By Chris Brown @vivabrownie
You’ve all heard the expression before. If an infinite number of monkeys typed on an infinite number of typewriters for an infinite amount of time…..could they write an article accurately predicting Birmingham City’s fortunes for the 2014/2015 season?
Of course the answer for Lee Clark is ‘how much are these monkeys on?’ and ‘Can any of them play right back?’
The infinite monkey theory is often brought up in moments of philosophical musing and held alongside the works of fellow West Midlander [or Brummie if I’m talking to somebody from Manchester] William Shakespeare. The Bard celebrated his 450th birthday this year on the 26th April – a date that fell exactly one week ahead of Birmingham miraculously escaping relegation at the Reebok Stadium in a tie that had all the hallmarks of an engrossing bit of Elizabethan theatre.
The curtain was closing on Birmingham’s Championship status when the unpronounceable Jutkiewicz fired Bolton into a 2-0 lead with a low toe-poke that beat an almost holographic Randolph at his near post.
2-0 down with ten minutes left to salvage the season.
Step forward the Zig man. A thunderous header made it 2-1. Then, in the 90th minute the ball ricocheted around the Trotter’s box. Time stood still. The ball hung motionless in the air. Zigic, in his last action for the club, standing majestic like the Colossus of Rhodes, nodded towards the net, after a couple more deflections the ball presented itself kindly to Paul Caddis [prized from Swindon Town at great expense] to nudge home from a couple of yards out.
The away end erupted in ecstasy.
Four thousand people dressed as extras from the TV show ‘Peaky Blinders’ went berserk with delight. Many a flat cap launched skywards. Lee Clark, with wild eyes, a gurning-expression and a countenance bursting with emotion ran down the touchline at full speed and launched into the fans like one of those penguins you see diving into the ocean off an iceberg in an Attenborough documentary.
Grown men were in tears in the stands. The players had slunk to their knees in exhausted disbelief. Even the Bolton fans were caught up in the drama and started applauding.
To the outsider such joy and outpouring of raw emotion for merely drawing with Bolton and cementing next year’s Championship status might seem disproportionate, perhaps even over-the-top. Yes, avoiding relegation is a momentous occasion, and yes, last minute equalisers are always majestic, but were the carnival type scenes warranted?
Absolutely, for one overriding reason – this was seen as the end of the Carson Yeung era.
In the weeks prior to the Bolton game, local media was awash with ostensibly well sourced stories that there were four huge consortiums interested in buying Birmingham should they maintain their Championship status. In the bars of Moseley they spoke of a billionaire Sheikh lining up a bid. Chatter of Rupert Murdoch floated in the perfumed air of Solihull’s parks. ‘Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans, done deal’ splurted out a man in an ill-fitting suit on a train bound for Bournville.
Birmingham just needed to maintain their Championship status, and the dark days would be over…
Well they did just that, but it’s now August and Carson Yeung and Peter Pannu are still here.
We’re no closer to being sold than we were when the smiling Zigic headed us to safety on that fateful day in May. The newspaper articles that spoke of the four consortiums are now nought but fish and chip shop paper. The unthinkable has happened – the Blues are still owned by BIH.
A whole legion of playing staff has been released from the club, stretching from the likes of Nikola Zigic, Chris Burke and Peter Lovenkrands to Hayden Mullins, Wade Elliot and even Aaron Martin. Lee Clark has had to go out and order in a whole new playing squad of free transfers, Bosmans and loans from League One and *shudder* the SPL.
For anybody that’s been unemployed recently, or a university student, or both, there’s a pretty infuriating television show on during the day called ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ where a cartoonish American presenter visits members of the general public who have recently endured some sort of hardship and as recompense for their suffering the ‘Extreme Makeover’ crew go out, source a team of experts, and build the people in question a brand new super home.
If Birmingham City in our latest manifestation have had an extreme makeover, there is definitely the sentiment amongst many of the fans that instead of going out and sourcing ‘a team of experts’ our cartoonish presenter, Lee Clark, has just gone down the footballing equivalent of the local bus shelter and thrown a net over a crowd of individuals sitting on a bench and offered them one year deals.
I’m sure that there has been some scouting involved, probably…hopefully. But it’s difficult not to despair when you see the likes of Nikola Zigic leave – who has starred for Valencia and Serbia – and then be replaced by players from Oldham’s reserves. The type of players that could quite feasibly be ‘regens’ on the PC game Football Manager.
Conversely, this movement towards the unknown could engender a form of excitement. If few Birmingham fans have heard of their new signings before, isn’t there the chance that they might actually be, dare we say it….quite good? A bunch of hidden gems?
At this time of writing midfielder Tom Adeyemi is on the verge of being sold to Cardiff, arguably our best midfielder who we signed last season after playing in, coincidentally, Oldham’s reserves.
Are the current crop of young Birmingham signings of the same ilk as Tom Adeyemi? Time will tell.
It’s too easy to dismiss the new players as being terrible because they aren’t semi-famous names in the sport, and allowing yourself to become deflated because they’re bought from the league below. This time last year the idea of Burnley finishing thirteen points above QPR would have been laughed off as sheer madness, and yet it happened. The team unity, the work ethic and cohesion of Burnley trumped the celebrity ‘names’ of QPR.
This has to be the hope for Birmingham City fans going into the new season. A hope that the new players click with one another, form a powerful team spirit and resemble a footballing entity that is greater than the sum of its parts. Burnley has to be the example to follow.
When you have a situation where the club has brought in a brand new team; the players have never played together competitively and many are unproven at Championship level, early season predictions seem a pointless endeavour. If the new players gel and forge a strong identity based on being hard to beat, pressing high up the pitch and offering a goal threat, who’s to say that play offs aren’t a possibility? This is the Championship after all.
On the other hand, if the new players are incompatible with one another, can’t perform at this level and look out of sorts the relegation zone is frightening reality.
A season of total unpredictability awaits Blues for the first time in decades, which arguably makes the season the most exciting yet.
Just don’t ask me for a prediction. You’d be better off talking to those monkeys on the typewriters.
Photo credit Wikipedia