John Tandy takes a look at Birmingham's ineffectual midfield linchpin
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. No, OK, it was the worst of times. The Birmingham City chairman Ken Wheldon had just about kept the club in existence after years of financial mismanagement, but he’d done it by cutting every corner known to man: we’re talking amputation here, not chemotherapy.
The result was predictable: in 1986 we were in Division One, by 1989 we were in Division Three – for the first time ever – and with a team and ground that looked depressingly at home there. They had made the disastrous mistake of appointing a Popular Former Player (in this case, Gary Pendrey) as manager, the sort of move that’s bound to end in acrimony, and we subsequently got through Dave Mackay, Lou Macari and Terry Cooper before managing a promotion again – for a single season – in 1992. Crowds were down to 6,000 odd.
Through this period, our midfield linchpin was one Dean Peer, who managed something like 150 appearances, the kind of record these days that would earn you a testimonial and a carriage clock.
At six foot two and about three and half stone, Dean looked like a stick insect. He wasn’t a bad player, really, his workrate was OK, there was nothing you could really dislike, it’s just that he was… completely ineffectual. That’s what makes him such a perfect icon of those times. I don’t remember him making a single effective tackle, a single telling pass, a single goal, although the record shows he scored 15 times in a period when the team weren’t managing much more than that per season.
Peer played in the traumatic game at home to Swindon in 1993, when we managed to turn a 4-1 lead into a 4-6 defeat in the final 25 minutes. According to a contemporary report, “Dean Peer gave Blues the lead from Andy Saville’s astute pass.” I’m not sure which half of that sentence is harder to believe, but I’ll never trust a 4-1 lead again.
He played in the defeat at Palace that sent us into Division Three, and in the run of eight consecutive draws that went a long way to losing Dave Mackay his job. He also played in some memorable victories: 1-0 at Chester, 2-1 at Rotherham, that kind of thing…
Apparently when marketing people get together to try and define a product, one technique they use is to brainstorm a series of comparisons. You might like to try this with a player of your choice: If Dean Peer was an animal he’d be a… marmoset. If Dean Peer was a car he’d be a… Morris Marina. If Dean Peer was a town he’d be… Shrewsbury. If Dean Peer was a drink he’d be… milk. If Dean Peer was a movie star he’d be… Meg Ryan. If Dean Peer was a food he’d be… rice. If Dean Peer was a household object he’d be… a ceramic milkmaid. If Dean Peer was a political party he’d be a… Liberal Democrat.
As I recall, we sold him to Walsall and they were quite pleased with him. I think that says it all, really.
From WSC 122 April 1997. What was happening this month