Vs Reading – Division One – 05/05/96
- Vs Bradford City – Division One – 12/10/96 (x2)
- Vs Grimsby Town – Division One – 07/12/96
- Vs Manchester City – Division One – 13/12/97
- Vs Sunderland – Division One – 19/12/98

Ex-Blues Striker Set To Reach 1,000

Ex-Blues striker Steve Claridge is all set to make his 1,000th appearance in professional football. Claridge last played in April when he scored the winner in Walsall’s 1-0 win over Gillingham. Since then he has been without a club and desperately looking for someone to sign him so that he can clock up the magic 1,000.

Last week 40 year old Claridge said he would be willing to play for free for any club that was willing to sign him. Former club Bournemouth have finally taken him up on the offer, although it will be a pay-as-you-play deal. He is in the squad to play against Port Vale on Saturday.

Claridge played for Blues between January 1994 and February 1996. He cost the club £350,000 from Cambridge United. The club eventually sold him to Leicester City for a profit of nearly £1m. He made 120 appearances for Blues scoring 42 goals. He will best be remembered for his willingness to work and his scruffy appearance.

During his career he has also played for (deep breath) Fareham Town, Bournemouth, Weymonth, Crystal Palace, Aldershot, Cambridge United, Luton Town, Leicester City, Portsmouth, Millwall, Brighton, Brentford, Wycombe, Gillingham, Bradford and Walsall!

I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for him on Saturday… Good luck, Cleggy!

Blast From The Past : Stephen Clemence

I started this blog a year ago next month. Over the past twelve months I’ve posted well over 1,000 articles, bits and pieces here. The 19th posting ever on this blog surrounded Stephen Clemence. I’ve always remembered that article since the image that was included was my first ever crack at a Photoshop job!

Since Clem was a bit of a hero yesterday I figured it might be nice to re-post the article – complete with image – since it was lost on the blog during the great Rackslash server crash of ‘06. I found it on the Google cache today.

I know that when I sit down to watch the game tonight I’ll see a streak of formerly bright ginger hair lining up in the middle of the park wearing the shirt of my beloved club. When Nicky Butt signed I was over the moon with the arrangement. It hadn’t worked out for him at Newcastle for one reason or another but hopefully another move of club could galvanize the talent and desire left inside of him and push him on to become the player he had been at Manchester United.

If it had worked out like that we’d have had a great player on our hands for the price of £2m. What a masterstroke it would’ve been by Brucey. As it stands it’s been the biggest mistake of the season. Mainly because we’ve had to keep him for the year and therefore it stopped us bringing in our now famous super-loanee during the January window. But as usual, hindsight is a wonderful thing and now most of us are counting the hours down until his departure and us bringing in someone new during the summer.

But whilst we all sit in the Tilton, the Kop and the pubs around Birmingham debating on how passionless and talentless the player has been, there’s another man who we should be thinking about. A player who has epitomized everything that we’ve been about since we were promoted. Whilst Bruce has tried to mould a side that plays a more expansive game Clem has sat in the reserves, bided his time and waited for another chance to show what he can do.

Stephen Clemence

He hasn’t moaned, he hasn’t bitched and he certainly hasn’t been in the papers saying how unfair life is. You could never accuse Clemence of being the type of player to be happy picking up his wages either. He moved to Blues due to a lack of first team action back in the opening January transfer window of our Premiership lives in 2003. Along with battle hardened performers like Savage, Grainger, Purse and errr… Stern John… they side battled and battled and stayed up thanks to a touch of class provided by Bryan Hughes and Christophe Dugarry.

But since Savage left, Clemence has sort of drifted away. A victim of what happens when a side moves away from its natural roots, finding his way back into the engine room has been a problem. Today I should be writing an article about how he has never let the club down, always gives 100%, never has a bad game and is going to be a stabilizing influence over the remaining three or four months of the season.

But instead I find myself talking about how Clemence rarely knows what it is like to feel the wooden splinters up the crack of his arse from warming the bench. Instead of being that bit of stability and the epitome of nothing special but gets the job done, he’s the forgotten man replaced by a once formerly great England international and treble winner with Manchester United.

I’m praying for a Clemence return in tonight’s game against Reading. I won’t hold my breath because for some bizarre reason the manager of our club fails to see what the rest of us see week in and week out. I could understand Bruce sticking with Butt if he had showed signs of becoming the player of old but as the weeks go by, the performances get worse. And the worse news of all? Butt has said he’d like a permanent move here in the summer. Is that because he’s automatic choice no matter how bad he plays?

I don’t know the answer but one thing I do know is that the smart ones amongst the Blues faithful know that players like Clemence are just as important at a club as the stars that are guaranteed a starting berth should they prove fitness. All together now:

“One Stephen Clemence, there’s only one Stephen Clemence…”

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Explanation!

You have arrived at the archive site of the Birmingham City blog Joys & Sorrows. If you were looking for fresh, meaty stuff then this way, please.

This section of the site covers the blog portion of J&S from 26th April 2006 - when the site returned after a catastrophic hosting failure causing the loss of over 500 articles - to 28th April 2008 - when I decided to have a prolonged rest from the site.

Here, if it so takes your fancy, you can find every single article, totalling over 1,000, written by myself and many others over that two year period.

Unfortunately, the formatting on some of the posts is a little rough but since this is an archive, it doesn't matter too much. Nothing is unreadable although a great deal of the links will now, sadly, be broken. So internal Joys & Sorrows links will lead you to 404 errors.

I decided to archive them in this way because I wanted to start something fresh for the main part of the site. Hopefully you'll be able to see that up on the main portion of the site now.

Commenting for the archive section has obviously been switched off. You can flick around the archives by using the 'Find It' function in the middle column or the respective 'Categories' or 'Archives' headings in the sidebars

- Aff, 03/08/08.