22 May ~ So here we go again. Birmingham City travel to Spurs today facing relegation from a top flight to which we have spectacularly failed to endear ourselves. Following Blues is usually a mixture of blind loyalty and faint embarrassment. The usual cliches thrown at us – dull, defensive football, a boorish hardcore of fans – have more than an element of truth. We are often a very difficult club to love. That we find ourselves in this position comes as no surprise. Despite winning the League Cup, since January 27, 2010, we have won only 11 of 53 league games and scored a miserly 54 goals. Cameron Jerome has worked hard up front, but has now failed to score for six whole months.
The reasons why we have failed to consolidate our league position is the source of much conjecture between Blues fans. Some point to the impact that injuries have made on the squad, with the absence of key players, such as James McFadden and Scott Dann, disrupting Alex McLeish's plans to evolve the first team's personnel and style of play. Nicola Zigic also picked up injuries just as he appeared to be adjusting to English football.
Others point to McLeish's safety-first, defence-oriented approach as itself hampering our development and ability to attract new players. The relative success of West Brom under the more attack-minded Roy Hodgson, contrasting with our woeful no-show against Fulham last week, is a salutary lesson for many Blues fans. Of course, the truth is somewhere in between. McLeish has tried to develop the club, but our failure to recruit a centre-forward who can score even a dozen goals has seriously impaired these plans. Pointedly, the introduction of outwardly more expressive players such as David Bentley, Alexander Hleb and Obafemi Martins has failed to have any significant impact on results, although how much they have wanted to play at St Andrew's is open to question
Then there are the real questions over the club's finances that many fans fear could be cruelly exposed if we are relegated or, ironically, embark on a serious European campaign. Birmingham have always been a yo-yo club and in many ways we are returning to our natural level – something McLeish has tried to explain to over-enthusiastic fans for the past two seasons. However, having finally broken our Cup duck and about to play in Europe, there would be something typically Blues about it if we were to go down now.
Our relegation is unlikely to cause much mourning outside of our south Birmingham heartland. Few top-flight clubs are held in such low regard as Birmingham City. But in a league so beset by financial necessities, we have been faced with a Hobson's Choice of trying to evolve over time or adopt a more media-friendly, open approach that, as Blackpool and Wigan are finding out, does not guarantee Premier League riches either. Chris Sanderson