Who Are These Jobbers?
Regular readers to this illuminating column will note my bemusement at Burton Albion’s decision to put a rotund-loafer-wearing gentlemen hoofing a football into touch on their badge (why not relive this tour de force of content here). Well, Birmingham City, you too have one of the lamest badges in the Football League.
The club’s website makes the bold claim that it is “probably one of the most recognisable club crest in English football” (alright, Carlsberg, settle down). Why they would think a globe and a football attached with ribbons makes it “the most recognisable” in the beautiful game is frankly beyond me. With imagination like this it comes as no surprise that it was designed by a conversion engineer at the West Midlands Gas Board in 1972.
I get the football part of it and the ribbons are pretty nice, I guess, but it is the globe part that is slightly confusing. Do Birmingham consider themselves the Mr Worldwide of the English game, despite hardly ever playing in Europe, never mind the rest of the world? Maybe it is a little pipedream of theirs to maybe play an intercontinental galactico match with Santos or someone, I don’t know.
One of the main plus points of Birmingham City is that they are the considerably less detestable team in the second city. Also, they have a good penchant for banter (something we can all get behind). Last season was a beautiful case in point when they sacked Gary Rowett despite being only out of the play-off spots on goal difference, then hired Gianfranco Zola and nearly got relegated.
The banter continued into this season when they decided to give Harry Redknapp a load of money, bring in a load of players, only for him to call them all crap and get sacked. They are now under the stewardship of notepad enthusiast and terrible former Sunderland assistant manager Steve Cotterill - lo and behold they are still terrible.
Despite their general uselessness of late, they did hilariously win the League Cup in 2011 and had a sensational last-day escape from League One in 2014, prompting some absolute limbs (check out Paul Caddis’ pasty white belly). Something which we too can look forward to in May.
How Do I Get There?
They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions but you’ll mainly be taking the M1 (alright, calm down Peaky Blinders, Birmingham isn’t that bad). Take the A1 (M) to junction 35, take the M1 to junction 23A before joining the M42 heading into the United Kingdom’s second city. Swerve past Villa Park on your right and take the A38 (M) into the city centre.
St Andrew’s is well signposted across Birmingham, so follow them, I guess. There is a nearby car park charging £5 or you could park in the city centre and have a leisurely stroll up to the ground.
That being said, you could craaaaaaaaack those tinnies and board that sweet, sweet CrossCountry service to Birmingham New Street. The ground is around a 30-minute walk from the station but there are plenty of watering holes to stop off at if your little legs get tired.
A Love Supreme buses leave the Stadium of Light at 1pm with fares costing £30. Book your place here.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
As the football supporting ultra/sad act that I am, I have perfected the drinking routes for all three of Birmingham’s main teams (what, you haven’t?! Call yerself a fan?). Everybody knows that if you’re going to West Brom it’s straight up Bennetts Hill, onto Temple Row then get the train from Snow Hill while for Aston Villa it’s a jaunt along Broad Street up to Five Ways, and for Birmingham City, it’s all about Digbeth.
Hang a left out of Birmingham New Street station and swing by The Victoria on John Bright Street for a cocktail or local ale (your call), then venture into the unique charm that is Digbeth. If you bloody love your real ale then you can spend your afternoon querying what percentage the guest ale is and telling bar staff “to top that up” at The Anchor on Bradford Street.
Swing by The Old Crown on High Street and sample a taste of one of Birmingham’s oldest and see what the craic is at The Spotted Dog on Alcester Street. Speaking of craic, Birmingham’s Irish Centre (also on High Street) is also a good shout if you like supping Carling Cider (aka, the worst drink known to man). All the pubs are within an easy walk of St Andrew’s.
Of course, you could just stay in the city centre and take your pick from the plethora of excellent alehouses but, really, where is the fun in that? We may be in League One next year, soak up these surroundings.
I’m Staying Owa, Is There Owt To Do?
Naturally as this is a night game, you’re going to miss all the fun and games that Birmingham has to offer, but if you fancy ducking out a little early then Will Varley is playing at O2 Institute 3 while Faux (UK) (not to be confused with the Finnish band) are playing Subside.
Speaking of Subside, the very first time I ventured into the first incarnation of this dive bar I was trapped in a conversation with someone who declared “Now, I’ll admit I’m a racist, but…” and then went into a very racist ramble before ending it with a request for cocaine. But don’t let that put you off!
Round it all off with a wander around the Bullring hungover the day after.
What’s The Ground Like?
When I first visited St Andrew’s as a young whipper snapper, eyes full of hope and dreams in the mid-2000s, I was reliably informed by me da not to wear any colours. “They can be a rough old bunch this lot,” he warned. I heeded the advice and my Lonsdale emblazoned shirt was left firmly behind in our hotel in Bromsgrove.
I’d read all those hooligan books (many of which the stories had clearly been fabricated, I mean do you ever pick up one of those tomes and hear someone with a name like ‘Oathead’ explain how he got his arse handed to him at, like, Blackpool) and had expected the so-called “running battles” but what I actually encountered was a lukewarm, yet still delicious Balti Pie.
Another of my visits culminated in my sleep-deprived brain deciding that whacking £5 on Billy Knott to score was a great idea. It wasn’t, we lost, as is customary.
St Andrew’s is actually quite a nice little set-up. Akin to neighbours West Brom, it has three fairly modern stands and then one that needs to be replaced but hey, I’m not here to judge. Our lot are housed in the Gil Merrick Stand and with it being a Tuesday night fixture, there will be plenty of room to spread out.