Although they were less than impressive against Stoke, it reiterated their ability to squeeze out results in games that they are expected to. Alex McLeish is fast becoming the Manager of the Season, and although they have moved down to eighth since the game at Stoke, Birmingham are increasingly becoming Europa League qualifier contenders. Hopes of this actually happening are still low, something that is one of the clubs greatest strengths. Previous struggles have meant that they have learnt not to get too brash about their sides position.
Over the last decade, Birmingham have been the epitome of a side that is too good for the Championship but not quite good enough to sustain a berth in the Premier League. That, coupled with a disruptive board, living in the shadow of their rivals Aston Villa and a lack of serious money, has always meant the Birmingham fans’ expectations are never too high. They understand that the club is a lofty and prestigious position, and it almost seems do not want to tempt fate by pre-empting what the rest of the season holds. Almost all level-headed, grounded Blues fans would admit that the club is not likely to stay in eighth place for the rest of the season. But, with New Year’s resolutions in abundance and a new decade to behold, many will hope that McLeish throws caution to the wind and enters the transfer market with previously unfound ambition.
Rumours about the clubs transfer activity are still rife, ranging from the realistic – Gareth Bale, to the completely ludicrous – Andrei Shevchenko. Birmingham’s stature and position makes predicting what players they may bring in difficult. Their form and position suggests that they could aim for good European talent, experienced players that can add a touch of class to their solid foundations. However, their stature as a club is not quite as appealing. Although Birmingham is the Second City and has enough to attract the modern footballer, the club itself may not stand up to the same level of the city. A less than impressive ground, a history that has little to its name (barring an invitation the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1960, making them the first British club to play a registered competition abroad) and an uninspiring style of football may not be enough to make the likes of Kevin Kurayni, Steven Davis and Kris Boyd leave their very well-respected clubs.
One of Birmingham’s biggest pulling powers is their manager and new board. McLeish’s reputation is thought of very highly after successful spells in Scotland and now in charge of Birmingham. Players will recognise that McLeish has the ability to get the best out of players, as has been seen through the form of Roger Johnson, Scott Dann and Lee Boywer. The new owner, Carson Yeung, has promised to give the manager plenty of money to spend in the transfer market – and not just January’s. Birmingham’s next signing could be a portrayal of the decade ahead – if the club were to make a statement and sign someone like Kurayni, their ambitions would be clear. However, if they were to buy another stable, run-of-the-mill player that would not add anything to the team but merely provide more substance, it could show that perhaps the start of the decade will not have all of the pyrotechnics that could come through European qualification. Perhaps it would be a sensible plan for the board to rein in expectations for the coming years. If they were to sign said run-of-the-mill players, it may show the fans that the club is going to make the transition to a top-10 side slowly and conservatively rather than running before they can walk.
Whatever happens next year and beyond, Birmingham fans and the board can sleep easily at night knowing that they have ended this decade with their best run of results for 103 years, something that may not happen for another century.