“Have we got a lot to be proud of right now? Maybe not on the pitch or in the boardroom, no. As a club though, we have the best anthem in world football, fans are proudly associating themselves with the ‘Justice 4 the 21’ campaign as well as amazing causes like the Geoff Horsfield Foundation and the Birmingham Homeless Support Team.”
Where to start? I mean really, where do you start with the events on Saturday? The lack of composure on the pitch? The constant inclusion of underperforming players? The fan outrage? I think everything that could be said about Cotterill has been said by now. The same is possibly true of the players too, although to a lesser extent. Those of us on Twitter are seeing calls for the manager’s head refresh by the minute and the Birmingham City social media team must be hard at work trawling through their respective comment sections full of bile, and anger.
There’s been numerous write ups about the game and thousands of opinions shared about the mistakes but I’m going to focus on the most important thing, the fans.
Allow me to preface this by stating very clearly that I believe every one of us has the right to say whatever we think and levy any number of criticisms at a massively under achieving squad of players. However, there are two caveats to this belief. Firstly, there’s a time and a place for it and secondly criticism is much more productive when it’s constructive.
Addressing the time and place issue; One could argue that there’s no better occasion and venue than St Andrews on match day. My contention though, is that opposite is true. I’d argue that after the full-time whistle and even towards the end of a game where we’re already down and out, these chants are valid. However, hurling abuse before the match has even kicked off helps no one.
Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the need to vent and it’s important that the players, the manager and the board sympathise with the general feeling of the crowd. I sincerely hope that no Blues fan is deluded enough to think that everyone in the club, from the steward patting you down on the way in, to the guy in the cash office in the club shop, to the in-house electrician and the tea ladies; aren’t fully aware of what we’re all thinking right now. Every player, every coach and every board member knows what we’re saying about the state of things at the club at the moment, so the argument of “they need to know” has been fulfilled a long time ago.
In Cotterill’s post-match press conference he claimed that the players are afraid of playing at home. “Afraid” is an odd word to choose and quite frankly a preposterous one. They are certainly lacking in confidence but to say they’re physically and mentally scared of playing in front of us is ridiculous and if it IS true then they may as well all hang up their boots now.
This seems to be another of Steve’s famous deflections of blame and he’s beyond delusional if he thinks that shifting the blame onto us will gain favour for him. If anything, it has ignited further flames of rage in the stands. What he SHOULD have said is something along the lines of “The lads are struggling with low confidence and I know we’re not giving the fans too much to cheer about, but we all know that an ear-shattering rendition of Keep Right On can turn the tide and raise even the lowest of spirits”. Or words to that effect.
Whether it was police instruction or personal choice, Cotterill left the dugout via the nearest tunnel and escaped through the burrows of the main stand. I strongly suspect that he was told to take this path, but in my opinion the captain should go down with his ship and face the music, no matter what tune is playing. His players were forced to take the full brunt of supporter rage as they headed to the tunnel, perhaps Cotterill would have regained a little of the respect that he loses each week by not thanking/clapping fans at away games.
As for the players, N’Doye came in for a lot of criticism as he left the pitch. In my opinion, he is one of the most ineffectual players to be seen in a Blues shirt for a long time, but at the end of the day, he’s just a guy doing a job. Yes, it’s a highly paid dream job, but that’s not his fault. Cheikh looked absolutely broken as he walked off speechless with rabid supporters lining up to have a go. So broken in fact that a Barnsley player came over, put his arm round him and escorted him off. N’Doye’s a big bloke and he’ll get over it, but do we really want to be THAT club?
Without doubt, the team are at their lowest peak confidence wise. They may be extremely well paid but money can’t buy confidence. I know that if I go to work in the morning and have a crowd of people waiting to tell me how crap I am at my job, I probably won’t be putting much effort in on that day.
Fans showing verbal distain is one thing, but I think any rational supporter would draw the line at getting physical. Cotterill reportedly had bottles and a season ticket thrown at him whilst in the dugout, prompting 6 police and a team of stewards to surround him for the remainder of the game. Without wanting to repeat myself, who does this help? Again, I’m not saying don’t express your anger, but surely we’re better than this?
Unfortunately, we lack the same thing that a lot of struggling clubs do these days, a hard-nosed leader. A Fergie or a Clough. Someone that will tear you apart at half time before building you back up again through either motivation or the threat of something being launched across the changing room at you! Our manager is not that sort of character and likewise, we could do with a dressing room general to tell a few home truths. I don’t doubt Harlee’s got it in him, but I’m not sure who else would play the Roy Keane role. We shouldn’t have to do it, but maybe it’s up to us to lift them.
Now I’m not one of those fans that cheers no matter what. I’m not the guy that goes into every game believing we’ll get a result and I’m not typically a user of the word “luck”. I’m not pleading for fans to be full sunshine and rainbows on match day, but I do think a loud and proud home crowd can play its part.
Have we got a lot to be proud of right now? Maybe not on the pitch or in the boardroom, no. As a club though…
We carry the name of the city. We are still selling out our away ticket allocations. We have yet to raise a single bed sheet or even talk about potential protests in a serious tone. Our home attendances are still great, we have the best anthem in world football, fans are proudly associating themselves with the ‘Justice 4 the 21’ campaign as well as amazing causes like the Geoff Horsfield Foundation and the Birmingham Homeless Support Team.
We’re not being given too much to sing about on the pitch, so don’t do it for them if you don’t want to. Do it for us, and do it for yourselves. Do it for the match day staff that worry that a drop in leagues may lead to a lower attendances and a subsequent drop in hours. Do it for the kids in the crowd that are losing interest as the weeks go by and do it for the kid inside you that has been forced to grow up and graft 5 days a week, whose biggest release of emotion comes on match days when the ball screams off the boot of a boy in blue and bulges in the back of the net.
Not happy with some of the current players, the board or the managerial staff? Me too. But that’s not my focus right now. The only thing I care about is staying up and addressing these issues in the summer break. We are the greatest fans in the country and if we can’t raise a result, no one can. I urge you all to get your anger, moans and frustrations out midweek because come match day I’ll be singing with all my heart for each and every Bluenose that deserves to be watching Championship football at the very least and I hope you’ll join me.
Words by @MarkWatson1875
Featured image – Andy Shaw