Soapbox: second city Blues


As Pete Sixsmith packs his knapsack for Sunderland’s visit to St Andrew’s, he reflects on past encounters between our clubs – and a rare old night in Durham after one of them …

Maybe we should have some affinity with Birmingham City. Like us, they are widely perceived as the second club out of three, living in the shadows of Aston Villa, but bigger than West Bromwich Albion.

That’s like us with the Mags and the Boro. We know that we are a better, smarter and altogether nicer club than our neighbours up the A184, while we have always looked down on those who dwell in the smog encrusted town down south on the A19.

The Mags are always telling us how much bigger and better they are – the ground’s bigger, the fans are more loyal, the football is more exciting etc. I would imagine the Blues get the same with the Villa, and like us, they are probably sick and tired of it.

The difference is, that Villa do look to be bigger and better than Birmingham. Where Villa Park oozes modernity and brightness, St Andrews still looks old fashioned and drab despite its three new stands. It just looks a bit tacky to me.

Where Villa are owned by a non interfering American (who does that sound like?), City have been owned by people who made their money from top shelf magazines and are now in the hands of Hong Kong group, the principal shareholder of which has a wife who appears to be as interested in football as the wretched Nick Griffin would be in klezmer music

City have a dowdy image that we associate with England’s self styled second city. If you were asked to find the dreariest accent in the whole of the British Isles, you would probably come up with the Brummie twang.

Jasper Carrot and Frank Skinner got away with it (although Funky Moped is almost a crime against humanity) but when one thinks of the nasal whine of the City of a Thousand Trades, Benny and Amy Turtle, staples of Crossroads, spring to mind.

City have been up and down for years. I remember them coming to Roker Park in Reidy’s first promotion season and turning in one of the most abject displays in the old stadiums 99 years.

Paul Stewart scored twice, so that gives you some idea of how bad they were.. City’s manager at the time was the hugely entertaining Barry Fry and he had bought and sold something like 300 players in the short period he had been there. The team he turned out played as if they had just met each other off the coach and it was no surprise that they were relegated to the third tier at the end of that season.

I also remember a much improved City performance three years later, when they were almost party poopers in our Championship season. In front of a full ground, they scored first and were eventually beaten by two Kevin Phillips goals, both of which looked suspiciously offside. That was the night that Mr Randall and me ended up in O’Neill’s in Durham with the team and got absolutely ratted.

The Daily Telegraph paid for a taxi back to Shildon that night. Very good of them and they missed out on a scoop because we were so drunk that we did not see the cat fight between two of the players’ partners. (If only they’d paid; they didn’t, and only Sixer was drunk of course, but the rest of his story is true – ed)

So, as we look forward to resuming our acquaintance with the Bluenoses, having missed out last season, what about a prediction? Twelve months ago, we were up in the air after beating the Mags, only to come down to earth with a bump at Stoke four days later. This year we are as high as a very, very, very bouncy beach ball after 4 points that not even Darren Brown could have foreseen. Hopefully, the beach ball will not be deflated at that grim foreboding fortress known as St Andrew’s.

20 thoughts on “Soapbox: second city Blues”

  1. In-between the pedantry and if I have time yes please, does it hurt BTW? Is it just mental anguish or something to do with the funny bone(not the humorous, that’s a different kettle of fish?) I have home start on the AA will they help?? Or if it’s car related do I rely on my RAC membership?

  2. Well done to the new board if they truly are making footy more affordable at St Andrews. A bit late for us though. 🙁

    I see that the club down the road are putting on free coaches to Sunderland for their supporters. Perhaps as a gesture of goodwill we could all be given a voucher to be used in one of the many excellent Balti Houses in the Small Heath area as we pass through the turnstiles this afternoon.

  3. I find historical comparisons amusing as they bear no relevence to the present day. Hold on SKP is playing , I see a classy own goal in the offing, ‘There’s only one Kevin Phillips………….

  4. Your article suggests Sunderland superiority in previous meetings which is not backed by stats:-
    Premier League 2007/2008
    Tue 29 Jan Sunderland 2 – 0 Birmingham C.
    Wed 15 Aug Birmingham C. 2 – 2 Sunderland
    Championship 2006/2007
    Tue 20 Feb Birmingham C. 1 – 1 Sunderland
    Wed 09 Aug Sunderland 0 – 1 Birmingham C
    Sat 25 Feb Birmingham C. 1 – 0 Sunderland
    Sat 26 Nov Sunderland 0 – 1 Birmingham C.
    Premiership 2002/2003
    Sat 12 Apr Birmingham C. 2 – 0 Sunderland
    Sat 23 Nov Sunderland 0 – 1 Birmingham C
    Not too many Sunderland wins there.
    I hope you do really well this season apart from against us because I have followed the Blues for about 50 years and the best times were the early years under Brucie.
    Also on ticket prices, the new board have reduced prices for home and away fans significantly for the rest of the season

  5. Pete Sixsmith,there is no need to be patronising mate ,just a bit of fun discussing our various clubs and the areas we live in.
    ‘I have been taught a lesson I will never forget’makes you sound a bit of a prat mate.
    I never said Birmingham were a bigger club than WBA,I’m not actually bothered about that nonsense.I was just wondering what your criteria was in making that comment in your original post was.
    Crowd size,cups won,leagues won or rich owners?

  6. Glen. I give up. I have been taught a lesson I will never forget. I understand your annoyance, as I get equally upset when someone like Alan Price or Brian Ferry is called a Tynesider when they come from Wearside.The next time I see a sign for Wednesbury, I shall think of Janice and her beehive on Thank Your Lucky Stars. I am truly humbled!!
    When I used the WBA analogy, I was, in my inadequate way, comparing you with the ‘Boro because Villa and The Bluenoses look upon you as we and the riff-raff look upon the Smoggies i.e. you are nearby but are not taken seriously as rivals. For Middlesbrough, the local derby is with Whitby Town. Put it down to Friday-itis.
    Hope you finish one place above the Mags – which means ideally, I would like you to be in 21st position come May. Failing that, 6th. would do and I would accept 2nd. at a pinch.
    And you are also right about WBA being bigger than City. They are. Profuse apologies, although I have never forgiven you for pinching Colin Suggett.
    I think I will go and have a lie down.

  7. Birmingham City bigger than West Brom? You are joking surely? That’s as daft as saying Boro are bigger than Sunderland.
    Blues have never won anything & have always been a 2nd rate club in comparison to Vila, Albion & Wolves.

  8. The boundary between Birmingham and West Brom runs right through the centre of the Hawthorns pitch. so west brom which means West of Birmingham is technically a Birmingham club.

  9. Pete,you are not having a lot of luck trying to remember old brummie celebs mate.Janice ‘oil give it foive’ Nicholls was from Wednesbury in the Black Country.Incidently Holder is from Walsall not Wolverhampton.
    Us Black Country folk are proud of our heritage and hate being lumped in with the concrete shitehole that brum is as I know people from up your way hate the Geordie tag.

  10. Apologies to the Baggies who are right to have a whinge (not a trait often assosciated with the West Midlands),and I can’t deny the fact that Skinner is from the Black Country. I should have said Jasper Carrot and Noddy Holder – but he is from Wolverhampton, so that won’t do. Could be Tony Hancock – but he buggered off to Bournemouth as a child. Which doesn’t leave much outside of the confines of the Crossroars Motel.
    Those of a certain age may remember Janice Nichols from Thank Your Lucky Stars who would “Give it foive” if she liked it.
    So, yet another example of lazy journalism and my knuckles are stinging from the raps. But what are Baggies fans doing reading it? Is it the nearest they will get to Premier League football this season?
    Malcolm is right to complain about the £35 for a ticket, which is why Sunderland fans are reluctant to go to St Andrews. There will be empties in the away end because of this. We should reciprocate when they come to the SoL.

  11. Ah the intricacies of regional identities.

    How I remember the confusion at places like Leicester and Coventry when they sang “Stand up if you hate Geordies” and all the Sunderland fans stood up and joined in. (Apologies to you Tyneside born Sunderland fans).

    At Wolves some years back on my way back to the car I was spat at and called a Geordie b**t**d. “Call me illegitimate but not a Geordie” was my reply.

    A Barnet supporting mate of mine is a Certified Accountant and spent some time working for a firm in the West End of London who looked after the tax returns of many so called celebs. One of them was the aforementioned Barry Fry who apparantly (and alledgedly) had a clause in his contract which guaranteed him a percentage of all transfer fees both in and out of the club. Might explain a lot.

    Well I’ll be there tomorrow despite the ludicrous £35 ticket price and then to the Ladypool Road for a Balti but even that’s going upmarket and pricey since my first trip in the early 80s!

    Here’s hoping the game justifies the admission price!

  12. Just agreeing with everything BaggieDave says.

    Also Frank Skinner doesn’t have a’brummie twang’,he was born in West Bromwich and lived all his life in Oldbury. Neither of these Black Country towns are in Birmingham.
    What is your criteria for Birmingham City are a bigger club than WBA ?

    Oh dear Pete not a very good piece is it,do a bit of research next time.

  13. Just to correct your article, you are correct Birmingham City are the second biggest club in Birmingham – But there are only two!!

    West Bromwich Albion have never been or will be in Birmingham it is a Black country club – along with Wolves and Walsall.

    It’s a bit like saying Sunderland are the second biggest club in Newcastle!!!!!!

    Nor would anyone in in our area suggest that Birmingham are a bigger club than the Albion – Based on History, Trophies won and time in the top flight.

    Anyway, good article but factually incorrect in places. All the best for the rest of the season – you do Teeside proud!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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