Diplomatic Immunity: Birmingham City

An occasional series of open discussions with opposition fans. They can say what they like about Chelsea and I promise not to be rude back to them.

Number 4: The Blues v The Blues

Meet Bill, aka Jasper and a hundred other names. He won’t tell me how old he is and won’t say when he became a City fan. But he just couldn’t stop when it came to other stuff…

Why Birmingham City?
One name – Trevor Francis. He is a Brummie legend, God knows how many goals he scored for us, but I know it was over 100, better than one goal every three games. I just loved his eye for goal, when you saw him run into the penalty area you know there would be a chance on the end of it. He didn’t always score, in fact I remember him missing two absolute sitters in one match, but he was always there, always working, always, always working for the side.

When did you start supporting Birmingham City?
I was a teenager. That’d probably make me a latecomer to the game, but honestly I wasn’t particularly interested in soccer until secondary school. Then I found I had a bit of a knack for booting holy crap out of the ball and I played as a defender and took the free kicks. I enjoyed it, yes – you get sort of addicted don’t you? Then I went to a live game and Bang!

Which Game?
Villa at home, believe it or not. We lost 0-2. But the tension, the noise, the missed chances. I’m pretty certain we dominated the game but I loved it even though we lost.

What was the first game you remember?
That one, if you mean live – losing to Villa. I’ve got used to it [losing to Aston Villa] over time, but it makes beating ‘em even sweeter. I can’t remember any others really.

At some point I must have started watching Match of the Day and The Big Match on Sunday lunchtimes. I loved Brian Moore, and they used to cover the Birmingham derbies pretty regularly. Not as often as the London derbies though, which was a bit annoying when they clashed, but – hey, what was the question again?

What memory of Birmingham City will you still remember when your memory has finally faded and you are old and senile?
This season’s European expeditions, I can afford it now – just! Such pride to see your team competing in Europe. You lot have become blasé about it – not that I’m criticising, but you have, like Man U and Arsenal and whatever. The squad you’ve got you should be qualifying most of the time, but it aint a right, mate, no, not at all, and that’s what I think fans of the so-called top four don’t appreciate.

If you had to pick your favourite Birmingham City player of all time, who would it be?
The great Trevor, King Trev. I was gutted when they sold him, though a million quid seemed a lot of money then. I guess it was, but going to Forest made it worse. I seem to remember we were struggling and looked doomed at the time, so it probably looked like a good move to him.
Fair play to him, it was his goals that really got us into the First Division in the first place, so it seemed sort of, well, acceptable. Didn’t make it any easier to swallow though.

Back to the present day – who is your favourite player at the moment?
Stephen Carr, Mr Motivator. And Zigic – Mr Creator!

How did you cope with relegation?
I got drunk then went home and sat there flicking through some old programmes. I’ve some dating back as far back as the 70’s. I didn’t cope very well though; I never do with that sort of thing.

How do you view your performance so far this season?
Patchy, but more than acceptable really. I didn’t think we’d keep the players we’ve kept, I didn’t think we’d get the players we got in last summer, I didn’t think they’d gel as they have, I didn’t think we would bounce straight back up either, but that’s not such a pipedream.

And how do you see the rest of your season going this time around?
Surprisingly, we look like we are strong enough to at least push for a play-off place. Southampton and the Hammers have got promotion pretty much sewn up, barring something like administration or a total collapse.

What gives me hope though is our home record, unbeaten so far where it matters, and we’ve got Hull next week. That worries me though. I can’t see them scoring more than once, but then again the boys may have their heads turned by Chelsea next weekend, so I can see us maybe losing 0-1. Hopefully not, though, I’d settle for a draw.

And how are you going to fare at Stamford Bridge on Saturday?
I can’t see us getting anything at all, just keep the score down.

You think I meant that didn’t you? Ha ha, no I think we can win. Yes, genuinely! Chelsea are poor at the back, if JT is still out we can score at least one.

You have one of the best strikers in the world going through a crisis, which means he’s still one of the best strikers in the top half of the table. The problem is you don’t have an attacking midfield. Even Mata is struggling to create anything these days and the rest are a waste of space, going forward.

Not too bad defensive midfield-wise, but how can you expect to win when you have one creative player and no wingers. May as well play with a cardboard cut-out up front and hammer the balls up to him in the hope they bounce off and go in.

That’s a bit harsh isn’t it?
True though. Would a team play Wimbledon style long ball if it had eleven Messi’s? No. Would a team play short passing intricate Barcelona style football with not a single creative player? No. Face it, at the moment, you may be transition, I can’t argue with that, but you are crap. Ok, very poor. A dire combination of over-the-hill players who can turn it on one game in ten and young inexperienced players who do the same. The result is a mess.

Are you going to the game?
Watching on telly. A few pints, fish and chips before the game and settle down to the game. Mark my words, we will be the headline makers come Final Score!

Have you ever been to Stamford Bridge?
Last season actually. A night match at the end of last season and we let you win 3-1. Ha ha, no we threw it away, Chelsea deserved it.
I remember your right back falling over the ball before crossing for Chelsea to score really early on. Poor defending. Then Kalou scored a great goal, went past two defenders before scoring a 20 yarder. Excellent, but not good defending again.

We got a penalty to add a bit of respectability towards the end of the game, and maybe we should have a first half penalty too, but all in all it was a fair result I think, no complaints.

What do you think of our new manager, Andre Villas-Boas?

Jury’s out, isn’t it? Obviously when he has the players he wants, he is good. He’s proved that at Porto. But at the moment – I don’t know. Has Chelsea’s slump coincided with Roberto Di Matteo’s arrival? It seems to me it might.

But Villas Boas has got a tough job there. I said Chelsea were a mix of too old and too young. That’s not his fault though, that’s a result of previous managers and a board that thinks it can have success just by throwing money at it. You can’t.

I don’t blame AVB for the position you’re in. In my opinion, finishing fourth would be an over-achievement for Chelsea. This mix of too old and too young – the club shouldn’t have allowed that situation to happen in Ancelotti’s last season, but the club itself – maybe I mean the owner and the directors – are too greedy. They want it all and they want it now.

The too-young players means you can/t realistically play more of your youngsters and hope to win, but they’re the only players you have who can replace the over-the-hill players. Catch 22. As I said, not AVB’s fault, he’s got to make the best of mismanagement and – purely off the top of my head – maybe a lack of sensible forward planning by the directors.

Personally, I’d get shot of half the team in the summer, bring in those players the manager wants and then give him to January. If you are still playing poorly, get rid, but at least give him the opportunity to remove the shackles of player-power and old-age before judging him.

What is your prediction for Chelsea this season?
Fifth. Maybe fourth – not because of Chelsea, but because I can see Arsenal, Liverpool, Newcastle, Spurs failing to stick the pace– especially Spurs if they know Harry is leaving in the summer.

If there was one player from Chelsea you could have for free….
John Terry, just for this season. He would be the difference between taking part in the play offs and winning them.

Club or Country?
Club all the way.

Prediction time! Automatic promotion to the Premiership?
That’s not an easy prediction. Let’s just say, play-off place. Chris Hughton does a brilliant job, but I’m not sure we can stop the top two. But Cardiff, Reading, Blackpool, Hull – nah, none of them are unbeatable. I hope so anyway, we’ve got Hull next week.

We did some rebuilding in the summer, lots in and out and it looks like its beginning to pay off.

Your prediction for the top four for the Premiership this season is?
As it stands to be honest: that’s City, United, Spurs and Arsenal. The only doubt there is Spurs in my opinion.

FA Cup?
Spurs. Birmingham to lose to Spurs in the semi-final!

Champions League?
No one apart from Barca.

Five star dining at an upmarket restaurant, or bacon, egg and chips at a greasy spoon?
I’m a brummie mate. Greasy breakfast, three times a day.

Politics? Religion? Or shouldn’t I ask?
Left wing, and agnostic. I think it’s important to say what you are, what you stand for. I don’t like this “I’m not telling you my politics, it’s my business”, it’s not just my business because my politics could affect everyone else in the community and the country. Wait, I feel a rant coming on, ha ha. I’ll shutup now!

Well, thank you for being so… er, bluntly honest.
That’s ok, thanks for giving me the opportunity to mouth off! It probably sounds like I don’t like Chelsea very much.

Truth is, I do. They’ve always had charisma in my opinion. It just annoys me to see a club in a piss-poor position because of impatience and it annoys me more that your manager appears to be the scapegoat in all this. He’s been shackled by the club and its recent history and by players who won’t put in the effort, seems that way to me at least. I hope they turn it round. After the FA Cup game though.