Play-off Ground Guide: Birmingham City
Who`d have thought it? We lost our 3 biggest 'stars`, took in the millions in return, spent next to nowt and yet here we are, 90 minutes away from Wembley and potentially another million pound a minute game.
I said pre-match last week that I`d take any lead for the return and my wish was granted. Agreed it could have, and perhaps should have been more but it`s a lead and the pressure moves to the home team who now have to score.
Tense, nervous, headache, used to be an advertising slogan, for Anadin. That strapline will sum up all the emotions we`ll go through on Wednesday night.
History states that Birmingham City started life as Small Heath formed by cricketers who wanted something to do during the winter months. Previous grounds included waste ground off Arthur Street and Muntz Street, but it was in 1906 that Birmingham (having changed their name in 1905) moved to new premises at St Andrews. Legend has it that when moving to their new premises the club had to evict a camp of gypsies, much aggrieved at their removal from site, one of the gypsies allegedly put a curse on the club that it would never win any of the major honours whilst playing at St Andrews.
After 130+ years of trying the club finally won a major honour by picking up the League Cup by beating Arsenal at Wembley last season. A previous single League cup victory against the auld enemy Aston Villa in 1963 didn`t count as not every club entered the competition in its early days. Birmingham City (having added City to its title in 1945) were one of the first English clubs involved in regular European competition having been inaugural members of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup, an invitation competition. The sojourns in Europe provided funds for the development of St Andrews and the provision of floodlighting at the ground. Birmingham reached the final in 1960 only to be beaten over two legs by Barcelona and then the following competition they reached their second final to be beaten this time by AS Roma.
This season they played in the Europa League and their games played tally now stands at 60+.
St Andrew's was mainly terraced having the Spion Kop and Tilton road as large terraces. A small terrace at the railway end of the ground was replaced with a two tier stand in 1961 with money from the European games. The ground was largely unchanged through the relatively successful period of the 1970`s but fell into much disrepair during the uncelebrated reign as chairman of scrap metal merchant Ken Wheldon who was so tight he wouldn`t even heat the water for player`s post match showers.
The dawning of a new era occurred in 1993 when the owners David Sullivan and the Gold brothers taking charge. They oversaw significant redevelopment of St Andrews with stands replacing the Spion Kop and Tilton terracing and the Railway end being doubled in size. The ground has undergone a huge transformation since the mid 90s with three new stands surrounding the pitch. The oldest stand, the Main Stand, was built just before the 1960s and is starting to look a little forlorn and out of keeping with the rest of the ground, though until, like many clubs, a decision is taken on whether to relocate to a new stadium or remain on the current site, there seems little point in commencing any building work.
With a capacity of 30,000 we`ll be sat on one side of the Gil Merrick Stand, which is at one end of the stadium, allocation is just over 2000 tickets.
How To Get There
M55, M6 South to Junction 6. Bear right on to the slip road towards Birmingham Central. Follow the Aston Expressway straight on. Bear left on to A38 (Slip Road) towards City Centre. Follow A5127 (Aston Rd straight on. Take first available exit off roundabout on to A4540 (Dartmouth Middleway). Take the second available exit off roundabout on to A4540 (Lawley Middleway). Take the first available exit off roundabout on to Garrison Lane, continue for 1.7 miles Turn right on to Camp St - you`re there.
For the sat navvers - B9 4RL.
For the Virgin lovers amongst us: The nearest local railway station is Bordesley, which is a ten minute walk away. The nearest mainline stations are Birmingham New Street, Birmingham Snow Hill or Birmingham Moor Street (20 minutes walk). A taxi will cost around £6 to the ground.
For those flying via Samm Airways: Birmingham Airport is just 9 miles away.
Where To Drink
Recommended pubs for away fans are - The Anchor in Digbeth which is approximately 15 minutes walk to the ground. The Brighton a 10 minute walk, and The Cricketers Arms about the same. Ale is on sale within the ground.
Plod & Stewards
Stewarding inside the ground is reported as pretty decent and generally no issues with the Midlands plod, however last season they failed to see the funny side of some youngsters covering the box windows.
Fear Factor Rating - 7. Not the most scenic of away exits where eventually the fans end up together. IF we get a result, keep your eyes and your wits about you.
Chris Houghton strikes me as a decent manager, the sort any club should appreciate, but in Holloway we have a legend in our ranks.
Ince was amazing, twice would be unbelievable, whatever happens after the heartache of last year we have a chance to dream, all that`s left now is for us to believe.
Onwards + Upwards