27 February ~ So Birmingham City are taking part in their first major Wembley final for 55 years and I’m about as excited as Blues fan Craig Gardner on scoring the goal that took us there. We came close in the League Cup final in Cardiff 2001 and even won twice at Wembley in the 1990s, but the Leyland Daf Trophy in 1991 and the Auto Windscreens Shield four years later can’t really compare. The play-off final win in 2002 will live long in the memory but the “trophy” hardly merits the name.
We know we’re playing the graceful, honest, youthful Arsenal team whose six-year silverware drought is simply not acceptable in today’s society, and we know we can’t touch anyone for fear of a sustained burst of Wegner touchline semaphore. But I’m more hopeful than you might expect. Firstly, there have been plenty of Wembley finals where the plucky provincial underdog has overcome the classy metropolitan favourites. Secondly, we will have the louder support. There’ll be some racket when the Blues come out – Sir Harry Lauder would never have imagined 30,000 people belting out his most famous song (Keep right on to the end of the road, for those that don’t know).
It may be the last chance of silverware for some. Among our likely starters, there are three experienced players who are big influences in the dressing room, Stephen Carr, Barry Ferguson and Lee Bowyer, and who know they won’t have many more opportunities. Ferguson may still feel he has a point to prove in England, incorrectly in my view after his immense performances last season, while manager Alex McLeish is desperate to add to his collection of Scottish silverware. The team will also be representing both a club and a city that feels poorly regarded across the country, especially in the media.
As a Blues fan you learn to expect the worst, so we’re all waiting for the gypsy curse to strike again (ie relegation, then the discovery that owner Carson Yeung’s money really doesn’t exist). You never know what you’re going to get with Blues, though you can usually assume it won’t be too pretty but, with the exception of Alexander Hleb, we have at least shown resilience and great team spirit this season. And if we don’t pull it off this time, then, hey, we’re only one match away from another visit to Wembley in the FA Cup. Ken Jones Blues Exile Paris