Preston North End vs Birmingham City, Championship, Deepdale, 20/1/18
I don’t tend to do a lot of re-visits, or if I do they tend to be games that I don’t blog about, I mean I’ve been to Chorley plenty of times without blogging, and this game was going to be the same, I was planning just to turn up, have a few beers with my Uncle, and watch the game without thinking about how I was going to write about the game. Now as many of you will know if you have read this blog before my Uncle Ed and the majority of my mum’s side of the family are Bluenoses, with my Uncle Ed attending every home and away game this season, I’ve been subjected to some pretty depressing text conversations as the Blues have slumped into the Championship Relegation Zone, and despite my attempts to be positive about their chances, my Uncle Ed has been impossible to convince that they may be playing Championship football next season.
But why are Birmingham City in the place that they are? Why have I reminded my Uncle about Southampton, Leicester, Wolves, Sheffield United and Leeds to name but a few teams that have sunk into League One and then bounced back, with Leicester going on to win the Premier League, and Southampton have now become Liverpool’s Youth Academy. Why have teams steeped in history been allowed to drop down the leagues? What caused Leeds United, who were once a Champions League team, to drop like they did, with little sign of getting back to the Premier League?
The simple answer is the owners, the board, the people that make the decisions. The likes of Peter Risdale, Carson Yeung, that Italian idiot that recently rocked up at Elland Road and acted like a complete imbecile. These people are to blame for the state of football at the moment. I mean how can it be that Manchester United can pay ludicrous amounts for certain players but Hereford plummeted out of existence for an amount which would be pocket change to the majority of footballers? In fact I’m sure that a Manchester City player has just bought a house at the age of 20, which is the same value as the tax bill that caused one of Shrewsbury’s biggest rivals to have to rise again. I mean, sure I hate Hereford, but I don’t hate the fans, I wouldn’t have wished what happened to them on anybody, as those fans would have gone through absolute hell, and whilst I hate the players that play for Hereford, I’m looking forward to there being a chance of the two sides meeting again.
Birmingham City fans are currently going through a similar hell. Sure, Blues have never been a top club like Manchester United are currently, but during the 2000’s they were a top flight club, occasionally dropping down to the Championship, but I remember a time where my Uncle didn’t look so depressed walking into a football ground, I mean honestly walking into Deepdale he looked like a man going to his death. Fans should be excited to go to games, but when your team is being badly mismanaged then it does get difficult. There have been times, such as when we lost 2-1 at Histon in the FA Cup, that I have questioned why my parents put the time and effort in to take me to watch Shrewsbury Town. But the answer is clear, as much as your team can frustrate you, you will always love it and be there. For some people, football really is a matter of life and death, it’s the tribe that you belong to, everytime I walk into The Meadow I feel a sense of belonging, when I walk into Victory Park I get a similar feeling, but what would I do if someone came along and started to kill the club I love? Well I would like to think that I would get out there and protest, in an attempt to wrestle control of my club back. Because that is the thing, Shrewsbury Town are MY club, just like Birmingham City are my Uncle’s club, loyalty can be testing but it can be rewarding, and with the right owners Blues wouldn’t be in this mess.
In all fairness the mess can be traced back to Gold & Sullivan (And Brady), as they clearly only saw Blues as a way to get into the football game, build up a club, and sell them on for profit when it looked like their beloved West Ham would be available for sale. I’ve heard the way my Uncle speaks about them lot, they haven’t got many friends in Brum by the sounds of it. When they sold the club to Carson Yeung, they effectively ruined the future of Birmingham City, as whilst Gold & Sullivan were insufferable, they also presided over Blues getting into the Premier League, and in fairness they oversaw a good period of history for the Blues. But Carson Yeung was to be a death sentence, in July 2007 the Grim Reaper appeared outside St Andrews, shook his head and walked away from the mess. The uncertainty of whether Yeung would take the whole club, caused Steve Bruce to depart from Wigan Athletic, who were Premier League rivals at the time. Alex McLeish came in but he couldn’t stop them from being relegated, he did however get them to bounce back straight away. Things did look to getting better, as the beat Arsenal in the League Cup in 2011, but they were relegated in the same season, where they were thrown into financial turmoil, I mean even McLeish left, crossing the city and joining the Vile. Chris Hughton couldn’t rescue them, as a transfer embargo bound his hands tightly. Lee Clark came in but the less said about him the better. Gary Rowett, whilst dull to watch, stabilised the team but for some ridiculous reason new owners Trillion Trophy Asia dismissed Rowett, and bought in a supposed “pedigree” in the form of Gianfranco Zola. However Zola was atrocious, he won two out of twenty-four, and I can still remember being at the Preston North End game on Valentine’s Day wondering why I hadn’t just stayed at home with my long suffering Wife, but then again someone had to keep an eye on my Uncle. Harry Redknapp arrived, unpaid, and saved them from the drop, but after one win in the first eight league games of this season saw him shown the door, and he was replaced by Steve “Worzel” Cotterill, who has begun to stabilise the club, but the drop is still looming, and the thought of Shrewsbury Town swapping places with Birmingham City is an odd one for me.
Football should be for the fans, by the fans. In fact it should be for the community, by the community. A favourite topic of mine and my Uncle Ed is what we would do if one of us won the Euromillions (preferably over £140,000,000). Firstly we’d make sure that we were comfortable and that our family and close friends are also looked after, but that would probably only take the £40,000,000, especially when you factor in supporting charities. So that leaves us with £100,000,000, small change for Manchester United but huge for a community, so we’d buy Chorley FC, buy Victory Park and some of the surrounding area, and get to work. Firstly we would follow the Ajax model, attractive attacking football which would be played on the deck, also we’d invest heavily in the youth, and the ultimate aim would be to have a squad of 25 players, with 20 of those from our youth set-up. Bringing local lads through would encourage more locals to get involved. People that were volunteers would be paid for their time, local unemployed people would be hired on, all of the construction work would be completed by local builders etc. Both of us are real ale drinkers, and one aim would be to develop the Social Club at the ground, set up one for the away fans, and buy a couple of pubs in the area, where we would host club events. It’d also be in our player’s contracts that they would have to live within a 2 mile radius of Victory Park, and they would be encouraged to actively get involved in the local community. But then there are the other sports, we’d set up a Rugby League side to share Victory Park, we’d have both male and female teams playing there in both Football and Rugby League, sure the demand on the pitch would be heavy, but with the right groundstaff it would be easily managed. But other ideas include an Ice Hockey team, with the Ice Hockey Rink being built on the edge of town with a bus service from the town centre, the rink would be available to the public and would include a music venue, restaurant, pub, cinema and Basketball Court, for the Basketball team, then there is also the Cricket Club and we’d get them to the top standard that they could achieve. Chorley would become the hottest place to be in the North West, but there would be strict stipulations from ourselves about the demolition of existing structures in the town, and also the construction of new buildings, as we would want Chorley to maintain it’s identity. Using local businesses would result in rewards to use at the sports clubs, on merchandise, tickets, food, drink, etc. It’s crazy to think that if all these sport clubs pulled in the right direction then Chorley’s community would thrive, we just need to win the Euromillions now, someone give us the winning numbers?
Anyway, enough of this ranting, you’ve come here for a blog about Preston vs Birmingham, not the ramblings of a nutcase. I’ve obviously seen both sides last season, so here’s the link for that blog: https://davidsadventuresingroundhopping.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/preston-north-end/. It would be fair to say that I was looking forward to going to Deepdale again, as this is a ground saturated in history, sure it is a modern stadium, but the history of the place is clearly celebrated, from the Sir Tom Finney statue to the Dick Kerr Ladies. But as well as the history, the club have also included facilities for the local community, and Deepdale is a clear example of how a football ground should be, so hats off to Preston North End.
Unfortunately this was to be the first Saturday that I had to work, since returning to my job. Luckily I work in Preston and on Saturday’s we finish at 1pm. But of course there was to be no rail service, and I had to endure a Rail Replacement Coach. After this and work, I was ready to drink and after getting a bit lost I met up with my Uncle Ed in the Guild Ale House, don’t ask me what I drank as I can’t remember. Following the Guild we headed to the Ale Emporium, a bar we did last year, and this time I had a pint of Saaz from the Pictish Brewery. Whilst in the Ale Emporium we watched a bit of the Chelsea game, but honestly it didn’t interest us for long and we headed over to the Moorbrook, which was rammed. Another pint went down, and I was introduced to a couple of the regular faces from my Uncle’s blog (This one: https://whattimeskickoff.blog) however with kick off fast approaching, we made our way down to the ground, buying the usual programme for £3, before stopping to look at the Sir Tom Finney monument. As soon as we finished our tourist moment, we headed around to the away end, where my Uncle abandoned me, as he’d already got his ticket. I’d just finished paying £24 for a ticket, when a Blues fan approached me and offered to sell me a spare, unfortunately the transaction had gone through, but I was still appreciative of the offer. Ticket in hand, I headed in, I was search on the way in though, and should have made the guy patting me down uncomfortable by saying “That’s the closest to any action that I’ve got in a while.” But my brain failed me, and I entered the ground without making a steward uncomfortable. I quickly found my Uncle, and we made our way up into the stand, finding seats wasn’t difficult, as no-one was sitting down.
As usual we’d arrived late, but unexpectedly Birmingham were on the attack and were doing well going forward. With a bit of luck in front of goal they would have gotten themselves into an early lead, but this is Birmingham City and they like to do things the hard, depressing way.
I’d decided to go and get some food, and as I was walking down the steps to the concourse, Ben Davies fired home from the right side of the six yard box to put Preston into the lead. In the 17th minute, Blues found themselves 1-0 down, and to rub it in the Preston players celebrated directly in front of the away fans, which sparked a response from the fans, and surprisingly it prompted a reaction from me.
After buying a Meat & Potato Pie last year that I can still feel burning to this day as it was that hot, I was apprehensive about buying a pie again. However I was forced into it as my original choice of a Cheeseburger had sold out, so I returned to my seat with a Meat & Potato Pie and a bottle of Diet Coke, I also have no idea how much I paid for it! But this time it was a sensible temperature and I didn’t combust while eating it!
The rest of the half passed quickly, Blues looked flat, but they were still driving forward, but there didn’t seem to be any confidence in front of goal, in fact it appeared that they were nervous as soon as they entered the area. Preston defended their lead well, and could have extended their lead before the half time whistle.
Half Time: Preston North End 1-0 Birmingham City (Davies 17)
At half time we remained where we were, and my Uncle spent his time pointing out all of the different fans he knew, including the couple that travel up from Bournemouth for home and away games, which is just a ridiculous amount of dedication to a football club, and in fact that is the dedication that should be celebrated.
Going back to my earlier rant about how if we won the Euromillions we would buy Chorley FC. Now if while running Chorley I found that anyone travelled from Bournemouth to Chorley for a home game, on a regular basis, I would roll out the red carpet for them. They would get priority on tickets, a bed for the night with breakfast included, free drinks and a complimentary programme. Dedication should be rewarded, Shrewsbury Town have their dedicated fans, like the guy that travels up from Barry in South Wales for the majority of home games, or my parents who travel from London, or Bizzy who lives and breathes Salop, or Chris Smith (RIP) the man responsible for taking me to so many away games, or finally, Monty, so named as he walked from Montgomery for Shrewsbury games, these legends need to be celebrated, the club wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for people like this. Birmingham City need to start rewarding those hardcore fans with improved results!
Back to the action, during the half time break Preston switched their goalscorer Ben Davies with Joshua Earl due to an injury picked up in the first half. Whatever Steve Cotterill had said to his players at half time had clearly worked as they raced out of the break.
Preston made their second change in the 57th minute, just as I was remarking that Blues needed to make a change, Alan Browne replaced Jordan Hugill for North End.
Now this may sound odd, but I have a feeling that Birmingham City should be regarded as my third team, let me explain: Shrewsbury Town are my first team, I would do anything for that club. Chorley are my second team, and are the team I dream of buying. Birmingham City are my third team, due to family. What may sound even weirder is that fact that occasionally when the stars align, and the gods are smiling down on you, miracles can happen as Birmingham City equalized in the 63rd minute.
I know, I’ll give you a minute to regain your composure. It was weird for me too. Just take deep breaths, just in and out, in and out, in and out.
Anyway, North End’s keeper came out to collect the ball which was just outside of his area as he raced forwards, Jacques Maghoma nicked in and stole the ball away from the keeper, Maghoma laid the ball across to Sam Gallagher who fired the ball into the empty net. The celebrations were intense as I found myself shouting in jubilation, my Uncle bearhugged me and we almost toppled over, he released me to celebrate with the man in front, and I found myself hugging a stranger, only connected by the fact that we both wanted to see Blues win.
With momentum behind them, the Blues began to pour forward, and every attack was greeted by an expectant crowd. For a team that are currently second bottom of the league, Blues travel in good numbers and make a lot of noise even when they are losing, Bluenoses are proper fans, and I was impressed by how vocal they were.
Louis Moult replaced Callum Robinson in the 69th minute, as North End looked to recover from the equalizer. Frustratingly Cotterill seemed allergic to make substitutions and despite the fact that the attack needed freshening up he continued to persevere with players that were tiring.
Finally he made a change in the 86th minute, as Che Adams replaced Jeremie Boga, however it was to be a case of too little, too late as the game finished in stalemate.
Final Score: Preston North End 1-1 Birmingham City (Davies 17 – Gallagher 63)
I was surprised to feel frustrated that the Blues hadn’t picked up all three points as I left the ground. Before we ventured back into town, we stopped at the Dick Kerr Ladies monument, and marvelled at it. As I’ve said, Preston are a great example of how history should be celebrated.
First stop back in town was the Market Tavern, which is supposedly due to close it’s doors soon, however it was still kicking when we ventured in, and life could be breathed into the place again. After a long discussion about our plans for Chorley FC, we made our way down to the Black Horse, where I switched to Diet Coke (I had my niece’s birthday party the next day, try being hungover in a room full of kids!) where our discussions continued as we thrashed out the finer details of how the set up would work, certain sport clubs have been delegated to certain people, media work has been delegated, jobs have been created for people with useful skills and Chorley in our fictional world is a sprawling city the size of Manchester, with only one Football League club, but plenty of non-league clubs are encouraged, the town centre is booming and there is no homelessness or unemployment, essentially it would be the best place on the planet. History would be celebrated and created, art and music would be showcased, people would boast that they lived in Chorley and it would be affordable for them to do so.
Back out of dreamland, a point for Blues sees them remain in 23rd place in the league, safety is in touching distance but form needs to be found, and a goalscorer needs to put their scoring boots on. Preston sit in 11th following this result, and could still make the play-offs but it would be a hard chase for them.
Thanks for reading, as always if any clubs/websites etc want to use any of my work, all I ask for is credit!
Attendance: 13,529 (2,201 away)
Cost: £24 ticket, £3 programme, countless amounts on ale.