But fans appreciate effort
10 August ~ It seems strange to regard the Gold and Sullivan era at Birmingham City as one of relative sanity. Amid on-field success there was poor treatment of supporters and pernicious profiteering but, with their reign bookended by financial disaster, it's an inescapable conclusion to draw. Entering this season expectations were the lowest they'd been since the early 1990s, when we went into receivership under the Kumar brothers. Carson Yeung's handling of the club has been little better.
While opening day is meant to inspire fresh hope, the sense that anything is possible, for Birmingham City it was a reminder of harsh realities. The summer was spent shedding high earners and promising young players from the squad, to be replaced by an inexperienced bunch of free transfers and loanees. A starting line-up featuring eight debutants fought gamely against Watford to no avail. The visitors dominated possession but, in marked contrast to our last meeting, were at least made to work hard for the win.
The reaction from the stands was rather different too. There's now a camaraderie and sense of togetherness that was missing in more successful times. A chorus of boos greeted the 4-0 thumping back in February; this time the players were applauded off the pitch. Although the current group is short of quality in in several areas, commitment certainly isn't one of them. This was epitomised by the industrious strikeforce of Matt Green and Lee Novak. The only long-term concern is whether we can afford to be quite so careless in front of goal.
The new formation hardly helped matters. So thoroughly were we outclassed by Hull and Watford last season that Lee Clark has sought to emulate the division's finest purveyors of a fluid 3-5-2. As refreshing as it is to see a previously inflexible manager prepared to try something different, he risks marginalising Chris Burke – an old-fashioned wide man and our most consistent attacking threat – by making his position obsolete.
Hopefully we can find a way of accommodating him for today's first ever meeting with Yeovil. Blues have taken a full allocation of over 2,000 tickets for the most eagerly anticipated away trip of the season, which is closing in on a complete sell-out. A tough test awaits as the Glovers have momentum on their side and an enthusiasm burnished by victory at Millwall in their inaugural Championship fixture.
The terraces and old-world charm of Huish Park are something travelling fans, accustomed to stale atmospheres and standardised stadiums, are looking forward to. The novelty may be lost rather sooner that we'd like, however. After waiting 138 years for a game against Yeovil, two have come along at once – we're scheduled for an imminent return to the West Country in the next round of the League Cup. Sean Cole