Well, where do I start? You know, I don`t really know, hence the reason I guess that for the first time ever, the Glensider away-day report will take two sessions to complete. I`ll start it tonight, before I hit the sheets and no doubt cry myself to sleep, then tomorrow morning before I hit the road, I`ll complete my ramblings, after sleeping on the events of the night of December 1st for a few hours.
I guess I`m no different to any of you guys. I`m disappointed, very disappointed in fact, frustrated, depressed, and angry. Yes angry, because once again we`ve been beaten in an away game that we had no right losing. We were far and away the better side, had more than our fair share of possession, but just as at Newcastle United, Stoke City, Sunderland etc., etc., we`ve been sent packing with our tail between our legs. Its not enjoyable, and its getting old.
We can play this keep ball/pass ball/spray ball around type football until the cows come home, and while some believe that its easy on the eye, its not getting us anywhere. In fact the opposite is true, its getting us nowhere. Teams can afford to sit back, watch us weave pretty patterns from penalty box to penalty box, knowing full well that we pose them no threat, being completely and utterly impotent by the time we finally reach the danger area. We were a class above Birmingham City, and for most of the game it looked as if the only possible outcome would be a claret and blue victory, but in the end the failings that have been with us all season when on our travels, once again cost us dear. In this case, it cost us a place in the Carling Cup semi-final, for what would have been a record fourteenth time, and it provided us with the misery of having to witness our dear friends and neighbours from Brummagem B9 progress a step nearer a trip to Wembley Stadium at our expense.
So, weren`t we just the lucky ones. The powers that be decided that having us slum it once per season by visiting St Andrews was not enough. They threw us together for a Carling Cup semi-final, on a cold, snowy and bitter Brummie winters night, when the temptation was there to crash down on the couch, mug of hot cocoa in hand, tot of rum close by, and watch the game on the box, in front of a crackling and inviting log fire. However duty calls, the layers of clothing and multiple pairs of socks go on, and off to Small Heath we trot.
As friend Gary was quick to remind us, it could be a lot, lot worse, so quit moaning. We could, he pointed out, have been asked to travel to the north east, the wilds of Yorkshire, or even down to Norfolk, instead of the short trip across this great city of ours.
Normally there`s just the four of us traveling away, occasionally the odd ‘guest` or two tags along, but for todays game we had planned to meet up with a gathering of close friends and past acquaintances, and make the stroll to the ground together, from the Aston Science Park, our car parking spot.
Funnily enough, although not planned, we bumped into my son-in-law at the Science Park, and he and his two pals decided to join us in our ‘march` to The Sty. He had told me earlier in the afternoon, that his wife, my eldest daughter, had told him to ‘steer well clear of dad and his friends if you see them. They`ll get you arrested`.
Marvelous eh? You bring them into the world, love and cherish them, do your best for them, and then when the chips are down, in this case a second city local derby, they reveal what they really think of you. Daughters! Who needs them.
Just under thirty of us left the Science Park together, all in good heart, seemingly confident of our progression into the semi-finals, and despite seeing plenty of police around, notably herding a large gathering of Villans down by Garrison Lane, around 300 or so I`d say, towards St Andrews, we ourselves incurred no problems.
We did get a few questioning looks from police officers, presumably because of the size of our party numbers wise, but I guess because they saw that we didn`t fit the profile of your typical everyday troublemaker, we were allowed to continue our journey unmolested. The police decided, and quite correctly, that we were just a gathering of genuine football fans, out to enjoy the evenings entertainment.
The area around St Andrews has changed a lot since the seventies and eighties, but there`s still that evil, hostile suggestion of trouble at every twist and turn, the type of atmosphere that down the years I`ve only really experienced at West Ham, Millwall, and here at Birmingham B9.
St Andrews is Birmingham`s third home, they moved here in the year 1906, and although they`ve attempted to make improvements in recent years, it remains something of a dump, and very much an eyesore.
They began life at vacant land in Bordesley Green, just off Arthur Street, before moving to more swanky surroundings in Ladypool Road, Sparkbrook, where they were able to fence off the playing area and charge admission, before finally moving to St Andrews. So clearly they made a step-up each time they moved home, but unfortunately for them, not too much of a step-up.
The St Andrews stadium of course was reputedly cursed by gypsies, gypsies evicted from the site to allow the club to move in and take over. And they have the nerve to question why we always laugh at them! Some of you will no doubt recall that when Ron Saunders jumped ship and headed off to the dark side, he attempted to get the curse lifted. Laugh? Well you have to don`t you? You couldn`t make this stuff up. Once a Villan, always a Villan eh Ron?
After the last home game of the 1993-94 season, the Kop and Tilton Road terraces were demolished, to be replaced at the start of the new season by a 7,000-seat Tilton Road Stand, and a 9,500-seat Kop which opened two months later. The 8,000-seat Railway Stand was redeveloped in 1999, and recently was renamed the Gil Merrick Stand, the club’s appearance record-holder and former manager. The Main Stand though has still to be modernised, and it looks very much probably exactly how it did back in 1906. That`s Birmingham City Football Club for you.
It was of course in the Gil Merrick stand that most of us Villans were housed for this game. I say most, but certainly not all. We had small pockets of our supporters scattered around the stadium, in fact Vital Villa`s own ‘Prepared` was braving the nights action from The Kop. I must check with him later to make sure he`s still in one piece after the nights hostilities. Well done Prep. A braver man than I.
Right, the teams, starting with The Good Guys:-
Brad Friedel, Luke Young, Richard Dunne, James Collins, Stephen Warnock,
Ashley Young, Cieran Clark, Jonathan Hogg, Bazza Bannan, Stewie Downing, Gabby Agbonlahor.
Subs: Brad Guzan, Bobby Pires, Stephen Ireland, Big John Carew, Nathan Delfouneso, Carlos Cuellar, Eric Lichaj.
Small Heath (and a right shady lot they looked too):-
Foster, Carr, Johnson, Dann, Redmond, Larsson,
Ferguson, Bowyer, Fahey, Jerome, Zigic.
Subs: Taylor, Gardner, Derbyshire, Michel, Beausejour, Jiranek, Murphy.
We started off brightly enough, Stewart Downing winning the games first corner, but sadly his dead ball kick, presumably intended for James Collins, was very poor indeed. Over hit, and way too high.
Cameron Jerome picked up the ball on the left wing, cut inside and unleashed the Blues first strike of the game, but Brad Friedel saved comfortably.
We seemed somewhat shaky at the back, James Collins committing the cardinal sin of letting a long ball bounce, instead of heading it clear, and after a nervy few seconds, we finally hacked the ball clear. We`re certainly not defending like we were last season. We invite trouble, and then all too often fail to deal with it.
We won a couple of quick corners, the second of which was sent deep by Stewart Downing. James Collins rose unmarked on the edge of the Blues penalty area, his header bringing a decent save from Ben Foster.
Gabby put another cross high, wide, and none too handsome. Our delivery into the box truly was awful.
Then out of the blue came a penalty for the home team. Richard Dunne tripped Bowyer in the box, and referee Foy pointed straight to the spot.
Larsson sent Brad the wrong way, 1-0 to Birmingham. Poor defending yet again cost us dear, from initial hesitation by Collins, to Dunne`s reckless challenge. We never learn.
It was almost 2-0, when from a corner, the Blues had two shots blocked in quick succession, the second a 12-yard volley from Zigic. Brad Friedel saved the effort, spilled it, and managed to just about stop the ball crossing the line. The Blues were convinced they had scored, and started celebrating accordingly, only to see the goal ruled out by the linesman, due presumably to a bluenose standing in an offside position. A close call indeed, too close for comfort.
Within a minute though, we were level. Jonathan Hogg played Gabby in, and he finished superbly to put us right back into business. 1-1.
Blues came straight back at us, and with Dunne and Collins nowhere to be seen, Jerome latched onto a through ball, clipped the ball over the advancing Brad, and fortunately for us, rolled his effort just wide of the post. A lucky escape, but a bad miss.
Half time arrived, and while we were clearly the better side, and certainly enjoyed more than our fair share of possession, our performance mirrored previous showings this season on our travels.
Into the second period, and Scott Dann got booked for a cynical trip on Gabby, while Carr followed him for taking out Stephen Warnock with an ill-timed tackle.
Blues cleared the resultant free kick, the ball though fell to Jonathan Hogg, who fired in a rather tame effort on goal. We just weren`t creating enough openings. Piling on the pressure, but where it mattered, in the oppositions penalty area, we just didn`t look dangerous.
Gardner came on for Bowyer for the noses, and Jonathan Hogg got himself booked for a poor challenge on Fahey. On the seventy minute mark we replaced Barry Bannan with Stephen Ireland, just before, in a rare Blues raid, Gardner shot from distance but saw his effort swerve wide.
Then on eighty minutes we missed our best chance of the game. A golden opportunity. Stephen Ireland shot from distance, and Foster in the Birmingham goal could only parry the ball to Ashley Young, a mere six yards out. He should have buried it, but instead his poor effort was blocked by Dann. A bad miss and we`d live to regret it.
Jerome broke down the right, squared the ball to the joke of a centre-forward that is Zigic, and he sent the ball past Brad Friedel with the aid of a huge deflection. Guess the joke was on us. A fluke of a goal though, trouble is they all count.
The ugly atmosphere in the Gil Merrick stand was increasing, as our more violent lads, realising that a Carling Cup exit was now becoming a serious possibility, began to turn their attention to baiting the home supporters, and hurling a variety of projectiles in the direction of the noses. The toilets had already been totally demolished, now becoming a regular feature of our trips to St Andrews, so after the loo`s, the rival supporters were the ‘natural` next in line target. At least I guess they were. I`m not too sure how the mind of the modern day football thug works.
Robert Pires and Nathan Delfounso came on, Stephen Warnock and Jonathan Hogg were taken off, and although Cieran Clark clipped the bar, it was obvious that last seasons Carling Cup beaten finalists were on their way out of this years competition.
Seats were being ripped up now, and it was obvious that come the final whistle, things would turn really nasty. Foy ended proceedings, the home supporters ran onto the field and made their way towards us, while our lot pushed their way to the front to meet and repel the charge. Flares were launched, seats were thrown, the riot squad moved in. Excuse me, am I supposed to be reporting on a football match or what?
So we`re out of the Carling Cup, and things certainly don`t look any better this morning, than they did late last night.
The same old failings brought about our downfall, and clearly results cant continue as is. We`re not winning at home, and we`re getting beat with regularity away.
So, our thoughts and our attention now turns to Anfield next Monday evening, for what is an increasingly important fixture. In the meantime guys, take care of yourselves, and each other, don`t work too hard, and more importantly, keep yourselves warm.
And remember, We Are Still The Undisputed Kings Of Brum.