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Preview Birmingham v Spurs, 30.11.02

Here is Brian Judson's preview of the game

Full Record of Spurs -v- Birmingham City

Premier        Pl   W   D   L   For-Ag  Pts
Home            0   0   0   0    0 - 0   0
Away            0   0   0   0    0 - 0   0
Total (Prem)    0   0   0   0    0 - 0   0
Football Lge
Home (Div 1)   28   21  4   3   64 -22  47
Away (Div 1)   28   10  4  14   31 -39  25
Total (Div 1)  56   31  8  17   95 -61  72
Football Lge
Home (Div 2)    4    1  1   2    6 - 4   3
Away (Div 2)    4    1  2   1    4 - 4   4
Total(Div 2)    8    2  3   3   10 - 8   7
Total(Prem)     0    0  0   0    0 - 0   0
Total(Div 1)   56   31  8  17   95 -61  72
Total(Div 2)    8    2  3   3   10 - 8   7
Grand Total    64   33 11  20  105 -69  79

As you can see from the above table, we have never previously played Birmingham City in the Premiership. Indeed, they have not enjoyed top flight football for so long that a generation of football supporters have grown up without seeing Birmingham in the top flight. The Blues have not, in fact, played in the top flight since 1985-86 when Spurs beat them home and away, 2-0 and 2-1 respectively. That was the second season in which Peter Shreeves and John Pratt had been in charge of our affairs. I remember it mostly because we were fortunate to survive FA Cup trips to Oxford and Notts County before losing at Everton.

I have only been to St Andrews once. That was for our FA Cup tie there on April 8th 1967 when we drew 0-0 with the Blues. I remember the match because Cyril Knowles spent most of the match feuding with Trevor Hockey. Knowles would have been long since sent off in these days of yellow carding purely for breathing on forwards but in those days there was far more latitude in what is essentially a contact game. Mackay, noticing the referee was beginning to get restless about Cyril, strode over to him and gave him a stinging back-hander before telling him to cut it out.

The ground that day held 51,500 spectators and the atmosphere was electric. The Blues fans sang their anthem "Keep Right On To The End Of The Road!" and Spurs were fortunate to survive. Indeed our progress to the final had an air of inevitability about it in some ways as all the breaks fell our way during the run to Wembley.

It is surprising that Birmingham have never won the League Championship. They have had many good players on their books but have never managed to build a team that won the League. At present, Birmingham's priority must be to survive their first season in the Premiership and then build on the experience they have gained.

Over the years, Birmingham have divided their time between the top two flights, equally divided between the two. Their longest spell in the top flight was from 1920-21 to 1938-39. But as recently as 1992, they figured in the old Division 3 for three seasons before starting their journey back to the top flight. Trevor Francis steered them into a number of play-off positions but never succeeded in making it. It was only after Steve Bruce was appointed after Francis was sacked last season that the Blues finally won promotion.

Birmingham have struggled since returning to the top flight but they will have enjoyed beating Aston Villa 3-0 in September. In the first half, Villa set out to defend for a point. They did not seem to have any higher ambition. Morrison ended that hope in the 31st minute when he fastened on to a Cunningham pass to score. Villa had to become more adventurous then but Angel and Allback could make no headway against a Birmingham defence. Villa sent on Vassall and Dublin after half-time and gave hope for Villa fans. Then there was a bizarre incident when Enckleman conceded an own goal in the 77th minute. Mellberg took a throw in and the goalkeeper, who had performed heroics, somehow allowed the ball to trickle under his foot as he trapped it and roll over the line. Graham Taylor remonstrated that the goalkeeper had not touched the ball so there was a foul throw but was overruled by the match officials. Horsfield added some icing to the cake in the 83rd minute when he took the ball off Allpay, dashed into the area and hammered the ball beyond the hapless Villa goalkeeper.

We will have to be at our best but whether we will feel up to it is a moot point. The Daily Telegraph reports that Les Ferdinand is likely to be released when the transfer window re-opens. The question that will be on everyone's lips will;l be : who is going to score our goals when he goes? Rebrov is also rumoured to be going and Sheringham is also coming to the end of his career. Iversen has never been a consistent scorer and Keane cannot be everywhere at once.

Having said that, I feel that if we decide to play as we did in the first half against Leeds for the entire match at St Andrews. we should be able to win. If, however, we play like we did against Leeds in the second half, we can forget any aspirations of Europe and start to think about the wrong end of the table.


Cheers, Brian

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