Since Steve Bruce writes to us so often, he must be a regular reader and have seen the odd bit of praise and support as well as the brickbats. This one, though, is not for him: John Baker*, who runs a USA-based photographic tours company, is a Birmingham City fan with his own unflattering analysis of our manager, once theirs. He also reckons SuperKev will score against us on Saturday, but allows for the possibility of Sunderland getting three in reply …
A few weeks ago, this fixture would have had a different look, you warding off relegation worries, us looking towards Europe. What now: a home banker?
I’d like to think so, but it depends on which McLeish and Bruce team shows up on the day. Brum appear to have pulled away from their post League Cup doldrums, while Sunderland, although free-falling right now, have managed some results without the valuable services of one Darren Bent, I wish you’d have kept him as the Villa would have been all but relegated without him by now!
I believe you’re not a great fan of Steve Bruce …
You’ve been talking to me Mum again again ain’t ya’? Well, look at Steve’s form over the years. He gets to spend the money he wants, then within two years or so he’s on his way. Why? Because he doesn’t know how to get the best out of players, and 7 out of 11 of his buys are utility players. Yeh, nice guy, “famous name” and all that, but as I alluded to last season, things will go flat at the “Stadium of Steve Bruce drabness”, and it’ll be bye-bye before too long. It happened with us and Wigan even though the timelines were different. So where will Steve go next? Fulham, QPR, Hull City, Doncaster or Blackburn? Stay tuned, but I know this . . . you’ll be glad to see him leave.
SuperKev has caught the eye lately. Sounds like a bright young prospect. What do you make of him?
Many say he’s too young – or too old – but he knows how to blooming score goals. McLeish just woke up to this fact and he’ll score against you on Saturday . . . even so, you might win 3-1.
You’ve done brilliantly in the cups this season. Was there a time when you wished you were just out of them and picking up league points or were you never too worried?
Look, we’ve never won a trophy, so let’s achieve that first I thought to myself. Next was the FA Cup, and we fell short, so now league safety is the goal. Job done as far as I’m concerned.
That said, it’s been such a tight league that almost anything can still happen below the top six or so. Who do you honestly think will go down?
It’s somewhat hard to call, so who do I wish will go down instead? S’easy, West Ham, Villa and Arsenal.
And who, in order, will be the top four?
Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City.
I’ve mentioned our manager knowing you’d respond bluntly. How do you rate your own man, McLeish?
Black and white, hot and cold and brill and lacking. Winning a trophy with no forward line is a major coup, but leaving able players on the bench, ie Phillips, Redmond and Michel et al is criminal.
Do clubs like ours have to accept that the best we can really hope for is what you’ve achieved, cup glory provided it is not at the expense of Premier status?
Erm, what you said . . . I think. Actually, in January I’d have taken a trophy at the expense of a Prem place, but now we have that trophy I don’t want us to lose some of our key players, which is inevitable if you’re relegated. We have something to build on now, and I’d hate to see that go to waste.
How do you regard the other clubs in the Midlands, with so many of them in the Premier just now? Villa are presumably enemies par excellence but what about the others?
Par excellence ya’ numpty?! Like you lot, we’re sick as parrots regarding the London bias, so let’s fill the Prem with Midland and North-east teams, eh?! I like seeing Wolves and the Albion succeed, but the Vile are a snooty bunch, and it’s time for some humble pie. Or maybe some Barclay James Harvest, or Dire Straits or . . .
Best player ever to wear blue for BCFC – and who should never have been allowed anywhere near the shirt?
Trevor Francis was the standout of course. Weird, but my “worst” vote goes to Tony Hateley who shone for Villa, but was rubbish for us.
You live in the USA. How much interest do you find there in the PL – not just among expats – and what level of awareness is there below the top two or three?
As you surmise, it’s all Arsenal, Manure, and Chelsea, but interest in the “other” teams is growing. For instance, everyone in Boise, Idaho, now knows who Birmingham City are as I fly the flag on the side of the house every day. It matters not that we live in a cul de sac.
The Eduardo Question has become the Walcott Question: what did you make of Theo’s public admission and apology about diving – brave and commendable or foolish? Will we ever stamp out cheating in all its forms or should we just accept it as part of the modern game?
It was commendable and must have made Wenger livid. LMFAO. The only way to stamp out cheating is to make video evidence admissible after the fact, and help referees by officially introducing video reviews. It works for Rugby and American Football, so why not the most popular game on the planet. Hang on, it’s because the FA are sweet fa is all.
Did it bother you, as an exile, that England failed to get the Fifa vote to stage the 2018 World Cup? Or the USA and 2022 come to that …
Not really, but it does bother me that Blatter and Platini can still exert a negative influence on our game the British game of football.
What are your abiding memories of past BCFC v SAFC encounters, home or away, and the non-SuperKev/Bruce links between the two clubs – Monty being one obvious one?
I saw Billy Graham play at Roker Park in 1984 and he won. So did I and many others. Goal Marshall Montgomery was hero for both clubs, especially for your lot, then all I have left are the mostly division two encounters of the late 60s and early 70s. However, being an old crust I’ve forgotten all about those as we must have lost them all.
How will you keep tabs on our game and what will be the score?
I’m working in California on Saturday morning, 7am local, so will keep tabs on my new-fangled telephone with rotary-dial and an ESPN browser.
* John Baker is 59 with four sons – Aled, Paul, Andrew and Evan: “I’m still doing the photo tours here, there and everywhere under the umbrella of www.travelimages.com, but also spend a lot of time at B+Q in my attempt to find a knife sharp enough to split the atom. If Birmingham City van actually win a trophy, then I must be getting close to all of my elusive goals. I stay in touch with the club via the internet, and most games are on cable TV in the States.”
Interview: Colin Randall