Monsieur Salut writes: James Jenkinson is a breath of fresh air: a home and away regular with a burning passion for his club, Birmingham City. He is still studying – at University Degrees in Football, Sport and Events Industries in Wembley – -but hopes to became a TV presenter. We have only two quarrels: he thinks City will win on Tuesday night and also suspects we will go down …
Salut! Sunderland: “my club, my addiction! From cradle to grave “… your words at Twitter. Explain the passion of the sort of fan someone else said every club absolutely needs
I think football is a passionate sport. It’s one of a kind and almost like a religion to some and I think the passion in the game is what separates it from sports such as rugby for example. Being a Birmingham fan is one of a kind also with it being the working class club of the city; it breathes passion and the words “my club, my addiction” are the best way I can explain it as it’s an addiction that just becomes more than just a sport and I feel that makes you feel part of the club.
After a rotten first half of the season, you began to get some better results. Has the corner turned and if so, why and how?
At the time of writing, we have just been brought back down to early with a 0-3 defeat to Derby at home which has put a dampener on the upturn in form. I personally believe there’s a lot more work to do before the club turns the corner. However, I do see a lot more positive signs in the pitch. The defeat to Derby was harsh and the game certainly wasn’t a 0-3.
I believe the reason for the upturn in results is simply down to Steve Cotterill finding a settled squad with balance and solidity. The back four has been chopped and changed all season but Cotterill has recently made Harlee Dean captain and partnered him with Marc Robert who are both still new to the club but are both clearly good defenders. With Maxime Colin and and Jonathan Grounds either side the back four is now building some cohesion and understanding between themselves.
I imagine Steve Cotterill featured in that response. Assess him as a manager at this level and whether you feel the rich Hong Kong owners will back him to lead you back to better times
My opinions on Steve Cotterill are very mixed. I think he’s a man who’s passionate about the job and definitely looks as if he puts a lot of work in on the training ground. Howeve, I believe that he loses his cool at times within matches and at press conferences, which sometimes makes me sceptical. Also at times he looks tactically naive and his lack of reactive substitutions in games sometimes costs us points or shows a lack of ambition.
What went wrong with Redknapp and Lee Clark?
Various problems with both and the type of problems they faced also varied. Lee Clark was a manager who joined us after leading Huddersfield Town on a 44-game unbeaten run in League 1 with a cup run included in that. He joined the club just as we were heading into our most turbulent period and this meant he was in hot water from the minute he took the job.
With a shoestring budget, transfers were very difficult as we had to rely on loans and frees. However he finished 12th in his first season which was considered a disappointment considering we fished 4th the previous campaign under Chris Hughton and the fact Clark had a squad with Nathan Redmond, Jack Butland, Curtis Davies, Nikola Zigic and Ravel Morrison.
The following season was harder for Clark as he saw the likes of Redmond, Butland and King head for the exit door with the clubs finances tightening. We survived relegation on the final day at Bolton and he was sacked just 10 games into the following season. I believe the constant need to sell players and replace them with very mediocre players made things difficult. However Clark’s very questionable lineups, talk of a lack of professionalism behind the scenes and his complete tactical ineptitude were his ultimate downfall. He is still, however, a popular figure at the club.
As for Harry Redknapp, after keeping the club up on the final day in dramatic style, he was given the task of launching a promotion campaign and given a large budget to do so. I believe that the large overhaul of players in the summer and a large imbalance in the squad with some players on £5-10k and other earning upwards of £35k made for some unrest in the dressing room. I ultimately believe Redknapp should have been given more time as I think he’s more than experienced enough to have turned it around.
The fan who did this exercise before the game at our place said you had some decent players who just needed to become a proper unit. He mentioned Boga; who else are you pinning hopes on to be part of that cohesive team effort?
I believe that ye, we do have a lot of very talented players within the ranks and I think that’s what frustrates our fan base since we know we are good enough. Sam Gallagher would be the man I’d highlight as someone who is going to be our key to success. We’ve really struggled to score this season but with five in seven (as I write) and his overall play as a No 9, he has be crucial for us picking up some form! He’s a player who is strong, tall but deceptively quick and has a natural finish.
What are your memories of that 2011 Carling cup final?
I have such fond and remarkable memories of our cup final. A day that will remain with me until the day I die. I was only 14 but still to this day, I can’t remember seeing so many grown men with tears in their eyes.
I remember the build up to the game was immense with Birmingham fans in the ground an hour and a half before kick off with Arsenal fans turning up 20 minutes before kick off. Immediately you could see how much it meant to each side. I remember the Keep Right On song before the game nearly shook the foundations and remember Stephen Carr stating that Arsenal fans came expecting but Blues fans came hoping. Which meant all the pressure was on them from the start.
Other highlights – and low points – while supporting your club?
Other highlights would be the three promotions I’ve witnessed with Blues in my short time supporting them. Each of them done in very different way. Beating Norwich in Cardiff in 2001 was the most special as it was our first time in the Premier League and for local blue Darren Carter to score the winner was magic.
Low points would have to be the relegation in 2011 as the team had come off the back of a cup win six months earlier and if I’m honest the team was way too good to have been relegated that season, but it just doesn’t work that way. Another would be the play off semi final the following season with Blues losing narrowly to Blackpool.
Best BCFC players you’ve seen or wish you’d been around to see from the past?
I’ve seen some fantastic players down St Andre’s and I’m luck enough to have been around during arguably our best era of players. Names such as Forssell, Dunn, Redmond spring to mind.
However, I’m going to pick my own personal favourite instead of best because I couldn’t give you a name for that and I know most wouldn’t agree with me but I would say Barry Ferguson. I loved watching Barry Ferguson, he signed in the summer of 2009 from Rangers with a decent reputation as a tough, tenacious midfielder but the man was cool as a cucumber on the ball. I very rarely witnessed him lose a ball and was always the heartbeat of everything we did. He was with the club for two seasons and in that time helped the club to a record 9th place finish and a cup win.
I also have to say I wish I’d have been around to witness Trevor Francis, a club hero and regarded as one of the best of his generation.
And the worst?
Being a Birmingham fan we’ve also had the pleasure of having some absolutely shockers at the club also. However, I have to give this one to Carlos Costly. Signed in 2008/09 season to fire us back to the Premier League and the Honduran was just awful to put it lightly. I remember him attempting some stepovers and falling over the ball once.
Describe your feelings on Villa: good-natured banter or deeper?
The rivalry with Aston Villa is so much more than good natured and for me it’s just pure hatred. Obviously I have friends who support the Villa but when it comes to my feelings towards the club it’s a sense of putrid hatred and anger. The shear arrogance of the club and its fans irritates every Blues fan and also fans of other teams.
Did you see our downfall coming and can we get out of our current mess?
I can’t say that I didn’t see Sunderland’s downfall coming because I would be lying. Their constant flirting with relegation and lack of investment every season meant that relegation was inevitable. Partner that with the constant changing of manager and a revolving door of players just meant for a lack of consistency. However, I can’t say at the start of the season I could see them so low. I predicted a mid table season for Sunderland so this has taken me by surprise.
Other thoughts on Sunderland – the club, fans, city/region, Chris Coleman?
Sunderland overall are a big club who arguably deserve better than this. The fans have always struck me as passionate and almost similar to Birmingham’s in the sense they have a bigger neighbour who tend to take the limelight. Sunderland as a city is one I haven’t really visited frequently but always comes across as industrial with very much working class folk. My views on Chris Coleman are somewhat mixed. With his huge success in the Euros in 2016 he seemed to make a huge statement in his managerial career, however he’s never really seemed cut out for Premier League management. I personally believe he can certainly steady the Sunderland ship and lead them up the table if they stay up this season.
Hand on heart, where will our clubs finish the season?
Honestly, with the loss of both frontmen, I’m struggling to see Sunderland get out of this and believe they may suffer back to back relegations. As for Blues I believe we have the firepower to get ourselves out of this and finish with our heads just above water.
The Niasse question: is football at last taking diving seriously or will players/managers just try harder to make cheating work for them?
I believe football is trying to make strides to cut out diving and with the VAR and bans being enforced after games. It means players know they will be scrutinised for diving. This being said, players will always manage to find a way around it and I don’t believe we will ever eliminate diving completely.
Will you be at our game? What will be the score?
Yes I will be making my way up from London for the game so I’m hoping for a win (wishful thinking). I’m going for 2-0 Birmingham. I feel we’ve played excellent over the last 5/6 games and thinking we may have too much for Sunderland with this one.
James Jenkinson on himself: I’m 20, born in Burton upon Trent. I was raised in Tamworth just outside Birmingham and I’m currently studying football business and media at Wembley. I’m hoping this helps to push me towards a career in the media potential presenting live TV.I’ve supported Birmingham since my dad took me to my first game – August 8 1997, Birmingham 2-0 Stoke (I was less than a month old) – and I’ve had a season ticket every season since. I’ve attended 63 away grounds most with Birmingham and would say at times it takes over my life in one way or another.
Interview: Colin Randall