21 things you didn’t know about Birmingham City
Never mind if you’ve supported Birmingham City for 80 years or 80 minutes, there are facts, results, statistics, players and trivia over the past century-and-a-half which might have been forgotten or just passed you by altogether.
We’ve dusted off 21 for now… and there are probably thousands more to go at.
1. Italian job
Birmingham City were planning to go to Italy on their pre-season tour ahead of the 2017/2018 season – with Gianfranco Zola at the helm.
However, they didn’t get that far, indeed Zola didn’t even make it to the end of the previous season. He was sacked in April and it was down to Harry Redknapp to save the club.
Unfortunately that meant the summer schedule had to be redrawn and Blues hastily arranged to go to Stegersbach in Austria.
It was not a successful trip, Blues were blighted with hamstring pulls in the early part of the following season and the lack of preparation was exposed.
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2. The mystery triallist
The Austria trip was notable for one thing, though – the presence of triallist Malick Evouna.
Redknapp wanted to keep the identity of the striker under wraps, fearful that he could lose the Gabon international to a rival.
He is now at Portuguese side Santa Clara.
3. Record breaker
Blues fans are quite rightly enamoured with their current right back Maxime Colin.
However, the Frenchman will have some way to go if he is to prove as influential as former Blues full back, Stan Lynn.
The Bolton-born defender is responsible for several records, not least when was an Aston Villa player in January 1958 he became the first full-back to score a hat-trick in a top-flight match.
He joined Blues in 1961, helped them beat Villa to win the 1963 League Cup and then in the 1965/66 season became the only player to appear in competitive games in 20 straight post-war seasons.
Oh – and he was also nicknamed Stan the Wham.
4. Youngest captain
On August 9, 1969 one of the club’s greatest ever servants became the youngest captain in Blues history.
Pendrey played for Blues for 13 years, up to leaving for West Brom in 1979 – but was given the armband by Stan Cullis at the age of just 20 years and 6 months.
Blues lost that game, 3-1 – and the season didn’t go particularly well as they finished 18th in the second tier.
He was part of the side which won promotion in 1972 and overall made 360 appearances for the club. He returned for an ill-fated spell as manager between 1987-89.
5. Sweet 16
Everyone knows who Blues’ youngest ever player is – current wonderkid Jude Bellingham.
Most people know whose record he took when he played against Portsmouth in August – none other than Trevor Francis.
But those two aren’t the only 16-year-olds to have represented the club.
Indeed Blues had two 16-year-olds make their debuts under Pendrey in the 1987/1988 campaign.
Some might recall Paul Tait coming off the bench on the final day of the season against Leeds United.
But the previous October, Neil Sproston was four weeks shy of his 17th birthday when he replaced John Trewick against Middlesbrough. By the time the game finished the forward needed stitches in a head wound.
6. Globetrotters and trend-setters
Birmingham City were the first British club to enter a major European competition when they participated in the Inter-City Fairs Cup in 1956.
They also faced Espanyol, AS Roma and Dinamo Zagreb in the competition. Overall they won 14 of the 25 matches they played in the competition’s six-year existence.
7. The original super sub
Geoff Vowden became the first substitute ever to score a hat-trick – which he did for Blues in September 1968.
It was his first time as a sub in his four years at Blues having never previously been dropped.
But Stan Cullis left him our for the home match with Huddersfield Town and Vowden was brought on at half time for injured skipper Ron Wylie.
Future Blues player Frank Worthington also came on at the interval for the Terriers. Worthington scored too.
But it was Vowden who dominated the headlines with goals on 71, 74 and 89 minutes to write his name into league history books.
8. Silver service
Not that there was much of it. Barely 1,000 fans turned up to watch Blues’ first ever match in the FA Cup in 1881 – to see if they could dethrone holders Clapham Rovers.
Their bid started off well, they hammered Derby, Town not County, 4-1 – only to be demolished 6-0 in the next round.
We all know when they last won a cup – Wembley, 2011, Obafemi Martins, Arsenal’s net etc.
But the first silverware came to the club in the 1882/1883 campaign when they won the Walsall Cup, beating the Walsall Swifts 4-1 in the final.
9. Chain reaction
In the 1970s Asda supermarket chain proposed to help Blues redevelop a new stand at St Andrew’s but as par of a development on land behind the Kop which had become vacant due to slum clearance works.
However, in the face of severe opposition from commercial rivals the scheme fell through.
By the time the Golds and David Sullivan took over the club in the early 1990s there was no doubt St Andrew’s was in dire need of upgrading.
Gold said of his first visit to the stadium: “It was a shock. I had a picture in my mind of what I was expecting but it was in such a state of disrepair that it was hard to comprehend.
“Only two-thirds of the bulbs on the floodlights were working and the Football League had threatened action if we didn’t do something to improve the lights.”
While you’re here, St Andrew’s is the sixth highest ground in the UK, at 123m above sea level.
St Andrew’s has been used to stage rugby matches, boxing title fights, pop concerts and even used as a film set.
In 1960 South Africa beat a Midlands County XV 16-5 in front of 17,000. Dick Turpin and Henry Cooper have both won fights at the ground.
UB40, The Pogues, Westlife, Sugababes and Duran Duran have all performed at St Ans.
11. Managers’ hot seats
Blues were formed in 1875 but it was not until 1910 that they actually appointed an official team manager.
Prior to that the playing side was run by a five-strong committee for almost 17 years, comprising the team captain, secretary, treasurer, vice-captain and one other.
Alf Jones became secretary-manger in 1892 and remained in post until 1908 when Alex Watson did the job for two years.
In July 1910 Bob McRoberts was annointed ‘team manager’.
In 1903 Blues started searching for a bigger site than their existing Muntz Street ground.
Two years later a possible venue was identified in Bordesley Green – bordered by Cattell Road, Tilton Road, Coventry Road and Garrison Lane on land that had been used previously by a brickworks company.
Director and former player Harry Morris described the site as ‘a wilderness of stagnant water and muddy slopes’.
Blues secured the land on a 21-year lease.
And just before another director, Thomas Turley, who was also a builder, began work on the site a group of travellers had to be evicted.
It is claimed they responded by putting a curse on the club – which was supposed to last for 100 years.
It was claimed in the mid-80s that Ron Saunders had crucifixes hung from the floodlights.
Barry Fry went even further – or so he claimed: “We called in a bloke to lift the curse and he told me that the only way to fix it was to go and have a pee in all four corners of the ground.
“I am not normally superstitious but after three months I was willing to try anything so I went and took a leak on all four corner flags. It took me a while – it’s not that easy.”
13. The Crash
Blues had made an undefeated start to the 1939/40 season, with a draw at Spurs and victories over Leicester and Burnley, when the outbreak of World War Two saw the season cancelled with them in second place in Division Two.
They took part in the Midland Regional League but St Andrew’s was closed for fear of bombing raids.
On a trip south to play Luton Town at Kenilworth Road in February 1940 their team coach crashed though a traffic island because of the blackout. No-one was injured.
14. Fight to the end
In the promotion season of 2006/2007 Steve Bruce’s men scored in the final ten minutes of 16 Championship matches.
Eight of those either salvaged a draw or claimed all three as Blues ended up in second place, with 86 points, behind champions Sunderland.
They also won 26 games that season to set a new club record, beating the 25 victories they had registered in three seasons, most recently 1994/1995.
15. Goal-den goals
Blues scored the first ever golden goal to win a Wembley Cup final, when Paul Tait scored in extra time to win the 1995 Auto-Windscreen Shield. We all remember the scenes that followed that.
However, the club’s first golden goal was scored three weeks earlier, in the same competition when Blues settled the semi-final with Swansea. The scorer? Paul Tait.
16. White paper
On September 30, 1938 Neville Chamberlain returned to England having secured what he believed to be ‘peace for our time’ after the Munich Agreement with Adolf Hitler.
His famous speech was delivered at Heston Aerodrome, in west London.
The following day he was in south-east London at The Valley where the players of Charlton and Birmingham City were presented to him before kick-off.
Blues went 3-0 down before fighting back to draw 4-4.
Earlier that season their players had worn numbers on their shirts for the first time.
17. Not peace-but pieces
St Andrew’s suffered 20 direct hits from German bombers during the World War Two, with damage to the Railway End and the Main Stand and the roof of the Kop came in.
Blues were forced to move away, returning to the ground in 1943 but the players still had to change in a nearby factory as the dressing rooms had no water supply.
18. Wood fire
Eight months after the most famous day in the club’s history Blues registered another notable victory
Chris Wood’s goal, deeper than deep into added time, gave Chris Hughton’s men a 2-1 victory away to Club Brugge in the Europa League.
Pablo Ibanez had been stretchered off, Guirane N’daw reduced to tears and then Wood struck late on.
He fired home Marlon King’s cross to ensure Blues became the first English side to win at Brugge’s Jan Breydelstadion.
19. New opponent
Blues were the opposition when Arsenal played their first ever competitive match – an FA Cup tie in January 1892.
The match kicked off 25 minutes late because the referee got lost on his way to the ground and ended 5-1 to Blues.
The match also included the first ever penalty conceded by the club – which Chris Charsley saved.
Charsley also played for England, was a police officer and later Chief Constable of Coventry.
20. Blues in literature
The central character to the series All Creatures Great and Small, a Yorkshire based vet called James Herriot, was named after Birmingham City’s goalkeeper Jim Herriot.
Vet and author Alf Wight wrote under the pseudonym James Herriot after watching the Blues ‘keeper play so well in a televised match against Manchester United.
Herriot made 212 appearances for Blues between 1965 and 1971.
21. Keeping Right On
In 1956 Blues became the first team to reach the FA Cup final without playing a single match at home.
Arthur Turner’s men won at Torquay, Leyton Orient, West Brom, Arsenal (where Keep Right On was sung by the legendary Alex Govan) and Sunderland.
They were favourites to lift the cup for the first time but lost the final 3-1 to Manchester City, in a match forever remembered as the Bert Trautmann final after the former prisoner of war played the final 17 minutes with a broken bone in his neck.