A European Super League – By Tired & Weary

I’ll do a write up for the Hull City game and do a general update tomorrow. I’ve been busy for the last couple of days and I’ll be away most of next week. But onto T & W’s excellent article…

We’ve just lost 2-0 to another relegation threatened side. So far this season, we’ve lost to, and been comprehensively beaten by Leeds away, Luton away, Norwich at home, Ipswich away, Southend at home, and now Hull away. That sounds dam right awful, probably because it is.

In fact I’ve decided to write something completely unrelated to Birmingham City. I’m not going to waste my time on a Saturday afternoon writing anything about them. They don’t warrant the time or the effort, so lacking in today’s performance at the KC Stadium. However, the underdog story got me thinking.

Instead I would like to talk about the level of competition in the English game. I remember back a few years and there was big talk of a breakaway European Super League. A league in which the elite European clubs compete against each other weekly. This subject does arise every so often, and always with much negative reaction and cynicism.

Since the subject first arose, English football has changed greatly. Gone are the days when a Norwich, Aston Villa or Blackburn team challenged to the bitter end, or even managed to win the title. The Premiership is not a monopoly, but a league in which those select few, are light years ahead of the others. I hope I am proved wrong, but I fear no team outside these four will ever win the title again. Certainly not within the next twenty years. Possibly a club like Newcastle might manage to get back in the mix again, and even that looks a long way off at present.

For teams like ourselves, the chance to get into the Premiership and visit grounds such as Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and Anfield were our reward for getting there. Before we managed it, Swindon, Barnsley and Oldham had the opportunity to grace these Stadiums. Clubs such as Reading and Wigan are achieving their rewards now, whilst the likes of Preston and Cardiff are determined to have their own experience of these occasions.

Boothroyd, the Watford manager, likened his team’s recent game against United to Mohammed Ali taking on Jimmy Cranky. It’s sad, but it’s absolutely spot on. It may be the same in many other European Leagues, but where as, in some countries such as Spain, where virtually everyone supports Barcelona or Madrid. In England the ‘other teams’ are more greatly supported, and therefore more unhappy with the uneven level of competition.

I say we should allow Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal to break away, and continue their highly artificial worlds against the likes of Milan, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid week in, week out. Surely their fans would appreciate the thrill of more competitive games, than a predictable win over the rest of us, on a Saturday afternoon. This would allow us and the other (in the words of Rafa Benitez) small teams, to compete annually in a competition we actually have a chance of winning.

Some may argue that the elimination of the Super Teams, would have an affect on TV deals and many other revenues. But who amongst you would rather have football return to the old days, where it was blood and guts, sweat and toil, yet a chance where the best man wins, not the richest man?

As much as many of us dislike the Championship, or should I say, being in it. One thing that I feel it does offer, is the chance for anyone who shows a bit of good planning, determination and tactical awareness, has a chance to do well. My argument is proven with the performances of Derby and Colchester, and also Sunderland, who have recently risen from the dead.

In other sports too, those nail biting, closely fought finishes provide the best spectacles. I’m sure the Aussies loved stuffing us 5-0 in the Ashes. But the last 2 tests were a complete non-event. Surely a 3-2, last day decider would have been more pleasurable for them. In horse racing, the handicaps are always more intriguing, and usually give the more exciting finishes. Formula One, has had many years on Schumacher and Ferrari domination, but last season, the battle between Alonso and Schumacher was the most entertaining and watchable, the sport had been for years.

I say let’s create a European Super League, and save top level English Football. This would also help refill Stadiums across the land.

The Season Takes Shape – By Tired & Weary

An expression you here a lot in football post Christmas. I think that it is only now we are really seeing what teams are about. We are discovering the likely candidates for promotion, as week by week teams are starting to drop away.

I can say with some self satisfaction that my early and mid season predictions have been pretty accurate. I admit I never thought Derby County would appear our biggest challenger, although I still don’t think they are. I’ve said all along the two teams in this division who are going to stand in our way of an automatic return to the Premiership would be West Bromwich Albion and Southampton. I really think this will be more evident in a couple of weeks’ time.

The two teams at the start of the day who were occupying the first two league positions, were engaged in the FA Cup. This was the perfect opportunity for us to make one of those games in hand count, and we did. To be perfectly frank, I’m not too worried about us away from home, as our excellent record away from St Andrews shows. Going to Selhurst Park is a tough fixture, and Bruce and the players managed to show in a week of complete unrest, that they can get on with the job in hand. Another 3 points in the bag, and another 2 finger gesture to those dishing out abuse.

So what of the other teams? West Brom got a great result against Middlesbrough, and although they’ll take confidence from it, they’ll also have to take another 90 minutes at least from it. Let’s hope they progress to the next round. Derby losing is also a great result, and it will be interesting to see how they respond. FA Cup or not, their players will be disappointed not to be in the draw for the quarter finals.

Southampton are showing the sort of consistency that is needed to mount a real challenge. They also showed excellent spirit to come down from being behind once, and hauled back level, before running out comfortable 5-2 victors. They’ll be top 6 no worries. I found it laughable how everyone thought Cardiff City were favourites back in October. This was the fickleness of football and bookmakers at its most sublime. Although they have picked themselves up again, they won’t get anywhere near automatic promotion. A winless run will soon hit them again, and they’ll drop away tamely.

I have always thought Preston North End would disappear. They’ve done very well to stay amongst the pack for so long, but it’s really starting to hurt now. They look like they’re about to be pulled up before approaching the home straight. David Nugent will be playing his final few months of football for them, maybe we could get him in the summer?

Our local rivals, West Bromwich Albion look like the real deal. I always say that the best team will be the team that finishes top, but for me, they are the team who most deserve to finish top. They had the balls to get rid of Bryan Robson, who would have been detrimental to the teams promotion push, they survived a mid season crisis, and with a new boss have not only shot back up into contention, they have done it by scoring plenty of goals, retaining quality players from the previous season, and played good attractive football. If there’s one game remaining where I would take a point right now, it would be the Hawthorns fixture.

Talking of local teams, Wolverhampton Wanderers, and I hate giving that lot any credit, have done phenomenally well. The squad they started the season with should have been scrapping it out with the QPR’s and Southend’s of this league. To be in with a shout of a playOff place is more than most Dingles could have hoped for at the start of the season. I am prepared to rule out Cardiff, Preston and Colchester United for playoff Places, but I couldn’t quite say it with too much conviction for the old Gold and Black. What odds a 1-2-3 for the West Midlands sides?

I touched on Colchester there, what a superb story. It’s teams like that, that make football crash back down to reality, away from the fantasies of the Chelsea’s, Arsenal’s and Manchester United’s. They lose their manager at the start of their first season up, they lose their first four on the trot, but they still come back, close to a play off position, and are making plans for a new stadium. All credit to them, but they won’t make the playoff’s, and that’s a good thing for them. They are the only club that for which promotion would be disastrous.

Sunderland also lost their first four games of the season. Thank God we had to go to the Stadium of Light back then, and not now. They are the team on fire, a 4-0 win today. You can’t rule them out of the race for automatic, but every year someone flies at the death. Despite their poor start, new ownership and management are paying dividends. They are also very familiar with promotion campaigns. I think playoff’s are assured, and they’ll just miss out on the automatic places. The only team who have realistic points haul at the moment to be considered are Stoke City, but there only so many 1-0’s they can achieve, and they won’t achieve enough.

So summing up, and putting my likely finishing order, I am going to go for the following.

Champions – West Bromwich Albion (winners by the smallest of margins on the final day of the season)

Automatic – Birmingham City (again very close, last day finger nail biting, and a very unwelcome fixture against Preston, who can forget the Trevor Frances strop, the penalty shoot out, the offside goal in the last minute, the Lazaridis effort that hit the post?)

Playoff’s – Sunderland (missing out on automatic place by a whisker), Derby (end of season fatigue getting the better of them), Southampton (play off winners), and Wolves (surprise package, losing the play off final).

A New Era – By Tired & Weary

We were supposed to be in a new era, a new team, full of new promise. This may be so. However, a leopard never changes its spots. I’m not just talking about Steve Bruce, who has reverted to the old negative, defence minded tactics that got us into this division in the first place. I am also referring largely to the board.

If I had a penny for every time I and Blues fans around me started a sentence by saying ‘I’m grateful to the board for what they’ve done, but…’ I could probably afford a season ticket. How long does our gratitude have to last for, when do we stop thinking, well they did save our bacon when no-one else was going to, but I’m now fed up with the underachievement?

I think that time has come. The time for our over expired gratitude to stop. If Sullivan doesn’t want to be here, then please leave. Like Upson, if someone doesn’t want to be here, then it’s best they go. Unlike Upson, just get us back in the Premiership first and make us an attractive proposition for a foreign investor with bucket loads of Roubles, Shekels, Dollars or Krona. Make yourselves a handsome profit if you like for years of service. I always believed that we were right to do things within the clubs’ resources, and not having a Whelan, Abramovic, or a Lerner using their finances to finance my hobby.

But now (especially after Upson leaving) it appears that to keep the disloyal, selfish, self-obsessed breed of Premiership footballers happy you have to pay them top money, as that’s all most of them are really interested in. Why else would Upson, sorry Whooo?, have left a club looking like achieving promotion, to join one who appears to be facing certain relegation? Simple – Money!

I want to die having witnessed Blues win something other than the Leyland DAF or the Auto Windscreens Cups. I want to watch Blues play abroad in something other than the Anglo-Italian Cup. Are we going to do this with Bruce – No! Are we going to do this with our board – No! Are we going to do this with the players we have at our club – No! This club doesn’t need a make over, it needs a full face lift, boob job, tummy tuck, and a colonic irrigation thrown in for good measure.

The club is as stale and bland as the food, and as flat as the beer it serves. I personally can’t swallow any more of it. It hasn’t worked, it hasn’t achieved its goals. Allow someone else to take up the baton, and try and catch up those in front of us. I know this club has potential, but I’m sick of it being just potential, and not making some of the potential become history.

We’ve had plenty of Bruce In and Bruce Out votes. Now it’s about time for a board In, board Out discussion.

Let me start it off with a 1-0 advantage to the outs.

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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.