Monday, 29 September 2014

St Andrew's – Birmingham City

27th September 2014

Birmingham 1-2 Fulham

The quandary I always face whenever I visit a semi-redeveloped ground as it were, is whether to sit in the old stand to experience it first hand, or to take up a place in one of the recently developed areas of the ground to facilitate decent pictures of the relic.

At St Andrew's I chose the former option and, after asking the chap in the ticket office for a seat in the upper tier of the main stand, I discovered I had been allocated one in the Family Section.  Perhaps he felt I looked like someone’s granddad.  

I generally avoid such areas like the proverbial plague as, in my admittedly limited experience, they tend to be little more than crèches.  And so it proved at St Andrew's, as I found myself surrounded by raucous boys playing football along the aisles, exasperated dads trying to placate bored daughters and most irritating of all, being situated in front of some little chap who persisted doing that irksome seat clattering up and down thing every few seconds.

But I was generally able to tune out of such diversion, and they did not impact too negatively upon my experience.  Indeed, being in the Family Section did bring about an episode of light relief.

The area beneath the family stand at Birmingham City is decorated with what look like bear paw-prints, and the gender of the toilets writ in large faux-graffiti style lettering on the doors.  The word on one I came to began with a B and, although it clearly was not Boys, I thought it may read Bears or some such.  

So in I went, but upon entering a cubicle I was confronted not only by the expected WC, but one of those white plastic containers used to dispose of “ladies’ things”.   Ooops.  I hastily exited, only realising upon passing that the designation on the door had actually said “Belles”.

I briefly considered taking a photo to illustrate my confusion, but wisely decided being found taking photographs outside a female toilet was probably the quickest way to end up in the West Midlands Police HQ at Lloyd House.

St Andrew's - Birmingham City FC

Apropos of nothing in particular - I saw this sign at the retail park
opposite St Andrew's, and just though it bizarre.

St Andrew's - Birmingham City FC

St Andrew's - Birmingham City FC

St Andrew's - Birmingham City FC

This match itself pitched together two relatively recent Premier League clubs enduring a rather challenging opening to their respective campaigns to get back there.  Fulham, indeed, had succeeded in garnering one solitary point from their eight league matches.  The hosts were a mere half-dozen better off.

Notwithstanding, I was pleasantly surprised to note both sides showing an insistence upon playing the football on the green stuff rather than in the air.  The marked difference being that whilst the home lot looked reasonably adept at the business, Fulham were dreadful; seemingly unable to retain possession for more than a few passes before giving it away.  But it was, perhaps ironically, with crosses into the box that the Blues created their earliest chances; but on both occasions Clayton Donaldson followed by Jonathan Grounds woefully failed to hit the target with free headers.  

However, the Blues’ opener was only delayed a few minutes when, after a surging run from Demarai Gray, the ball found it’s way out to David COTTERILL.   A right-footed winger who was playing on the left this afternoon, the Welshman simply stepped in onto his favored foot and curled in as neat a goal as I have seen for some time.

Fulham continued to look to be a woe-begotten lot, until just on the hour when they fashioned an unlikely equaliser.  Tim HOOGLAND was first to get Nicolay Bodurov’s mishit shot under control, and pushed the ball in at City ‘keeper Darren Randolph’s right hand post.

It was totally undeserved, and one could almost feel the self-confidence ebb out of the home players and into the Fulham lot.  Suddenly Paul Parker’s passes started finding intended targets, big Dan Burn began to look less like an accident waiting to happen and took control of the visiting defence, and the gap between the two Blues’ forwards and their supply appeared to inexorably widen.

With a grim inevitability, Fulham took the lead on 71 minutes with Hugo RODALLEGA taking advantage of some sloppy defending by Jonathan Spector.  Rodallega really should have scored a couple more afterwards, shooting straight at Randolph on two occasions, then subsequently passing up the chance to shoot when perhaps a touch of selfishness was what was required.

Quite what the point was of Lee Clark bringing on Paul Caddis with the match already in stoppage time I cannot imagine; particularly given Birmingham had been losing for the previous 20 minutes.  Were it up to me I should allow no substitution after 85 minutes to stop such silliness.

The reaction of the Fulham players at time up did seem to me to a bit over the top, with hugs all around and shirts tossed into their support.   But they, I suppose, had endured a torrid time under Magath of late and I guess first wins of the season by their very nature only happen once a year.  But even so…..

The Tilton Road End

Fulham's Ross McCormack prepares to take a corner

Birmingham City v Fulham - September 2014

Birmingham City v Fulham - September 2014

The Gil Merrick Stand

St Andrew's - Birmingham City FC

Panorama of St Andrew's - Birmingham City FC

Walking back to the city centre, I took a detour to take in the surviving Curzon Street railway station entrance building; that magnificent sandstone cube which was built back in 1838.  It really is rather impressive.

Across the road was the Eastside City Park where a number of folks were enjoying the surprisingly balmy late afternoon weather.  There was a band tuning up, a bouncy castle and kids playing in the fountains.  I briefly sat down to take it all in, but all the happy, youthful folks (students and young families mostly) milling around having fun, just reminded me how old I am and depressed me.  It brought to mind the Yeats' lines:

"That is no country for old men,
The young in one another's arms".

So I thought “Fuck this”, and waddled on up to China Town to pig-out on a Big Wok buffet.

Curzon Street railway station entrance building

Birmingham Eastside City Park

1 comment:

  1. Really enjoyed reading this: thanks and please come again!