“Aside from receiving a prophecy at the entrance gate, what was different about today? Well I’m not sure things were necessarily different so to speak, more of a culmination of mini-successes that have taken way too long to come to fruition”
Should auld performances be forgotten and never brought to mind? The year of 2017 is as good as gone, and from a Birmingham City fan’s point of view, good riddance to it!
At least we ended the year on a high note though, with a fantastic display of grit and passion against promotion-chasing Leeds United. The same old issues are still there of course; potential in fighting and our inability to score may ultimately be our downfall, but New Years is a time for reflecting on the positives, so let’s do that.
I think it’s fair to say that no one truly expected a result today. I spoke to numerous fans that only made the decision to travel to St Andrews at the last minute, as not only was it bloody freezing but there’s also only so much punishment one can take. Although there was never a question of attendance for me, I was convinced we were about to sit down and endure another 90 minutes of drivel before driving home in deafening silence once again. That was until 10 minutes before kick off…
Upon entering the turnstiles, I was subjected to the usual steward enforced pat down (I’m a dodgy looking geezer after all). This steward was particularly optimistic and told every fan that passed through, “This is a different team. Trust me, this is a different team, we’ll win this”. I usually like to banter with the pat down stewards; partly to shift focus from the embarrassment of having a big bloke frisk me and partly because, like I said, I’m a bit of a geezer. (I’m not, I’m really not) He wasn’t having any of it though, a win was all he’d accept today.
I then went into the ground and thought about his passion. As his inspiration consumed me, a song played over the Tannoy that I associate with my recent honeymoon to Mexico. Was it fate? Was it coincidence? I’m not one for betting really, especially on Birmingham City, but I stuck a fiver on Blues to win…
It’s fair to say that I’m now convinced that that steward is the second coming of the Messiah. I have signed myself up for a lifetime membership to the Church of Pat-Down Steward and intend on praying to him before and after every game. I encourage you all to do the same. Upon leaving the game, there was the same beacon of stewarding positivity repeating his gospel over and over, “see, I told you it was a different team, I told you!” Amen sir, Amen.
But aside from receiving a prophecy at the entrance gate, what was different about today? Well, I’m not sure things were necessarily different so to speak, more of a culmination of mini-successes that have taken way too long to come to fruition.
One big thing was the final acceptance that Morrison is not the type of leader we need right now. He’s become too passive for the task in my opinion and passing the armband to Harlee Dean was definitely the right decision. Dean bossed the back four like a general and looked prouder than anyone to be wearing the shirt.
Another evolution of recent little victories is the rejuvenation of Craig Gardner. He hasn’t been the same Gardner since returning to St Andrews but over the last couple of weeks he’s pulled his socks up and the shift he put in against Leeds was, without doubt, the best we’ve seen of him in the last two years. Although his set pieces do still leave a lot to be desired.
It’s almost unfair to single players out for specific praise to be honest since they all worked their backsides off. Dean and Gardner were the two standouts from today, but I can’t criticize any of the other lads. Davis took 20 mins to get going, but then became the gritty David Davis battler of old. Grounds proved once again why he’s been our most consistent performer this season. Colin showed us all why his injury was such a massive blow to the squad. Boga demonstrated why Chelsea still have him on their books. Stockdale pulled off a cracking couple of saves before giving us an expert display of final minute time wasting and Gallagher continued to make an impression now that he’s being fielded in his preferred position.
After seeing the team sheet, I was dubious about Maghoma taking Jota’s place. Jota has found his feet and links up brilliantly with fellow former Bees man, Maxime Colin. I was highly critical of him up until the last month but he has really impressed me recently so it was a shame to see him on the bench. However, Mags’ energy both in attack and defence shut me up pretty quickly and it was great to see him get a much-needed goal for his efforts. In addition to this, when Jota did hit the pitch in the second half, it added a spark of finesse and quickness into an exhausted team and certainly made Leeds think twice about sending too many men forward in a counter-attack.
As for Steve Cotterill. Many will still call for his head. I may even join them, despite the win. He can sleep well tonight though, with a well-deserved smile on his face. When the final whistle blew, he headed straight down the tunnel as he so often does. Today though, his head was up and his grin was wide as he celebrated and high-fived his way towards the dressing room.
All in all, the win against Leeds was a decent way to end the year. We may still be bottom, but we sure didn’t play like relegation contenders today. If Cotterill gets the transfer window right, who knows what 2018 may bring. I for one am hopeful of turn around in the new year.
Now I’m off to buy some Champagne, prepare some nibbles, learn the words to Auld Lang Syne and pray to my new shrine to Pat-Down Steward. Happy New Year to you all, and Keep Right On!
By Mark Watson