Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Birmingham had a great season

Just after our final game, I tweeted that, "actually, Birmingham have had a great season" (@spurs_ssp - if you were wondering)

The wise @weekspotblog replied to say 'Interesting positing, but not sure I agree' - he's a journalist, words like 'positing' come easy to him.

The next day I spoke to a QPR fan (@byronicman, since you ask) and posited the same thing. He also disagreed. So, I asked him, if you could guarantee that next season, QPR would win the league cup, but also get relegated, you wouldn't take it?... Nope, not interested.

I was and remain astonished.

First, let me say, it's different for Spurs. We're a bigger club. Sorry, but we are. Our expectations are calibrated differently. That isn't arrogance, it's the truth. We've been relegated once sine the second world war, Birmingham and QPR have probably gone down a dozen times between them since the first Iraq war.

In 129 years, QPR have won one trophy - the League Cup in 1967. Did they get relegated that year? Who knows! Who cares! My wife's dad lived in West London and was a QPR fan. Pride of place in our house, still, is an ash tray with a picture of that winning team. There is, as far as I'm aware, no ash tray commemorating any team that avoided relegation in the '60s. Or any other decade.

Birmingham, same story. Just one trophy in 136 years - the League Cup in 1963. Until this year. Until this great, great season, this historic season when, against all odds, they beat a full-strength and supremely confident Arsenal side, with a goal in the last minute. Glory. Never to be deleted, never to be forgotten glory.

It goes in the front of the programme, people! C'mon! You don't add 'Avoided Relegation' to the honours board. What were Birmingham gonna do in the Premier League if they'd stuck around for another year? Probably have another relegation battle? Or, at best, finish eighth.

And next year in the Championship? Well they'll probably go straight back up. And if they don't, they'll do it the year after.

Ooh, but what if they 'Do a Leeds'... This is the bogeyman of modern football, the monster under the bed used to frighten all fans who yearn for a bit of ambition - a shot at glory.

Well, okay, maybe, but to do a Leeds you've got to be pretty fucked up in the first place, so fucked up that you're unlikely to survive another season in any division. And you've also, presumably, never heard of Leeds - because if you had you might just have learned some lessons.

This isn't meant to be patronising, or glib, or unsympathetic. It's supposed to be congratulatory. Winning trophies remains the hardest and best thing in football. Relegation sucks, but, for Birmingham and QPR (depending on what their owners decide to do in the future), it's part of life.

The pain of last Sunday will pass. One day (relatively) soon, Blues fans will be celebrating promotion like lunatics - and not long after that they'll be worrying about Premier League survival again.

It's a cycle.

That win was a moment.

It was about saying, I was there. It's about two brothers or best mates, in 30 years time, reminiscing at a retirement do or even a fucking funeral and and saying, we were there. It's about the look of awe and envy in the faces of your kids or grandchildren, who have never known anything but a series of promotions and relegations, when you tell them, I was there.

It is unlikely, hugely unlikely, that they will reply by saying "Yeah, but you must have been gutted when we were relegated a couple of months later. Terrible season 10/11, really terrible."


  1. I am sending this to my BCFC followers.

    Not quite the same but for the reasons you've said I wanted the FA Cup way more than 4th last season.

  2. Nice one. Let's hope they agree...

  3. BCFC fan here.

    Damn fucking right I agree.

  4. Another Bluenose here who can see the logic in this. Relegation hurts, for sure, but nothing can take that cup win away from us. And as you say, that's what will be remembered in the future.

  5. Another BlueNose - agree totally. To all those that didnt't win silverware this season, but avoided promotion hah!!............the 20 million squid would only be splurged on agents fees and players condoms.......we'll be winning games and relishing that Wembley win. Here's to the next promotion. See you in 2 years Spurs fans when we will get you back.

  6. Dave, I agree with you that it's better to win a cup then 'qualify' for something. This is exactly the same argument I've been having with you and our fellow Yids about CL vs Europa League. We can win the Europa League, we can't win the CL. I'm not interested in just hanging around the CL because that's what 'big' teams do.

    There is a wider point here, though, and that is the (further) damage that Birmingham's situation will cause to our two domestic cups.

    Media pundits are always telling us that the big clubs are no longer interested in winning either of the cups. This, however, doesn't seem to stop them winning them almost every season (with one or two notable exceptions, including Birmingham this year).

    The reason for this, I believe, is that the smaller clubs want to win the cups even less than the bigger teams do. I'm not sure who started this trend (I think it was Sam Allardyce when he was in charge of Bolton, but I can't be sure) but it has become the norm over the past few years.

    My job allows me to meet with and speak to a lot of football managers and whenever the top flight boys are asked what their ambition is, the answer is always something along the lines of "my job is to keep this team in the Barclays Premier League" (there's a reason why they always say the 'Barclays' bit, but that's a story for another day). In other words, they have no ambition. In other other words, they don't get paid for winning cups.

    I think this is an awful situation, so I was delighted when Birmingham won the League Cup. I thought it would show managers of the less fashionable clubs that it was possible to win silverware and still stay in the Premier League. And then they went and got relegated.

    What's the betting that next season everyone outside the top four (and that, of course, includes us) will start their FA and League Cup campaigns by sending out teams composed of players' wives and supporters club competition winners?

    Remember Charlton? They hung around the Premier league for the best part of a decade and then disappeared without leaving a trace... possibly never to return. A pathetic waste of time, but one that we are now likely to see repeated over and over again.