St Andrews Jinx continues
In 1906 a Gypsy’s curse was placed on St Andrews and Birmingham City by Romany people who were angry at being moved from the site for a new football ground.
Since then, Birmingham City has had to battle on an unlevel playing field, fighting against a hex as well as rivals through generations of struggle.
Of course, our lack of success is not due to myth or legend, merely the result of a concoction of misfortune and just not quite being good enough.
Various attempts were made to relieve the club of the curse, including Barry Fry’s interesting and infamous corner flag themed attempt in the 90’s, yet all that was truly needed was a determined team and a ginger genius born in Barrhead.
Just five years after the 100 year curse expired we have won a major trophy, against Arsenal, in one of the biggest shocks in League Cup Final history.
An incredible day and a brilliant performance, yet the length of our injury list since Stephen Carr lifted the cup leaves me wondering if the fictitious curse has remained with a fragment of authenticity.
Carr is just one of a staggering seventeen first team players who have missed a game or more through injury since the cup final win and our injury misfortune continued at Blackburn as Roger Johnson departed the field leaving us with something of a 10th choice defence.
Our team has been hampered in just about every department, our wingers crocked, our target man absent, our spine quite literally broken.
Bentley, Hleb Gardner, Ferguson, Fahey, Bowyer, Beausejour, Zigic Martins, Carr, Johnson, Dann, Jiranek, Muphy, Davies, Taylor, McFadden, they’ve all been missing at some point since the final and makes our position outside the relegation zone quite miraculous.
Whilst the signings of Torres and Carroll have garnered the most media exposure this season, the signing of a little known Czech defender may be one of the greatest of all.
Martin Jiranek had been simply sensational before injuries forced him out of our defence, showing composure, bravery and a timing of tackles that made the loss of Scott Dann seemingly minimal.
Jiranek and Zigic’s absence have impacted us greatly, removing our ability to keep clean sheets and the option of a long pass when the defence is under pressure. I would go far as saying that with those two fit in every league game since Wembley we would be home and dry by now and not involved in the relegation scrap, certainly, WBA would have found things far more difficult against a team that that didn’t have it’s five man spine wiped out and others playing through injury with injections.
Still, despite all this adversity we sit outside of the relegation zone and two wins away from survival, win against Sunderland and we will have one foot in next year’s top flight, fail to win and it will go to the wire.
Our last two relegation battles have ended in despair, yet this team is made of sterner stuff. The likes of Carr, Johnson and Ferguson possess the experience and passion to guide us home and the support, still buoyed by the cup success, will provide a vociferous setting that Sunderland, Wolves and Fulham will have to sample and attempt to contend with. Add Zigic, Bentley, and Hleb to what is a hardened and determined group and I feel we have a team that will finish above three of its rivals.
The point at Blackburn was an excellent one, not only due to its help to our points total but because we prevented Blackburn from gaining three points that they desperately needed. It really was an opportunity missed for Rovers against a second half defence that had never previously played together.
Seven games remain and I feel seven points will keep us in the Premier League next season. Our injury curse continues to hinder our survival hopes but others have failed to capitalise, not least West Ham, Wolves and Blackpool.
Despite the loss of key personnel and a run of misfortune with penalty decisions we still find ourselves ahead of a chasing pack, I have to wonder if other teams would be in our position with the same treatment room, I don’t think they would, which is why I think our superior fighting spirit and togetherness will see us through to an eventual safety and silverware double celebration.
There will be more ups and downs than an Obafemi Martins goal celebration before the season ends, yet in Alex McLeish we have a brilliant manager who will undoubtedly lift the players from one week to the next in the search for survival. We have the unity and we have the desire, all we require now is the lifting of an unwelcome curse from our crowded treatment room.