Club Focus – Birmingham – Birmingham’s Brave New World

Despite recent defeats against Sunderland and Portsmouth, Birmingham continues to be one of the biggest success stories of this season. Not only has their form exceeded all expectation, previously tumultuous campaigns, tarnished by management difficulties, fan despondency and failed takeovers.

This season, however, has seen everything come in to place. The new TV screen was finally installed after many years of fans harrowing the former owners, the David’s (Gold and Sullivan) to bring the club in to the 21st century; more trivial things saw the opening of the sandwich shop ‘Subway’ and although that has since closed, moves like this which were admittedly appeasing parting gifts from the previous owners, brought Birmingham a new look. This new look has been continued, and improved under the guidance of new investor and owner, Carson Yeung.

Saturday’s defeat to Sunderland saw former manager Steve Bruce beat his old team in a deserved 3-1 victory; since Carson Yeung’s takeover, this, and the chance to pick Darren Bent every week, has been the only thing Birmingham fans have been envious of past club members for. As the David’s and Karren Brady continue to struggle for control and calm at West Ham, Yeung has brought stability and hope to the Midlands outfit. Since Yeung’s instalment as club owner, Birmingham have seen their league status rise and they now have a panoramic view of their future, providing there are no hiccups.

With McLeish in control of the team affairs, seemingly on the brink of signing a new contract and having the money of a wealthy, we are told, owner, Birmingham will be able to push on in the future. The remainder of this season is still extremely important; the higher the finish, the better positioned they’ll be to take advantage of brilliant opportunity next season. If they prove to Yeung that they can compete with the big names, something that they can do in their fixtures against Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City and most importantly, Aston Villa, Yeung will feel better about giving McLeish some of his millions.

They will also keep continuity. Essentially, a season is built upon confidence and after an indifferent start to the season, a brilliantly confidence boosting 16 game run, their season is in danger of slipping in to mediocrity. 2010 has not gone as well as Birmingham would have wanted with several defeats and, importantly, a defeat in the FA against struggling Portsmouth. But, now that their Premier League status safe for next season and their reputation as an up and coming Premier League entity firmly set, the five defeats in 2010 can easily be forgotten. Their remaining seven games will see McLeish’s role as an arbiter for Birmingham’s squad next season heightened; currently, there are players that do not seem to be in his plans for the future. However, players like Christian Benitez, Joe Hart et al have an excellent opportunity to state their case and extend their loan deals. In this writers opinion, Benitez has not delivered as much as he is clearly capable of but McLeish is a man of professional nous and pragmatism and he will realise that the Premier League can take time to adjust to so Chucho may be in a better position to excel next season.

Tomorrow will see them face Blackburn, the former club of Barry Ferguson. Ferguson, who had a brief stint consisting of 36 games between 2003 and 2005 at Rovers, has typified much of Birmingham’s style and perceived ambitions. He has flourished under McLeish and will certainly be one of the players McLeish is keen to have in a prominent position during next seasons campaign. This week has seen Ferguson fend off suggestions that his time at Blackburn was a failure: “I enjoyed my time at Blackburn and I thought I played well. I think if you asked Blackburn fans then they would agree.” Barry’s time in the north-west was ravaged by injuries at McLeish’s decision to sign him was met with disgruntled mutterings from Birmingham fans that felt in was a negative signing. However, his consistently intelligent and strong play this season has been the catalyst for Birmingham’s good form and with players like Ferguson in the team for this season and next, Birmingham’s future is looking bright.

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