Often Partisan

That Was The Season That Was – Part I

This week I’m devoting to looking back at last season – the highs and lows, the good and the bad. Part I starts with June, July and August.

It’s difficult to describe the season just gone without using tired, worn-out clichés. A marathon of sixty-two games, Carson Yeung’s legal saga and the highs and lows of European nights and playoff failure all rolled up into ten months of craziness.

I remember thinking after the defeat to Spurs which confirmed our relegation to the Championship what the hell I was going to write about over the summer; naively I thought that news over Blues would be a bit scarcer because of our demotion and the media not being interested in anything that isn’t in the big leagues.

The first signs of the craziness were to follow was the news that Alex McLeish had emailed his resignation from the Blues manager job to take the hotseat over the expressway. It shocked me completely; I could not believe that Villa would appoint the manager who’d just taken Birmingham City down from the Premier League – or any manager from us in honesty but Randy Lerner went ahead and did it to howls of protest and derision from their fans. Blues went from a position whereby they couldn’t really afford to sack their manager to being paid by their most hated rivals for his services. You couldn’t make it up.

On June 23 Blues appointed Chris Hughton as the 31st permanent manager of Birmingham City to a wide degree of support from the fans. There had been talk that Hughton had gone into his interview armed with a dossier on players and how he’d sort the club out and I have to say, nearly twelve months on I don’t think Peter Pannu could have made a better appointment. I was very much for Chris Hughton getting the job beforehand and I think he has proved that the rebuilding work he did at Newcastle wasn’t a one-off – he’s a very well-respected coach and it’s been evident this year that the players have responded to his style of management positively.

Within less than a week though, the craziness returned with the arrest of Carson Yeung on charges of money-laundering. As news filtered through of exactly what Carson is alleged to have done you could hear the first rumblings of discontent from some sections of the fans as people came to terms with what it would mean for Blues. As things stand ten months on Carson still has six months until he has to stand trial for these charges and Blues are still in limbo over his ownership.

June and July were also busy in player activity as a large swathe of players left – most notably Craig Gardner in a no-brainer move to Sunderland, Roger Johnson in what turned out to be an ill-fated move to Wolves and Barry Ferguson to Blackpool as Blues were desperate to cut their costs. Alex McLeish made what turned out to be probably the two most important signings of the season in Chris Burke and Marlon King prior to his departure along with Morgaro Gomis; Danny Koevermans rejected the chance to join Blues in the uncertainty and he ended up in the MLS where he currently has twelve goals in twenty six games for Toronto FC. Adam Rooney was the first signing of the Hughton era on a free from Inverness Caledonian Thistle, and he was quickly joined by Steven Caldwell on a free from Wigan and then at the end of July we swapped keepers with West Bromwich Albion, sending Ben Foster to the Hawthorns and receiving Boaz Myhil in return.

Blues played four pre-season fixtures in July; beating Cork City 1-0 with an Adam Rooney goal and then drawing 0-0 with Hereford United at Edgar Street in front of a massive travelling army of Blues fans. They then lost 2-0 to Oxford United at the Kassam Stadium before ending the quartet of games with a 2-1 defeat to Premier League side Everton, with the Blues goal coming courtesy of a cute flick from Adam Rooney.

August came around and for me the excitement was not the impending Championship season but the fruits of our Carling Cup win – a chance to play in the Europa League. I can still remember how surreal it felt that we were to be plucked from the hat to play in the playoff round and I remember feeling gutted that we got what I considered at the time to be the worst draw – CD Nacional of Portugal. Knowing that a) they had a tiny stadium and b) that it would be expensive to get there – on a week’s notice or so I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go and I did feel worried that they would be too good for us – and consequently I’d never get to fulfil an ambition to see Blues play away in Europe. I needn’t have worried; despite having to play Liam Ridgewell in a Beckenbauer-esque role in front of the defence Blues came away from Madeira unlucky not to win having struck the woodwork three times in a goalless draw.

The home leg was something else. I’d promised my daughter that I’d take her to the game – although it was a weekday night there was no school the next day and I had felt guilty I’d not taken her to Wembley to see the cup final. It was the least I could do to let her experience what was to be the first European game at St Andrews for fifty years or so – and everything that entailed. Blues didn’t let us down either. Nathan Redmond announced his arrival on the first team scene with a run and well-taken goal to start things off; David Murphy scored a header from a corner before one of the best team goals I’ve seen in years from Blues on the counter finished with Chris Wood tapping the ball home from six yards or so. We were in the group stages.

Again, watching the draw was an amazing feeling, and again I hoped for a match that I had a chance of getting to. Stoke fans were unlucky enough to get Besiktas of Istanbul, Dynamo Kyiv and Maccabi Tel-Aviv – all nightmare games whereas us Blues fans got probably one of the best groups travel-wise we could have – Club Brugge, Braga and NK Maribor. The chance to see Blues play in Belgium struck a chord with many Blues fans and word quickly spread of people booking hotels from Brussels to Ostend to secure their chance of seeing Blues on tour.

Blues had a bit of an indifferent start to their league season; a loss to Derby having taken the lead through a Curtis Davies header, a win over Coventry thanks to a Keith Fahey goal after Adam Rooney had struck the post, a defeat to Middlesboro after again taking the lead through an Adam Rooney penalty and a draw at Vicarage Road having again conceded an equaliser from a winning position after Blues old boy Martin Taylor scored from a Boaz Myhill mistake. It was a theme that continued throughout the season with Blues eventually conceding 31 points from leading positions.

August had been a busy month transfer-wise too, with Jonathan Spector joining on a Bosman free from West Ham United, Chris Wood on a youth loan from West Bromwich Albion, Guirane N’Daw on loan from St Etienne and the deadline day deals for Wade Elliott and Pablo Ibanez on undisclosed deals from Burnley and West Bromwich Albion respectively. Michel left for Getafe just before the start of the new season whilst Scott Dann and Cameron Jerome left in deadline day deals of their own for Blackburn Rovers and Stoke City respectively.

Hong Kong was a busy month for Carson and his legal team also with his assets frozen by the Hong Kong judiciary and his chances of returning to the UK revoked by the courts who enforced strict bail conditions against the Birmingham City president. As a consequence, I think Carson became a distant figure – he hasn’t spoken to the press here since his arrest and as a result his right-hand man Peter Pannu’s role took on more importance. It was also confirmed in August that Mike Wiseman had been removed from the board and that Pannu, along with Carson’s teenage son Ryan had been appointed in his place. Pannu took to the role with gusto, showing that the Blues bank account was indeed in the black by waving a fistful of Euros at travelling Blues fans singing “where’s the money gone” at him in Madeira. The month finished with news of a mysterious investor by the name of Yang Yuezhou putting money into the club – at an extortionate rate of interest – amid claims from some that he was to be the messiah who would bankroll us to glory, Manchester City style. He hasn’t put a penny in since.

Come back tomorrow for the next part of the season review.

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12 Responses to “That Was The Season That Was – Part I”

  • motozulu says:

    Heady days indeed, even more amazing that we finished 4th in the league after all that and not so amazing that we just ran out of legs against Blackpool. You have to wonder (and not in a good way) what this summer will bring.

  • Alex T says:

    Aah Motozulu…… you just gave away the ending!! ;-)

  • DoctorD says:

    As you say, you couldn’t make it up that Villa *paid* us to have the manager that got us relegated — and then sacked him 11 months later! It’s things like that that make football such an amusing and amazing soap opera.

    How about it Almajir — a blog about your musings on the most ludicrous things that might happen over the next 12 months. You can then compare notes next year to see if anything in this “you-couldn’t-make-it-up” category ever came to pass.

  • David says:

    Did you ever find out what happened to Mr.Dunford?

    • almajir says:

      I think I’ve answered this question on here about four or five times already.

      Basically, it was felt that Dunford wasn’t needed as Pannu could do his job. No big conspiracy, they just decided to cut a layer of management out.

      • Letsby Avenue says:

        :-(

        I think you’ll find that Mr Dunford’s inaction regarding Seymour Price’s court case was highly crucial in the decision to release him.

        Seymour Price (an investment bank) claimed Blues owed them £2.2 million in consultancy fees for the first “failed” bid by Carson to own Blues. The later sucessful bid was with another intermediary. Meanhwile Seymour-Price sued, and My Dunford did nothing.
        Until April 2010 when BIHL had to stand in and lodge an appeal against the verdict that had gone Seymour Price’s way.
        All this time the executive responsible was sitting on his hands and letting the fans “know nothing”.

        The first the fans knew about any of this High Court battle, was in April 2010 when it became a technical possibility that SP could start selling off chunks of Blues to reclaim their owed money.

        When the dust settled….exit Mr Dunford…and he has remained unemployed ever since !
        His job was rolled into the remit Peter Pannu already had, and for a time Blues’ left hand knew what Blues’ right hand was doing…..(or in Mr Dunford’s case – NOT doing)

        :-)

        • almajir says:

          As none of that is provable (although I don’t doubt your reasoning), I prefer to stick with my explanation which is almost your last sentence – Pannu could do his job so why employ him?

          • David says:

            Thanks for the comments. I am a relatively new reader and have always wondered why he left so quickly after his appointment.

  • Oldbluenose says:

    Almajir;, The 1st part is a great re-telling of our saga so-far this last season,!!. I admit that during our massive sell-off, of the bulk of our previous playing staff, I was dismayed and fully expected for us to be battling against possible relegation again,!!.

    C,H. did a marvelous job of scrounging Freebies, Loans, along with what was left of our previous squad, and after our dubious start to the Championship campaign, starting with Europa, — Gradualy became a season of hope,!!.

    I look forward to your part 2, mate,!!.

  • mitchell says:

    Really enjoyed the article Almajir and just goes to show what a great manager we have in CH.

    It’s very easy to be given millions of pounds and reap the rewards, it’s much more difficult to go out into a market with no money and just your reputation alone – if we can keep CH I’m convinced that the Part 2 will be epic!

    KRO

  • Paul Carter says:

    My highlights last year:

    All the Euro games, Millwall away, Chelsea away

  • bluenose08 says:

    You couldnt make it up ! villa paying us to take mcleish then nearly getting themselves relegated,then sacking mcleish and paying him compensation. We drew with the european champions on their own patch. Plus all the above mentioned never a dull moment being a bluenose and we still have the ongoing saga of the missing accounts !
    If ever you get the chance almajir could you try and get an interview with tony coton one of our greatest goalkeepers as he was interviewed recently on sky and said he was a lifelong
    birmingham city fan.
    k.r.o.


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