Birmingham City v Swansea

Birmingham v Swansea ProgrammeGiven the highs of the previous 10 days and the growing media adulation of the Swans, it was hardly surprising that the majority of people expected this game to be a mere formality.

Of course anyone who has watched or played sport at any level for any serious amount of time will realise that no-one has a God given right to win any game – regardless of the opposition.

So perhaps it was inevitable that the Swans – as reigning Capital Cup Winners – should come back down to earth with an almighty bump at the hands of a struggling Championship outfit.

For me and many others alike, the prospect of facing a good old fashioned English team from outside the Premier League made for a welcome change from the more pressurised games in the Premier and Europa League.  A game you could relax and enjoy… and hopefully with a ticket into the next round at the end of the 90 minutes.

My trip to ground #61 on my Swans to-do list started at 2pm with Penclawdd’s top boy – Karaoke Jack and Dunvant’s answer to Professor David Farmer – Statto Jack, who had the task of getting us there on time and in one piece.

The journey itself was straightforward and uneventful…. unlike the colourful and often disturbing conversation.  The things lads get up to on holidays eh!  The Inbetweeners only ten times worse might just cover it I think… bye bye blackbird 😉

We duly arrived at St. Andrews – the home of Birmingham City Football Club – around half five and in true football anorak style used the time to check out the ground, club shop and nearby surroundings.  Anyone who has ever done this will probably agree with me when I say that nine times out of ten, the ground and surrounding area is never what you expect it to be or indeed are led to believe by others.  And yes you’ve guessed it, Birmingham was no different!

The ground is perched on top of a hill amongst what is mainly a residential area – which contrary to what I was led to believe isn’t such a run-down dump after all.   Its location gives the impression – from the outside at least – that the ground isn’t very big, despite a capacity of over 30,000.

Spion Kop - St Andrews
Outside the Spion Kop at St Andrews

Unlike the Liberty which stands on the bank of the River Tawe, St. Andrews has the more mundane Birmingham & Warwick Junction canal as its nearby waterway, not to mention a railway line directly behind the away stand (and I mean directly!).

In fairness they have tried to brighten things up a bit with some local artwork, which I think is meant to be an Elephant’s Head 😉

Birmingham artwork - Elephant Head
Elephant’s Head

Thankfully a visit to the club shop proved to be far more stimulating than any of the artwork we encountered on our rather long detour around the ground.  Met by the bubbly buxom Brummie Barbara – who offered her wares for £5 (as they were on discount) – we politely declined and expressed our interest in her stock instead.  I must point out (just in case our wives/girlfriends/mistresses are reading this) that Bab’s wares were Birmingham City tees and nowt else!

All jokes aside, she was very helpful and we had an interesting chat about football merchandise, sales and the marketing operation at the club.

It is always good to venture into other football club’s shops to see what is on offer and it nearly always throws up some new merchandise ideas, which sadly aren’t available at the Swans Superstore.  I genuinely believe the Swans Commercial Department are missing a trick and I plan to raise some of these points with the Swans Trust – as I believe that is the best way to take this forward for the good of the club.  Besides I don’t know anyone who sells bespoke printed tee-shirts 😉

Aside from the club shop, our walk around the ground was quite uneventful apart from a brief encounter with some youths (known locally as the McDonalds Massive) whom enquired about our sexual tendencies with regards to sheep.  It was with great pleasure that we informed them that they are indeed wonderful and after some farmyard fun tasted rather nice when cooked.

Shortly after our walk around the streets of Bordesley it was time to actually go into the ground.  Credit to the stewards they were the most friendly and welcoming I have encountered for quite some time and made a refreshing change from the stereotypical jobsworths that seem to frequent the role.

Tilton Road Stand
Tilton Road Stand – St Andrews

Once inside St Andrews you realise how deceiving the outside is as it is quite a big ground which has obviously been built into the hill and surrounding area.  As with a lot of football grounds these days though, only 3 sides of the stadium are complete with the main ‘Garrison Lane’ stand looking dated and out of place.

Garrison Lane Stand
Garrison Lane Stand – St Andrews

The only other thing worth mentioning about the stadium was how strange it was to see the Swans players enter the field for the warm up on the right hand side of the Gil Merrick Stand (where us away fans were seated) and the Birmingham players come out of the left hand side.  Well that is until kick-off when both teams came out from the left hand side!  Bizarre.

As news of the Swans line-up filtered through to the 709 Jacks present everyone felt it was a strong line-up and one which should – on paper at least – have no problem with a Birmingham side with only 1 win in the last 7 games.  The sparse home crowd (all 6,700 odd of them) seemed of the same opinion and there was little to suggest an upset was on the cards.

No doubt by the time you’ve read this you would have read the match reports on all the various websites and newspapers not to mention little snippets here and there on social media.  So I’ll keep my notes on the game or more specifically the players brief…

  • We looked out of sorts and sloppy from the start with seemingly little structure or cohesion – which wasn’t helped by Birmingham giving us little or no space (as you’d expect);
  • There wasn’t a lack of effort from the players, more a case of them trying too hard – Pozuelo and Shelvey in particular were guilty of this, which consequently meant moves breaking down through the wrong option/bad pass;
  • You could tell that Neil Taylor was coming back from injury as he was way off the pace and was a million miles away from the performance level we are used to seeing from him;
  • It was probably a good 15 or 20 minutes before we actually made a decent move – which resulted in the bar denying first Bony and then Pozuelo seconds later;
  • The rare forays Birmingham did make into our half were usually down the flanks where Tiendalli and Lamah where having a mare defensively – mainly thanks to ex-Bluebird Chris Burke, who was pulling the strings for Brum;
  • As the 1st half wore on our wastefulness in front of goal was getting all the more frustrating and a goal saving tackle on Bony by Paul Robinson and then a Colin Doyle save from Lamah merely added to it;
  • We felt at half-time that although it had been a sloppy, clunky first half performance, Birmingham had offered little to suggest that there would be anything other than a Swansea win;
Spot the Ball
Spot the Ball
  • After Tremmel appeared to catch a stray football in the bollocks, the whole home support seemed to come to life and we finally had an atmosphere (of sorts)!
  • Prior to this the vocal home support consisted of 8-10 of the McDonalds Massive situated directly to our right, giving it the “You’re just a farm yard in Cardiff” chant sporadically during the first half;
  • When Brum scored their opening goal it’s fair to say we literally fell apart and with the home side smelling blood they went for the kill – happily aided by our sudden inability to defend and string a few passes together;
  • Thankfully we did keep trying but all too often we tried to overcomplicate things – which resulted in us losing the ball (as I mentioned earlier!).  The frustration of various players was evident and Bony in particular suffered from some very poor service;
  • IMO both Amat and De Guzman were off the pace and looked cumbersome;
  • Tiendalli for me is a great example of the modern day right back – great going forward but bloody hopeless defensively.  You could call him a Dutch version of Glen Johnson I guess!
  • Lamah – what can I say.  Headless chicken springs to mind, all pace and not much else.  Dare I say out of his depth?
  • The only players whom I feel played relatively well were Leon, Monk and Tremmel – who could do little about any of the goals;
  • Bony’s goal was of little consolation and the only positives I would take is that it should boost his confidence and given the extra game time he had – his fitness levels;
  • Bottom line is that it should have been game over by half time because we all know what happens when you don’t take your changes don’t we – you usually get punished accordingly!
  • It was good to see Lee Trundle sat amongst the away contingent too and as always he had time for anyone who wanted to chat/have a picture (including me lol);

Football at St Andrews

So all in all a very disappointing evening and not exactly how I or probably anyone else imagined our Capital One Cup campaign for the 2013/14 season to pan out.

The 3 hour plus detour home (due to numerous junction closures on the M5, M4, M50) meant we had plenty of time to consider the evenings events and ponder every eventuality.

During this time, I thought about that fact that as disappointing as the 3-1 defeat had been and perhaps the performance levels more so, it kind of felt strange and almost (dare I say it) as if it all didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

It never used to feel like that before when I’d seen the Swans get spanked away from home in a cup tie.  This was different and I came to the conclusion that – like it or not, rightly or wrongly, the bigger picture wasn’t the Capital One Cup, the FA Cup or even the Europa League.  The bread and butter was staying in the Premier League. End of story.