So we move on from Man Utd in the league to begin a new league cup campaign. Last season is still fresh in most minds. The bid to go just one better starts at Birmingham City. They have their own Kevin Ball,* as we have seen on these pages before. Others copied; we had him first and it’s a pleasure to welcome him back after an absence caused by his team’s failure to stay in the Premier League. Kevin, a Bluenose from down there in the south-west of England, runs the Birmingham fan site Joy and Sorrows and seems a bloke you’d enjoy a pint or four with …
Salut! Sunderland:So what went wrong?
Besides having no money, an owner in jail, a squad full of youngsters and a general frustration around a supposed takeover – nothing went wrong! The Carson Yeung issue really messed us up. While he was going through all of his conviction stuff we couldn’t get any investment. Although we had got relegated in 2011, I felt with investment we were in good shape to bounce back, but of course that didn’t happen and we are where we are. (More in another question).
And amid the chaos of ownership issues, is Lee Clark the man to put things right?
I really hope so. I met him at the end of season dinner 2013. He is clearly a very likeable, very passionate, very committed and wants the club to succeed. However he is still reasonably inexperienced, and some of his tactical decisions last year were real head scratchers. However there were some bright lights there too. The Bolton game last game of the season, getting the players to keep on – and that celebration of his at the end was amazing. I didn’t go Saturday but I’m told we looked more solid, with a better shape – so hopefully yes!
Where does the club stand with regard to finding a new owner? Is Carson Yeung now just a bad memory?
Right let me say one thing, not all Blues fans will agree, but this is MY feelings on it. CY gave us our best ever finish in the PL, we set a new record for the number of games without conceding, number of games unbeaten in the top flight and of course Feb 2011 our first major trophy in 236 years (ish!). Without his investment that simply wouldn’t have happened for the manager and players to produce. Certain section of fans sing that we don’t care about Carson because he don’t care about us, I don’t agree with that. However he has been convicted and therefore should quite rightly have nothing else to do with the club.
There are rumours that there are people interested, but these things are difficult to find out for understandable reasons. Any “business” takeover shouldn’t be discussed publicly; a football club is no different. That’s all I know.
The last time we met, in 2009, you were saying SuperKev had become no more than a squad player by then. Yet he kept on scoring, albeit elsewhere, until he finally retired. Reflections on his time as a Bluenose?
He will always considered a legend by Blues fans. A fantastic achievement. He scored some important goals for us over the years. I remember him scoring a brace at home to Wolves in the last five minutes to win the game after being 1 down for much of the game.
Buy mugs, become Friends of Salut! Sunderland or just spread the word: https://safc.blog/2014/08/tumbling-the-cost-of-supporting-salut-sunderland/
What are your minimum and maximum expectations for this season, having only just survived the last one?
Hmm, that’s tricky. We have a lot of new faces, but from what I’ve seen we could be midtable fodder and that would do me. Wouldn’t want a repeat of last year!
And do Villa fans make life impossible for Bluenoses when in a high division or do they just pretend to be unaware of you?
** SEE ALSO: The Birmingham City vs Sunderland Guess the Score:
Plenty of past links between our clubs beyond SuperKev and Clark: Craig Gardner, Steve Bruce, Steven Caldwell, Seb Larsson, James McFadden and Andy Cole (only just), Nicklas Bendtner and, going back, Jimmy Montgomery and Mike Hellawell. I just stopped looking them all up, but who sticks in the mind?
Some good names there eh? I have to pick Montgomery out of that list because many people reading this won’t remember him [remind us! – Ed]. A goalkeeper who helped win the cup for Sunderland also played for Blues. I remember one game where we were totally under the cosh from Villa, but he saved absolutely everything thrown at him. We went on to pinch it 1-0. He was a very dependable keeper.
No Kevin Ball in that list. But you did once tells us he should be honoured to share your name …do you recall ever seeing him play?
Ha, I thought he would come up in the questions somewhere! No I don’t remember seeing him play live. Although during his career my mates would congratulate me or otherwise depending what he had done. My FB was full of congrat messages when he got the manager’s job!
Any thoughts on Sunderland: the club, fans, city, region etc?
I’ve never been to the place to comment, but Sunderland AFC has always struck me as being a “proper” football club. Nothing pretentious, a club with committed, passionate fans. Although we are in the doldrums at the moment, I think we have more of affinity with Sunderland out of all the NE clubs. (Although we are probably closer to Hartlepool in our standard!)
Give us the Championship top four in order the the clubs to be relegated/ If in neither list, where will Birmingham City finish up?
In no particular order Watford, Boro (sorry), Forest and Derby at the top. Relegated Blackpool, Brentford and Rotherham.
Remind us of the best and worst players you’ve seen in Birmingham’s colours
Man what a question. How long do you want this to be. Ok my personal favourites over the years for different reasons, these are players I have seen play. Trevor Francis, Ken Burns, Joe Gallagher – still my favourite three players. Also Handsome Frank Worthington, Dave Langan, Jose Dominguez, Kevin Francis (comedy value), Jon McCarthy and more recently Nikola Zigic, David Murphy and the cup winning side of 2011! They all have a story for me for different reasons! [What a diplomat; no worst players – Ed]
And your highs and lows when supporting your club
My first game home to Man City mid 70s won 4-0. I’ll never forget that roar when the first goal went in. I was hooked. Whenever we beat the Villa is good, obviously winning the Carling Cup (did I mention that?) and the European tour the following season.
Lows, too many to mention but for those of a certain age, and I apologise for bringing this up, losing to Fulham in the semifinal replay of the FA cup. I STILL haven’t got over that one!
Another thing you told us, and received a little award for, was: “I’m old fashioned, I can’t abide cheating. I don’t care if it is a Blues player or not. I would be furious”? Nothing’s changed so do we give up and make diving, feigning inury etc just another part of the coaching manuals?
Nothing has changed for me, I hate it with a passion. Simulation should be an instant red card maybe even points deduction. That would soon stop it.
Since we first met electronically, at least one other Sunderland site has pursued you for a pre-match Q&A. Can’t remember whether it was the official club site or another fansite, but how do you cope with such fame?
Well you know, its the price we have to pay!
Tell us one thing that would improve the matchday experience of the ordinary fan
Price of everything. I’m sorry, but the cost of watching football is way too high in my opinion. I went and watched the Devon derby last week. It was a terrific match, really enjoyed it – but that was 20 quid for a 4th division game! (30 including my son). Food is expensive at games as is drink. Not good in my opinion, I’m sure people would argue the economics, but for me it is only because too many players are paid too much. I think I’ll stop there!
Brazil 2014: already forgotten or a memorable event for you?
This was the first World Cup I wasn’t bothered about. I knew England would bomb. However the competition was actually quite enjoyable. The Dutch played some wonderful football and the Germans were deserved winners. However the 1978 WC is STILL to be beat for me. Still my favourite WC.
How often do you manage to get to games? Will you be at this one and what will be the score?
Living in Devon makes it difficult. I normally get to two or three a season. Last year went to Yeovil and Bournemouth. Financially things are tighter this year so may not be able to but we’ll see. No, I won’t be at this game.
I have been very busy with ‘life stuff’ recently so I need to do some updating, and start getting new content in. If there are any Blues fans out there who fancy writing an article, drop me a message via the website on http://www.joysandsorrows.co.uk/contact/
Interview: Colin Randall
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… though their Sunderland stuff naturally has the edge: