I’m not one to kick a team when they’re down. For example, I don’t revel in Villa being absolutely embarrassed by QPR on the pitch as well as social media and I don’t think it’s big or clever to point out that celebrating beating Wolves like they’d just won the Championship title was a touch premature considering Bolton spanked them at the weekend. I guess winning the European Cup in 1982 counts for nothing these days…
Anyway enough about them, what I really want to focus on is the difference between our approach to Saturdays game and the approaches of those around us. It was -40° at St Andrews at the weekend with gale force winds, torrential blizzards and zero viability. OK, that may be exaggerating a bit, but it was bloody cold and there was a 10 minute period where we were all forced to play spot the ball. Regardless of the weather though, we were there in our thousands and together formed the second largest home crowd of the season.
We were 22nd, on a 7 game losing streak, on our 3rd full time manager of the season and it was colder than an Eskimo in an ice bath, but we were there. Where? Nearly at the end of the road. Blues fans turned out in their droves to brave the elements and sing their hearts out for the team they love in an effort to lift the spirits of the guys on the pitch. And lift spirits they did.
In a recent article about scapegoating, I wrote “maybe next week we can single out a player for all the right reasons.” Well it’s impossible to single just one player out for praise. We were treated to the performance of the season as the Blues looked to cement their rebirth under the managerial tripod of Monk, Beattie and Clotet. This is one threesome that cannot be found on PPV adult websites, but the sexy attacking football that they presented us with may well be. Jukey and Che had their respective games of the season and Jota struck twice to continue his recent run of cracking form. In addition to this, Maxime Colin put in the shift of a lifetime in a position that some fans have claimed he may not be suited to.
Max’s switch over to left back has left us in somewhat of a hole in recent weeks with Bramall and Jenko being rotated in as replacement right backs to minimal success. Enter Wes Harding…
The 21 year old Leicesterfarian walked out for his league debut in the starting line up. Cotterill spent 5 months telling us that our youth aren’t good enough to make the first team and in 90 minutes Monk and Harding showed just why that claim was utter rubbish. After sliding in with a rash, almost reckless challenge that was probably more the result of nerves than poor decision making, Wes was forced to see out the game with a yellow card to his name. This didn’t affect his energy and determination or cause him to hold back on tackles though as he helped the boys to our first clean sheet since January. Turns out the fans were right and there are some gems in our youth system after all. Hopefully someday soon we’ll see Charlie Lakin forcing his way into Garry’s plans too.
The huge crowd was a result of a number of things. Firstly, the engagement between club and supporters. We weren’t just subjected to the usual sales pitch of “You like football. We do football. This is how much it costs to see us do a bit of football.” No, this time we were urged to attend by the PR department. Encouraged to attend by Monk and co. Motivated to attend by the players. We were made to feel what we’ve all known all season; we are in this together.
Oh and secondly, the tickets were a tenner.
The price point of the tickets was certainly a driving factor and I can’t help but wonder how many more fans may have turned up if the weather had been more favourable. Whatever the reason for the increased attendance though, this needs to be replicated in a fortnights time. The board need to agree to sell all tickets for £10 for the rest of the season in order to recreate the fortress-like atmosphere in the run up to D(rop) Day. Maybe the club can subsidise the losses with the money saved on Dein and Vetere’s wages? As a season ticket holder, I am happy for pay-per-game fans to get this financial break if it means we generate the same veracious atmosphere week after week.
Now let’s take a trip North and see how Sunderland have responded to their turmoil. In the words of Witton FC, empty seats m’lord. Travel back South slightly to Barnsley and you’d have found 10,000 baron plastic seats. Even Bolton fans had to celebrate their victory with each other via smoke signals and semaphore.
Does this make these teams ‘tin-pot’ or ‘small time’? No, it just shows that we want it more. We are struggling at the bottom end of the table but we’re fighting, and we’re fighting with honour. Monk and his team have signalled their intentions to go out swinging with aggressive, high pressure, forward thinking football. The boys are have been starved for goals all season and now it’s feeding time! The players haven’t given up and neither have we. If Blues go down, then Blues go down and Blues go down together.
One swallow doth not make a summer, but it is a sure signal that brighter days are right around the corner. We could really do without this International break in my opinion, as we need to carry this win with us right up until the next kick off. It’s up to fans and club alike to get St Andrews popping again in two weeks time and £10 tickets will definitely help that process. Please join us in urging the club to at least consider reduced ticket prices for all remaining home games, whether that’s via Tweets or comments on any other forms of social media.
We’re not out of the woods yet, but the attitude around the club is exactly what is needed right now. It finally feels like supporters, players, coaches and club staff are all on the same page. Instead of leaving vacant grounds, hanging up bedsheets and feeling content to whinge away the remaining fixtures, we’re confronting the situation and attacking it head on with pride and honour. We’re Birmingham City, we’ll fight ’til the end!
By Mark Watson