Where do we begin with the roller-coaster ride of a club that is Birmingham City? Well let’s go back to the beginning of the season where everything was up in the air. McLeish had been reportedly tapped up by our rivals Aston Villa, he joined them two weeks later, players are leaving left, right and centre.
Then our owner Carson Yeung is arrested for money laundering and hasn’t been allowed to leave Hong Kong since he was arrested. So what was left of a club that won the Carling Cup just a few months before? A club in massive debt, a younger squad and in a general mess and with no manager, a lot of people thought Blues could possibly go straight back down to League 1 which really would have been catastrophic for the club.
But then there was a glimmer of hope when Chris Hughton arrived at Birmingham and was announced as the next Blues manager. With his previous experience from Newcastle and getting them straight back up he was the perfect candidate for the job, even though he had even less resources at Birmingham than he did at Newcastle.
Hughton brought some players in during the summer all on bosmans and loans. Only one player was bought and that was Pablo Ibanez from West Brom for around £1million. Despite the new recruits and the youngsters being given a chance, nothing much was expected of Birmingham and certainly no one expected them to get into the Europa League group stages. That in itself was fantastic and gave the players some European experience.
It was a scruffy start to the season with form being inconsistent and performances not being up to scratch. Soft goals were being conceded and we were letting leads slip, so there were more than enough problems that had to be sorted. Some of the problems you can understand, as it was practically an entire new team so getting to know each other with player’s strengths and weaknesses would take time and not something that could happen overnight. With Blues in 18th come the end of September it was going to be a long old season. But then with away wins NK Maribor and Club Brugge coinciding with a run of nine games unbeaten in all competitions gave the squad some confidence and the Blues fans hope that it may not be a bad season after all.
Fans were saying the away win in Brugge topped Wembley but that’s up for debate. Also by the end of November Birmingham were looking very good to progress through the group stages. But it wasn’t to be. Birmingham won many fans applauds with their efforts in Europe and a good friendship and mutual respect has appeared with Club Brugge and its supports.
It wouldn’t be until the end of January with the 1-1 draw at home to West Ham that Blues would go on another good run of results and started to score goals for fun which put them in the play-off places. You could tell by the end of January and beginning of February that more attractive football was being played by under Hughton. It was more pleasing on the eye with the ball being played along the floor and not just a big boot up front to the striker as under McLeish. Hughton rightly was given Manager of the Month award for January and it was looking as if Blues would challenge for the top two and automatic promotion. But with a run of poor performances and results at the end of February and through March it appeared Blues would have to settle for the play-offs.
You cannot forget what an achievement this is from Hughton and his men as Blues have now played 59 games in all competitions that is more than Man United and Man City this season. With the possibility that Blues get to the play-off final it could mean they would have played 63 games in total. With a small squad and no money to spend surely Hughton is worth a shout for Championship Manager of the Year, especially if Birmingham get promoted. It would surely be his greatest footballing achievement and will send the Blue half of Birmingham into jubilation and buzzing with excitement.
So from the beginning of the season, where there looked to be no light at the end of the tunnel, Birmingham now could only be another 180 minutes of football away from Wembley and promotion back to the championship. So it is now known that Birmingham have finished fourth and will play Blackpool who finished fifth with the first leg being played at Bloomfield Road on Friday 4th of May and then the return leg at St.Andrews on Tuesday 9th of May with the Blues or Blackpool playing either West Ham or Cardiff in the final.