Missing The Championship

Posted on April 30, 2007 
Filed Under Blues News

I haven’t been able to post about promotion yet. Saturday night I was too wired (and a little woosy!) to actually sit still long enough to construct anything and yesterday I was … a little too wired and a bit lazy. In all honesty, it hasn’t truly sunk in yet.

I thought one or two of you might enjoy this article. I wrote it last Wednesday – before Sunderland played Burnley, before Blues played Sheffield Wednesday, before Crystal Palace played Derby County. It appeared in this week’s edition of Made In Brum fanzine.

I had faith my friends, I had faith.

Hopefully, as you sit here reading this, we’ll already be promoted. We’ll have waved our goodbyes to West Brom, Wolves and one or two others who have dared to annoy us this season. We’ll be moving on up and looking forward to a summer of speculation over who we’re going to buy. A pick ‘n’ mix of internationals awaits our perusal – and you can buy a lot of pick ‘n’ mix with thirty million quid.

If only we had a manager who knew how to spend it wisely… No, no. None of that, this is supposed to be a good day. Assuming we’ve made it, of course. Which I know is a dangerous thing to do with Birmingham City but I’m in my mid twenties and I’ve been reliably informed that I’m not old enough to be bitter about supporting the club yet. I’m still, generally, quite optimistic. I’m still generally hopeful that we can win something of note before the big football stadium in the sky starts to announce my name on the PA.

50 odd years to go, Blues.

I used to be expectant. I used to think that a trophy would one day haphazardly fall in our laps. That’s gone. I definitely think hopeful is the next stage. I’m currently there. I don’t know what comes after that before I arrive at ‘bitter’ – the last stop on the line. I’ve met a lot of bitter Bluenoses. They can be hard work. They’re convinced that we’re going to bugger it up. As I write, we have two games to go and four points will guarantee us promotion… they’re convinced it’ll all end in tears. But then again, they were also convinced we’d stumble at Molineux, The Walkers Stadium and at home to Southampton and Coventry too.

But I’m going to be brave and predict that we’re going up. We have a fabulous record against sides in the top half of the table and Sheffield Wednesday are the form side in the division at the moment whilst Preston occupy a nervy 4th position in the table. Two games that, at the beginning of the season, looked difficult but as we’ve proven time and time again over the course of the year, difficult we can do, it’s expectancy that we have a problem with. I expected us to beat Norwich, Southend and Burnley at home whilst teams like Derby, Cardiff, Southampton and Preston were less straight forward but we traversed those obstacles at home reasonably simply.

And baring all this in mind – quickly pushing the ‘BUT WE’RE BIRMINGHAM CITY!’ overtones to the back of my mind – I think we’ll be okay this weekend. I would say that I EXPECT us to complete the job and put one big, blue foot in the Premiership but we know how the current squad deals with such a word so I’ll keep my feelings about the game ‘hush-hush’ should I bump into any of the current lot on my travels this week.

I should perhaps note that I fully expect Derby to come a cropper on Sunday against Crystal Palace, hence promotion being achievable this weekend. I don’t think my nails could stand another week of wondering, especially since I’ve already chewed them upto my wrist. Sunderland to win on Friday night (although it would be superb if Burnely could do us a favour and we could clinch promotion in front of a packed St Andrew’s,) Blues to win on Saturday, Derby to fall into a crumpled crying heap on Sunday.

I wonder what next season will bring. The Premiership is the most exciting league in the world according to the people who pay millions to win the broadcast rights every year. It’s the only place to play your football, the skill on display is breath-taking, the speed at which the ball moves mesmorising, the pies are hot, the stadiums are comfortable, every match is a bubble of entertainment gold.

So why is that I’m slightly sad about leaving the Championship? This season has been the strangest I can personally remember.

The Premiership brought absolutely massive highs and memories that will last a life time. Dugarry, England internationals, beating the Villa, beating Arsenal, Liverpool, playing at places like Anfield, Old Trafford, kudos, respect, being able to see our highlights on a Saturday night (if you were prepared to stay up until after midnight…)

Flip the coin over and it also brought some of the dullest football in living memory. The club seemed to be stuck under a cloud for the best part of two years with players who didn’t appear to care, who talked a lot but delivered little, a manager who couldn’t see the wood for the trees and looked inept in whichever way you chose to look at him and a fanbase who were so tired of being milked and fleeced that some didn’t even seem to care that we were sliding back to a place that we’d scratched at the lid at – trying to escape – for several years before. There was an inevitability about it all.

The Championship brought a chance to rebuild, take stock and have another go at things that we’d previously done wrong. The board decided that Steve Bruce was still the man and so on we plodded. Out went too many to mention – with perhaps Liverpool bound Jermaine Pennant being the only real loss, although I didn’t mind for nearly £7m! – and in came a bunch of ‘young and hungry’ goal scorers who were going to take this division by storm.

It hasn’t quite worked out like that, has it? This season has seemed to be fight after fight among ourselves. Each person at the club, supporting the club, connected with the club, has a gripe about something and I can’t remember too many periods this season where we’ve all actually sang from the same hymn sheet. Two games to go and people still aren’t happy. This is despite us being six points away from this being our most successful season in our history as far as points go. There’s got to be something wrong there!

I’m not interested in the Steve Bruce in or out debate. It’s been absolutely done to death. I think it’d be nice if he resigned at the season’s end, almost like he’s righted the wrong of seeing us sunk without trace last season. Others don’t want that. Fair enough, I don’t care.

What I am interested in is this season and how people view it. For all the in-house fighting, disappointing losses and empty seats, I’ve really, truly enjoyed this season. I’ve probably moaned as much as anyone probably could over the course of the last 8-9 months but this season has thrown up some truly fantastic times. You only have to go back just under a week to the game at Molineux… Not to mention Damien Johnon’s superb Brazilian style volley at the Albion a few weeks ago. To sum that goal up, I’ve never, EVER celebrated a goal with such gusto before [Note: I did write this before Cameron Jerome and Sebastian Larsson scored against Wednesday!] It meant a lot. As did Clemence at Derby, Vine against Derby, DJ against Sunderland and all five up at Newcastle!

I like the Championship. We perhaps should’ve won it already. A different manager may have already handed us the title with the squad that we have got. Bruce has done a good job in assembling it. I’m just not sure he’s the right man to get the most out of it. Regardless, we have it now and you only have to watch it to see that we have a side in stark contrast to last year. Bendtner aside, everyone here wants to be here and everyone here wants to play for the club. I’d forgotten how good that feels as a fan. We haven’t really seen that since, dare I say it, Robbie Savage ran the team from the middle. A heartbeat.

This season has been unpredictable in the extreme. But then again, isn’t the Championship always when we’re in it? All the clichés come out when I think of this league. Anyone can beat anyone, no-one will run away with it etc. At the moment, there’s still 10 teams that can be promoted. 10 teams. They talk of the Premiership being the most exciting league in the world and the race between Manchester United and Cheslea going to the wire. I’ve got to be honest, I see a race between one big club with too much money and another big club with too much money. Both teams have players with too much money who only seem interested in getting richer and wondering why people dislike them.

The Championship is a different kettle of fish. Each year it’s exciting, each year it throws up surprises and characters and teams that shock. Would you have put money on Colchester United being at the business end of the table despite having sold their two best players? It’s such a surprise that should they sneak into the playoffs and gain promotion, they will have to play home games elsewhere since Layer Road is not up to Premiership standard! Who would’ve thought that a club the size of Leeds would be looking down the barrel of a relegation gun? Derby were over 100-1 to win the league at the start of the season, they sit just two points from the summit. Sunderland were bottom of the league at one point this season. We’ve done remarkably well to be in the promotion hunt considering the stats of relegated sides bouncing straight back up. It happens very, very infrequently.

The usual suspects are also there and I suppose it could be argued that the Championship’s top 5-6 could be predicted as easily as those from the Premiership. Fans who support rivals of relegated clubs will often make jokes about trips to places like ‘Barnsley, Southend and Hull’ but in all honesty, is that any less glamorous than facing clubs like Fulham, Middlesbrough and Wigan? Sure the stadiums are nicer but surely it’s just a wool in sheep’s clothing? Going to Middlesbrough will never be fun, it’ll never be a game you look forward to. At least Southend can be turned into a fairly fun weekender! Midlesbrough, Wigan… they’re SAS type games, get in, get the job done, get home again!

[And before any fans of 'Boro, Wigan and Fulham come here moaning, you probably view a trip to Birmingham in the exact same way. It's probably not the most glamorous away tie either. I don't have a problem with that. Remember that before posting abuse, eh?]

As I say, I’ll miss the Championship. I’ve had a ball this season. Those who slate it are usually toffee-nosed top 10 club supporting Premiership fans who wouldn’t know a true footballing experience if it bit them on the backside. It’s not all about making money, getting your team’s best players in Adidas adverts or saying that you’ve signed a player for ‘x’ amount of million on ‘x’ amount of money per week.

Hopefully this season has reminded us of that and should we – as I expect us to – make the final leap this weekend or next, we won’t be so quick to forget this time.


3 Responses to “Missing The Championship”

  1. Pete on April 30th, 2007 3:37 pm

    Yeah this season has changed how I view football alot. Sure, I want us to be successful and that means being in the Premiership but I have had more fun this season then the 2 before it put together!

    I think there should be a lot more coverage of the Championship on the TV. Perhaps tie it in more with the Premiership and talk about it on Match of the Day at the end… Maybe just show the goals and the table. For a neutral, the league must have been fantastic to watch this season but so many people who would have enjoyed it, haven’t seen it…. Mainly because it isn’t covered anywhere!

    Still, despite enjoying this season, I couldn’t be happier that we WON’T be playing in the Championship next year!

    Well done the players, SB and the board. They had a lot of difficult decisions to make and to be honest, it looks like they’ve made the right ones.

  2. Margaret on April 30th, 2007 7:19 pm

    One of the main reasons I’m glad we got promoted is that Championship football is not shown on TV where I live (in USA). I would have loved to see some of the games this season. However the one game I did see was great – the replay against Newcastle,

  3. Finn on May 7th, 2007 7:55 am

    Remember a villa fan from 606 (fabriton) who i got on with (there are a few sensible ones) saying it’ll be better than the Prem, more goals, a chance of winning it, more games and he thought they would join us….then Randy and MON appeared and they have raised the bar from the DOL and Doug mediocrity.

    Over the moon at whats been achieved, and looking forward to the whiteknuckle ride next season.

    Weell done Bruce and the team


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