Often Partisan

Extra Special or Smart Price?

A recurring theme I’ve noticed in the comments on Often Partisan is how much the financial side of Birmingham City matters – to some people, it’s a disgrace that more fans don’t care deeply about what Carson has or hasn’t done to the club; to others it’s a distracting sideshow when people should be getting behind the team. With the very real possibility that Carson could be at St Andrews tomorrow, I’ve tried to think some more about this.

When you look at the difference between the Carling Cup Final squad and the squad that lined up for the Millwall game, it’s easy to see why some fans are dissatisfied. Blues isn’t a team full of internationals, top flight seasoned pros and rising stars any more and for some fans this hurts deeply – it’s like going from eating the “Extra Special” range on Asda’s meat counter to the Smart Price and bargain bin offcuts. You can still see the top quality nosh in it’s shiny packaging being picked up by people around you, but you’re stuck jostling with the bargain hunters and the tightarses for the meat packed with gristly bits. It’s a helluva comedown.

Yet there is another way of looking at it. As much as people blame McLeish’s cautious tactics for our Premiership demise, I think a lot of blame has to rest with a lot of the players too. Some of these “Extra Special” players promised much when we picked them up off the shelf, but they turned out to be a bit rich for our tastes and either ended up at the back of the fridge quietly going off or making us feel ill when we did try them. Yes, some turned out to be not just tasty but amongst the best we’d had in our lives – I will be forever thankful to Obafemi Martins – but too many didn’t cut the mustard.

It’s not like the “Smart Price” stuff has even been that bad. Chris Burke might not have set the pulses racing when we signed him, but he’s been pretty good so far. The tough old piece of beef that is Steven Caldwell has proven that with the right accompaniment, he can be tasty too. Then there’s the home grown stuff off the allotment, with Nathan Redmond proving raising your own can be particularly satisfying as well.

Enough with the food analogy. The bald facts are that despite having no money, making mainly freebie and loan signings, and playing in the second tier the football at St Andrews is more entertaining. We’re scoring goals, having lots of shots on goal and playing nice football on the deck – and at the end of the day, that’s why we’re football fans. We go to watch our team play football. I will state here and now I’m loving this season; I can’t wait for each game to come along and I’m genuinely excited about what the team can do. I have absolutely no expectations of us this season, and that has freed me from worrying if we have enough points to achieve our aims.

I write about the financial stuff on here because I can; because the local and national media either doesn’t have the available resources or the interest to find the information that I can, and I know that there are people who are interested in it. I do sometimes wonder what the hell is going to happen next to Blues – but it doesn’t keep me up at night, and it certainly hasn’t detracted from my enjoyment of this season. On Sunday, I heard the Tilton chant Chris Hughton’s name solidly or a good minute or so – if that’s not proof that the good times are coming back to Blues (on the pitch at least), what is?

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42 Responses to “Extra Special or Smart Price?”

  • Gareth says:

    To be honest, I think we might be better in midfield and up front now. Compare our midfield of Bowyer (Played out position, knackered for last 75% of the season), Ferguson (Rarely passed forward), Gardner (got the goals, but lacked technical ability & poor discipline), Fahey (not a bad word to say really, played out position), Larsson (VERY occasional set piece, no ability or pace to get past a man), Beausejour (should’ve been played a hell of a lot more) and Hleb (less said the better) last year to Burke, Redmond, Beausejour, Fahey, Mutch, Gomis, Spector this year. Hughton knows how to use a midfield, playing people in position and to their strengths.

    Up front last year we had Jerome (sympathy for this guy, had the toughest job of them all), Zigic (half a season, looked like he could come good), Martins (only played a handful of games). This season we have Rooney (great target man so far), Wood (hope we can keep this guy for longer), King (great strike rate, hope he can deliver some of that for us), Zigic (who knows?), Asante (have high hopes for this guy, should’ve been involved more last season)

    Perhaps the defence isn’t as good as last year, but based on the last half of our season, I’m wondering if they didn’t ride on the success of our first season back in the prem a little bit.

  • JohnR says:

    Good blog Almajir. I am interested in the financial goings on at Blues particularly when Carson Yeung took over we had no debt and now we seem to be in financial meltdown.
    i agree that normally the national press do not take any great interest in us although James Nursey does post some articles about us and there is an interesting piece by David Conn in today’s Guardian http://tinyurl.com/44tgh32
    I totally agree with you that the players have some responsibility for our relegation last year and by revamping the team Hughton has re-energised the fans. I’m with you on looking forward to this season and I think we will surprise a lot of people who had written us off.To cap it all we also have our European adventure.

  • Adrian Harris says:

    Who are you trying to kid? You are enjoying this season? Blues have become a laughing stock under the stewardship of the present board. There are very real concerns that we are going to struggle to continue in our present form – according to our auditors – with a very real chance we could be marooned in this godforsaken league for the foreseeable. If we are enjoying this season so much why only 16k of our fans there on Sunday? I rate this blog quite highly, and can see some of the ‘us against the world’ spirit being quite attractive to some – but to say this season is enjoyable is mental when you think how we celebrated a REAL achievement in February.

    • almajir says:

      You’ve answered your own question though Adrian.

      Some people equate enjoyment with success – and when the chips are down they don’t come along. However, I always believed that the whole point of being a fan was supporting the team through thick and thin. Have you been to the games this season? In the last two home games I’ve seen six goals, a lot of attacking football played on the deck and felt throroughly enthused by how we’re playing – compare that to last season when there were so many games that were just dour.

      Yes there were only 16k fans there on Sunday – and that’s partly because like every other fanbase, Blues fans are fickle. It’s sad.

    • Ian B says:

      Another good blog entry Almajir. I was interested to read Adrian’s gloomy reply and understand the point he is making. But I am enjoying the style of football being played by the “Smart Price” team that CH has assembled. It is a hundred times more entertaining than many of our Premiership performances. Like everyone else, I dislike the financial uncertainties and I can’t wait for the day there is greater visibility of the club’s financial security. Until then, I will continue to appreciate that AM’s ‘hoof-it-long’ tactics are over and the current team are playing entertaining, passing football with plenty of goals.

  • Trevor Francis Is God says:

    I dont normally reply to other people coments but sometimes things get the better of me. Last years Midfield dosnt compare with this years it is 100 times better i would have ferguson and bowyer on cruthes rather than the ones he has mentioned. Beausejour is the only quality midfield player we have.And as for rooney and Woods milk turns quicker than the pair of them. Im still waiting to see if one of them has any idea how to play football for example control then pass Preferably to someone in Blue. The Goal keeper is hopeless.The Back four is probably the strongest part of the Team. God help us. FED UP SEASON TICKET HOLDER!

  • RenalBlue says:

    Hello Almajir,
    Always enjoy reading your blog, most interesting and informative.
    I too read the David Conn article and penned a reply, as yet unsent. See what you think.

    Dear Mr Conn,
    Having read through your article I felt the need as a die-hard Birmingham City supporter since 1966 to comment on some of your observations.
    Talk about re-hashing old stories just to fill up column inches. The only thing up to date was about Wednesday mornings court hearing regarding Carson Yeung’s intended 4 day travel out of China. Even the picture used was taken back in June of this year.
    We have waited 50 years to play again in European competition, that’s true but we have already played 2 games in this years Europa Cup, maybe you missed that during your research.
    The rest of your detailed accounts (like the pun?) have been widely known and reported long ago or at best, as soon as they became known. As a supporter I am deeply concerned and worried what the future holds for my club but as it says in our club anthem, “Keep Right On Till The End Of The Road” there will be “joys and sorrows” but “we’ll be there, at the end of the road”. Whatever happens!
    We qualified for the Europa league way back in February thanks to beating Arsenal in the 2010 League Cup final and during the following months provided the relevant financial details to each football governing body as and when requested all the their satisfaction. Again his has been well documented long ago. I like many Birmingham City fans look forward to finding out where the clubs money has gone to and I guess all will become clearer as more accounts are released later this year.
    As a football fan I am well aware that huge amounts of money is flooding out of the game to players and agents so I guess that will be part of it but by no means all.
    I’m surprised you didn’t mention anything about Carson’s broken promises of spending £40 million on players when he took over the club in his blaze of glory acceptance speech.
    Like us all, we have great plans when buying into a new venture but with the current worldwide financial crisis and other things meant those ideas soon evaporated. Who knows!
    Years ago during Barry Fry’s days as Birmingham’s manager, when things were quiet in our local media we as fans used to think that editor’s would send reporters down to our club to “have a chat with Baz , he’s always good for a story”. That brings back smiles just thinking back to those day’s.
    Barry Fry, another legend from our past day’s. Bless Him. Happy day’s.
    So in conclusion, might I suggest that when your editor catches you twiddling your fingers with now’t to do, at least get up off your backside and do some investigative journalism and not just search out old stories from the internet to satisfy your needs.
    Maybe there is of course some other sinister reason behind your scaremongering and distracting article as it comes out 1 day before our next Europa game. Are you by chance a “Gooner” and still a little miffed about little old Brum beating you!! Te-he. Conspiracy theories eh. Don’t you just love em….
    I hope you will forgive my light hearted banter and you’ll be cheering on all the English clubs during this years European competitions whoever you fly your colours with.
    Kindest regards,
    S Davis.

  • Adrian Harris says:

    I have been to all the games bar Boro away and have done for fifteen seasons. We have had it worse that this for sure. But what a lost opportunity we have presided over. If we fail to come back from this division for some time there is every chance we could fall behind WBA and Wolves – both of whom seem to be building a sustainable sort of success without putting the future of their club at risk. And that is not to mention Villa. Are we really the Midlands fourth team? Sure, this season we have Europe to point to, but how long is this going to last? We have gone from Ben Foster to Boaz Myhill, Scott Dann to Gary Caldwell. I don’t see how any right minded Birmingham fan can be happy with our constant appearances in the press, never mind the farce taking place in Hong Kong. Again, I appreciate some of this Fawlty Towers style approach to running a club has the effect of uniting our hardcore fans, but I feel embarrassed at the sheer lack of professionalism coming out of St Andrews at the moment. From the sponsorship farce, to the will they/wont they have a fire sale, to the dismissal of Dunford, to the appointment of an eighteen year old to the board.

    If this was happening at Villa Park we would be laughing our heads off, make no mistake.

  • Trevor Francis Is God says:

    No I didnt two very poor teams still dosnt make woods a good player. I can remember David Geddis scoring a hat trick against pompey he wasnt any good either.

  • GrumbleGob says:

    great blog today, really struck a chord with me.
    im the same as you with my expectations for this season. im taking each game as it comes and enjoying it for what it is. things arent great behind the scenes but things like that should galvanise the supporters to get behind the team.
    the football we are playing is much better than we have seen for a while and we also have the european adventure to look forward to.
    ive seen much darker days than these as im sure a lot of others have. i also think that the problems behind the scenes will get sorted and in the mean time im going to enjoy the football and back the boys.
    cheers and KRO

    • Adrian Harris says:

      On what basis do you think the problems behind the scenes will ‘get sorted’?!

      • GrumbleGob says:

        on the basis that there is still a lot of interest in football worldwide and to buy a championship club and gear it up for the premier league is a much better and cheaper option for a buyer than trying to go straight in at the top. there are plenty of smaller less attractive clubs than ourselves that have been bought out. we’re from the second city and have potential if managed correctly. who wouldve thought leicester would attract the buy out and subsequent investment? blackburn are about as unfashionable as you can get (not that i rate their owners but my point is the same)
        i may be an eternal optimist and may be way off the mark but thats my opinion.

  • Gary says:

    All this moaning and groaning about being in the second tier must be coming from supporters who only decided to support the Blues when we first hit the premier league or have short memories. My father died recently aged 83, he suported blues all his life, as did his father and I am happy to say that after all these years he finally got to see the boys in Royal Blue win something just before he passed away. Our history is not that of a big club, always expected to win things but of a club that once had a fantastic fan base who supported the team regardless. we have spent most of our history in the second tier and our days in the top tier have always been a struggle. I am exited about the Blues at the moment, we are bulding a new team, playing football the way it should be and we are in Europe. On the financial side we have been far worse off than this under Kumar and Wheldon. The doom and gloom from press and supporters is not helping the club and talk of doing a Portsmouth sems to be a big fear, well this doesnt bother me because we have been in worse situations than Portsmouth who are a better club than we were years ago, I would gladly have been in the same situation as them back in the 70’s 80’s and 90’s. Lets appreciate the fact that we have a good stadium, albeit half empty, a squad of players who I believe are good enough to get us into the top 6, and qualify for the next stage of Europa (As long as they stay fit) and owners who have ambitions for our club. Even if CY gets sentenced we are still a very attractive proposition for investors so I am not in the east worried about that side of things. Lets forget about the politics and just let them get on on with it, after all its not us who are in trouble so why should we lose sleep over it. We pay our money to watch the team we love, just the same as any other fans, and we have to accept the fact that all teams lose games and most clubs have financial problems just like we do, its just a case of ours being a better story. Lets rewrite the story by showing the doubters what a well supported club we are by getting behind CH and the team. Most of all lets just enjoy this season, as If we were to get promoted back to the Prem we will be having to play 4-5-1 again just to try and get a point to stay up. Unless we get 100 Million or so to spend, but even then this doesnt guarantee success.

  • Mark says:

    What can I say one of the best blog mate, turning up the debate about how blues are playing now, this is what interest the true supporter FOOTBALL….exciting, playing with desire and passion…….. We will possibly be playing 60 games this season so many blues fans will chose their games to go too. As for Trevor Francis is God what planet is he on, the climate is champship football just accept it move on. As wood’s he 19 years got 5 goals so far what would you say if he stayed and scored 20 goals. Unfotunately you cannot please everyone but the true supporters you can…………… come on you blue boys….. forget bruce, mclelish we are on the march EXCITING DAYS with no expections…….We get behind our team they need us……………………………..

  • Gary says:

    Wahoo!!! thats it boys. Full house on Thursday, which I suspect will be the reason behind the low gate against Mill-war. expensive hobby this football. I think we will get to see N’Daw, Elliot and Redmod line up. I was impressed with King on Saturday. He took the ball well and used it to good effect. He will work well in a two up front line up which I suspect we will go with for the majority of our games this season. This reminds me of the Jim Smith era which bay all accounts was the last time we played exiting football but this time around we have got better players so hopefully we wont be seeing too many goals conceded.

  • Trevor Francis Is God says:

    The Planet I’m on is reality very poor football and woods wouldn’t score 20 goals in the festival league on a Sunday. Please don’t think we will be challenging for promotion with this team. I look forward eagerly to those exciting days Mark.
    PS I Follow blues home and away and have done so for over 30years so I class myself as a true supporter.

    • GrumbleGob says:

      very poor football? really?
      i think youll be hard pushed to find anyone to agree with that. surely, even the most negative nose can see that we are playing better football than under mcleish and the team seems to be improving with each game. and woods wont score 20 in the festival league? well, hes in the championship and is almost a quarter of the way there already with nowhere near a quarter of the season gone.
      moaning for the sake of moaning is what i think its called.

    • blue says:

      your internal dictionary must broke if you think you can class yourself a “true supporter” do you even know what support means ? a true whine-bag would be more honest description

  • Mark says:

    If you don’t like the football don’t go Thursday how exciting can you get , Unfortunately this is where we are and these players whether you like it or not are not kissing the badge RUNNING off with their money.. the others bottled it prefered premiership….. and to answer your question I am glad they have gone… We are playing the football which we have not seen for sometime maybe since jim smith…. and please give credit to CH WHERE IT DUE…. If we challenge for promotion or the play offs great, we also paid our money to watch football………………. I would still support my beloved blues if they were in the blue square league………..

  • Gary says:

    I second that1 spot on Mark. Woods is just a young lad and I have seen him improve dramatically since his first game with us. I was impressed with him against Mill-war in particular his willingness to run. I was a bit surprised with his pace on one occasion and he did have a lot of ground to make up for his third goal but he was actually waiting for the ball to come in. Ziggy will have to fight for his place in the team and in terms of predicting how many goals someone will score I am more interested in how many the team will score. Its a squad game and we have a decent squad with a few goals in the midfield and even some from the defence over the season. OK, no fancy names on big wages but I for one prefer it this way based on what we have got out of the big names on big wages over the years. The best players by far are the ones who come up through the ranks. The always get good backing from us, in fact better than the big names, its a shame that this all dried up in the DS and DG days because I cant think of anything that has exited me more than watching a new star born. TF used to make the hair stand up on the back of my neck when he was 16. Latchford, Dennis, Dillon, Calderwood to name just a few so if you are too young to remember any of this it might just be the best season you have ever had with this crop of kids coming through. If we had stayed in the Prem we wouldnt have seen any of them apart from in the odd cup game.

  • Macca Salop Blue says:

    I was dreading this season and pre-season had conditioned myself for the worst i.e a struggle at the bottom of the table, but so far I have been pleasantly suprised. It’s not been brilliant, but it’s not been bad, nice to see an “offensive” style for a change, all credit to Mr Hughton in turning what on paper seemed a ragamufin side thrown together into a (so far) decent well gelled outfit. For myself it makes a change for me not enduring a game in buttock clenching mode, and actually enjoying what’s being portrayed in front of me without the stresses and strains under McLeish where against the likes of Millwall we would have probably won 1-0 but made hard work of it. I recall the 08/09 promotion campaign, and at times it was so, so hard to watch and be positive despite finishing 2nd. It’s not all gloom and doom now.

  • Mark says:

    I will be there Thursday and I could not care if it came of braga player backside and we win 1-0…………….KRO

  • Trevor Francis Is God says:

    Grow Up You Pair Woods Is NOT A GOOD FOOTBALLER. Please do not dis respect Francis latchford etc by daring to compare woods with them PS he’s not from our youth set up but the Albion’s

    • gary says:

      Nobody is suggesting that Wood is as good as TF and I certainly didnt imply that Wood is a new star born, nor has anyone implied that he is from our youth team. We are simply saying that he is doing the business at the moment and I am sure we wouldnt care if he came rom the Villa youth team. We should enjoy watching someone who wants to pull on the Royal Blue short doing well and get behind him. He is only with us until November and if there is nobody knocking the goals in after he has gone I dare say someone will be singing his praises and asking why we didnt sign him up. Lets just enjoy watching young players trying to develop who have nothing to ,ose and everything to gain instead of buying and watching so called established players who have everything to prove and rarely come up with the goods. Perhaps best to keep coments down to just a couple of lines so that TF is God can interpret the post.

  • cougar says:

    Wood wouldn’t score 20 goals in a sunday league?? I’m pretty sure he has 5 goals in 5 games and no reason he couldn’t hit 20 with the right supply (which he is getting) and very poor football? hahahahaha

  • Ben says:

    1st. I must say that wood isn’t a great player, but he will be good in the championship and if he learns to control a football and how to bring others in he could be very good, but remember he is still a teenager.
    2nd. Let’s face it the club is weaker, but on the other hand we are playing attacking football – stuff not seen under McLeish even in the championship, and I still think not keeping Benitez was the biggest mistake we made

  • gary says:

    Good point Ben. AM didnt spot the fact that although Benitez didnt score may goals (about the same as Jerome last season) he caused a lot of problems for defences by running into space, holding the ball up and assisting in a good few goals for his teammates. We missid him last season and another season in the prem I think would have improved his goals ratio. AM didnt want hime because he was a DS signing. Mind you there was a problem with failing his compulsary english test to stay in the country but I for one would have given him free lessons.
    We signed nobody as a replacement because Ziggy is a completely different type of player. I suppose we should have seen the writing on the wall and not been shocked by our style of play last season with the signing of Ziggy and in particular no signings to provide amunition. The more I think about it the more I feel that AM hadnt got a clue and if CH gets to use him I think we will see a different player.

  • telford bluenose says:

    to be honest working for a food manufacturing company we supply both to asda and marks and spencers and the only difference is the packaging,so whilst some customers prefer to pay through the nose for the expensive artical you get the same in the discount aisle too, only thing is you may have to check the use by date.

  • roger peglar says:

    The people who cant see that the money side of the game is as important if not more are all looking at the game with a rouge tint to there bi-focals.
    Just look at the state of things at St Andrews too see that.
    Fingers crossed for a new investor soon.

  • Theurbaneguerilla says:

    Interesting to see whose glass is half full/half empty. TFisGod appears to have actually dropped his glass. Haha, bless him.
    The perception around Stan’s at the moment is of a team on the up; willing to play for themselves, the fans and the manager. The team is in its infancy but the green shoots of recovery are apparent to all (except TFIG of course).
    What Hughton has done is play down the troubles and concentrate on building team spirit in the mould of another great manager, Jim Smith, as was correctly mentioned before. As was also mentioned there is a similarity between the way Hughton pursues attacking football in his formations and the ‘Bald Eagle’. It’s early days but the signs are very promising. Smith had no money either. He was just a great man manager.
    I’ll never forget watching us do Southampton 4-0 in the 80s with some breathtaking attacking play. Neil Whatmore and a certain F Worthington scored two apiece. The Saints had Channon, Keegan, Dave Watson, Peter Shilton, Alan Ball, Mick Channon, Steve Williams, Ivan Golac, etc, etc. We were supposedly there to make them look good. Like I said, it’s early days but it feels the same now.
    We’ll beat Braga tomorrow because the players want it and so do the fans. We got relegated because the players didn’t want it when it got tough. They took their inspiration from Big Feck.
    I’m proud to be a Bluenose and, as someone else said, I’ll support them in the Blue Square if necessary.
    We have always been a team of little success but one appreciated by its fans for the effort it
    Shows. Now we have attacking intent and European football too!
    My old man, who sadly didn’t live to see his beloved Blues win anything major or qualify for Europe, would be loving this now and so should we all.
    I’ll be there tomorrow cheering them on and thinking of those who weren’t lucky enough to be there.
    The future’s bright, the future’s Blue!

  • Letsby Avenue says:

    Thanks almajir.

    Should we also consider Everton, Bolton, Wolves….and now even Villa, who have officially said that they are entering a period of retrenchment. (Moxley – Daily Mail – who sees this as being a glorious step forward ;-) )

    …… sold Mikel Arteta, Yakubu and Jermaine Beckford all on one day for a total of around £14 million, but bought only three loan signings into the club.

    Part of the reason that Everton had to sell these players is to wipe out debt of around £40 million, so the transfers themselves are said to have wiped out around a quarter of the debt. However, with a lack of investment into the club and the bank having recently told the club that they could borrow “no more” it looks like when the window opens in January, they will have to sell again…..

    …and that is a club with another season of SKY money to absorb. £40-50 million incoming and their Bank tells them no more borowing???
    It’s not as if Beckford was on Hleb’s wages is it?

    So yes, I look forward to your Far East jaunts and the retreival of info – however you get it or find it—thanks.

    I mentioned Everton – simply because of the similarity in debts, bank and mortgaging debts.

    Are their fans yelling at Kenwright – “Where’s the money gone?”


    They know as many bluenoses know, the money has gone to players and agents.

    As Johnson and Dann and Bowyer. Larsson, Gardner and even McLeish begin the perilous declines – are they worried?

    I doubt it :-)

    Their snouts are full from Blues’ naively filled trough, tummy full, move on?

    Thanks mate – many of us are very interested in the info you dig up, from celeb and gala dinners to un-earthing nuggets about the media-shy.

    Don’t give up.

    • GrumbleGob says:

      ha! i also found moxeys article quite funny. if it was blues regardless of teh situation with the board theres no way he would have painted it so brightly. step forward my ar*e.

  • zublue says:

    Loving the football under hughton but even if I wasn’t I’d be there, through thick and thin defending my club against the vile infidels, backing the players wearing those famous royal blue shirts and chrissy hughton to the hilt because I’m a SUPPORTER the clue is in the name. Read the words of our anthem and if you can’t handle it DO ONE and go shopping with your mrs’s on a saturday and do everyone a favour. To the lads like me that back the shirts no matter what is thrown at us…keep right on brothers.

  • hugh.g.rection says:

    telford blue , could you contact the bcfc catering team to sell them some of those lovely m and s steak and button onions in rich gravy pies please

  • gary says:

    Good ideas on the food but unfortunately it takes what seems like a season to get served and if the game hasnt kicked off by the time you do its a case of burning your lips or miss some of the game. Perhaps CH could manage the catering as well. Harrods pies for the price of a Pucka served up with a bit of class. As I said in an earlier post how boring it would be if everything was perfect.

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