Wednesday, September 19, 2007

History of Birmingham City F.C.

Birmingham were founded as Small Heath Alliance in 1875. The club turned professional in 1885, and in 1892 joined The Football League as founder members of the Football League Second Division. In their first season Small Heath were Second Division champions, but were denied promotion after losing test matches against Newton Heath. The following season promotion was secured after a second place finish and a test match victory over Darwen.

In 1905, a proposal was made to rename the club Birmingham City F.C., as they were the only Football League club in the city since Birmingham St George's folded in 1892. However the shareholders were not in favour, so the club became plain Birmingham Football Club instead. They moved to their current ground, St Andrews, a year later.

In 1931 the club reached the final of the FA Cup for the first time, but were defeated 2-1 by West Bromwich Albion. The 1950s saw Birmingham record their highest ever league finish, Arthur Turner's side ending the 1955-56 season in sixth position[5] in the first of ten consecutive seasons in the top flight. In the same season the club reached the FA Cup final for the second time, losing 3-1 to Manchester City. In 1963 the club reached a third major cup final, and this time were victorious, beating local rivals Aston Villa 3-1 on aggregate to win the League Cup.

The club spent the 70s and early 80s moving between the top two divisions.

Birmingham City suffered relegation from the top division at the end of the 1985-86 season. Their two following seasons in the Second Division were unsuccessful and they were finally relegated to the Third Division for the first time ever at the end of the 1988-89 season. They won promotion as Third Division runners-up three years later, at the end of the 1991-92 season, so they would find themselves members of the new Division One for the 1992-93 season. However, they were relegated from Division One at the end of the 1993-94 season (losing on goal difference to neighbours West Bromwich Albion) despite a managerial change halfway through the season in which Terry Cooper was replaced with Barry Fry.

Fry guided Birmingham to the Division Two championship and victory in the Auto Windscreens Trophy in 1994-95, but was sacked one year later after a promising 1995-96 campaign had faded away to a 15th place finish in Division One, Fry was one of the greatest characters to have managed Birmingham City and was famous for his runs along the line when the Blues had scored. His successor Trevor Francis remained in charge at Birmingham until October 2001, during which time Birmingham qualified for the playoffs in three consecutive seasons - in the 1997/98 season, Birmingham finished 7th, and missed out on the playoffs by the Goals For rule, despite having a greater goal difference, the Goal Difference rule was brought in the following season - and were on the losing side to Liverpool in the League Cup final. Francis's successor, Steve Bruce, helped Birmingham qualify for the 2001-02 Division One promotion playoffs where they defeated Norwich City (thanks to a winning penalty by Darren Carter) to win promotion to the Premier League for the first time in two decades.

Their first season in the Premiership saw Birmingham City finish impressively in 13th place. After signing French international Christophe Dugarry and others, they also defeated rivals Aston Villa home and away during the 2002-03 campaign. Birmingham City got off to a strong start in the 2003-04 season, staying in the top four for the first month and after six weeks had statistically the best defence in the division. Good form lasted until the last fourteen or so games, when the Blues stumbled and ended the season on a run of seven games without a win to finish in 10th. This dramatic drop in form coincided with the departure from the club of coach Mark Bowen.

Unfortunately, key striker Forssell injured his knee in the early part of the 2004-05 season, and this left the Blues struggling for in-form strikers. The Blues ended up finishing in 12th place.

Birmingham City entered the 2005-06 season with high expectations after finally sealing permanent deals for Mikael Forssell, Jermaine Pennant, Mehdi Nafti and Walter Pandiani. Nicky Butt also joined on a year-long loan deal from Newcastle United and Jiri Jarosik also joined on a season long loan from Chelsea. After a string of poor results, including losing twice to local rivals Aston Villa, the season that promised so much ended in relegation. The club then sold or released several players in an effort to reduce the wage bill.

After an initial strong start to the 2006-07 season with Birmingham hovering around first and second in the league, the club suffered a winless period that led to calls within the media for the removal of Bruce as manager after the club dropped to 9th in the league. However, their form soon improved and they returned to the top of the league in March.

On April 29, 2007 Birmingham and Sunderland both clinched promotion back to the Premiership at the first attempt when Derby lost 2-0 to Crystal Palace, with former Birmingham player Clinton Morrison scoring the opening goal. However Birmingham's failure to beat Preston North End in their final game meant that Sunderland secured the Championship title with their win over Luton Town.

Manager Steve Bruce has prepared for the 2007-08 Premier League season with the acquisitions of England Under 19's captain Fabrice Muamba, ex-Middlesbrough utility man Stuart Parnaby, Scotland and ex-Lokomotiv Moscow striker Garry O'Connor, former Juventus midfielder Olivier Kapo, Holland U-21 winger Daniƫl de Ridder, French defender Franck Queudrue, Aston Villa centre-back Liam Ridgewell, and Ghana goalkeeper Richard Kingson . The Blues have also secured the services of Lille's Brazilian defender Rafael Schmitz on a one year loan deal.

Deals for Tottenham's Egyptian internationals Mido and Hossam Ghaly both collapsed after appearing to have been completed. The bid to sign Mido ended due to an unspecified contract clause dispute, whilst Ghaly's transfer was halted after a training ground bust-up. He had actually been training with Blues for three days, in anticipation of his work permit application being approved. However, following the argument on the training ground, Birmingham used the fact that his work permit had not yet been approved - hence, he was still officially a Tottenham player - to cancel the deal.

On July 16, 2007, Hong Kong-based businessman Carson Yeung bought 29.9% of the club, making him the biggest single shareholder.[6]

The Blues in Europe
In 1956 Birmingham City became the first English club side to compete in Europe when they took part in the 1955-58 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup via invitation. The rule at the time specified one team per city invited. Some cities, including London, chose to enter teams comprising players from more than one club; Aston Villa decided not to supply players to a combined team, leaving the Blues as the city of Birmingham's representative.

Blues took part in the competition on four separate occasions between 1956 and 1962. Blues were unbeaten in the 12 home games. Of the 51 goals scored, Johnny Gordon netted 7, Jimmy Harris and Harry Hooper five apiece and Bunny Larkin and Bryan Orritt four each. The goals were divided among 19 players, including an Inter Milan defender Balleri.

Trevor Smith appeared in the most European games for Blues - 18. Brian Farmer and Johnny Watts each played 17 matches.

The biggest away crowd was that of 75,000 for the 2nd leg of the Final on the 4th of May 1960 at the Nou Camp against Barcelona. An audience of 60,000 witnessed the second leg of the semi final clash with the Catalan side in November 1957 and a similar crowd saw the clash between Barca's city neighbours RCD Espanyol in November of 1961. The biggest crowd seen at St Andrews (in European competition) was that of 40,524 for the first leg of the Blues-Barca final in March 1960.

In April 1961 Blues became the first English side to beat Internazionale (Inter Milan) at the San Siro, winning by two goals to one, goals from Jimmy Harris and Inter defender Balleri, in the semi final first leg of that season competition. Blues also won the return leg at St Andrews 2-1 with goals from Jimmy Harris and Bertie Auld.

The club changed its name from Small Heath Alliance to Birmingham in 1905 and the city's coat of arms also became the club's crest. In 1971 the famous "penguin" kit was first worn. This featured a Glasgow Rangers style "BCFC" on the shirts. In 1972 the current club badge (the globe and ball) was introduced, replacing the city's coat of arms (25/3/72) . It was the winning entry of a competition organised in the Sports Argus newspaper and was designed by a local supporter, Mr Michael Wood of Burntwood, near Walsall, West Midlands. The BCFC was still worn on club shirts until 1975 with the new badge being used on the club shirts for the first time in the 1976/77 season.

In the early 1990s colour was added for the first time to the globe and ball badge but it only lasted for a few seasons. When Blues hero Trevor Francis returned as manager in 1996, the club reverted the Rangers style BCFC badge, but it only lasted for a season and Birmingham City went back to the globe and ball badge -- which is still worn on the present day shirts.

When Birmingham City started to play football (as Small Heath Alliance) the club colours were dark blue shirts with a white sash and white shorts. In 1883-84 they changed to wearing plain blue shirts and white shorts and in 1889-90 turned out in black shirts with gold colour and cuffs and white shorts.

The very next season (1890-91) the Blues players donned light blue shirts with a dark blue trim and white shorts and this design was to stay until 1914-15 when royal blue shirts with a central white 'V replaced were introduced.

This held firm until 1927-28 when a plain royal blue shirt and white shorts came into being. During the 1930s and '40s, Blues wore traditional white collared shirts with a button-up neckline, although before the War the colour blue was a fraction lighter than it was during the forties. In the early to mid-1950s the club retained the blue shirt, white collar, white shorts design but in 1957-58 the 'V neck was introduced - and remained so until 1963 when the round neck took over (Blues still wearing white shorts).

In 1965 the large white band round the neckline disappeared, to be replaced soon afterwards by a much thinner one when Blues also donned matching blue shorts. But it was back to plain blue shirts in 1968-69 (with blue shorts) and this theme continued until 1971 when the first penguin strip was seen.

In 1975 it was back to blue shirts with a white collar and white shorts. The round neck was seen again in 1977 but in 1980 it was laced with a 'V.

A slight change in the overall design was effected during the early 80s (red socks were seen and there was a thin white strip visible on the shirt in 1984-85). A touch of red was forthcoming in the 1985-86 season (on the shoulder line) and in 1986-87 (for the very first time) Blues' shirts had a white band across the chest with white foldovers on the socks. Occasionally they also played in a lighter blue shirt with a dark blue band across the chest.

In 1989-90 (under Dave Mackay) and with Mark One flashing across the front, the shirts comprised two broad flashes on each shoulder but it was soon done away with and back to blue shirts, white collars and cuffs and white shorts as the 1990s arrived.

A patterned blue shirt was seen in 1992-93 and a distinctive design on the sleeves appeared the following season before it was back to a traditional blue shirt with a small tucked in white band under the chin for the Barry Fry era. Then, when Trevor Francis came back to St Andrew's, Blues switched to a similar penguin-design shirt (like Francis and his colleagues wore in the early '70s) with a white body, blue sleeves and neckline and white shorts.

However it was back to blue shirts with white trimmings in 1997-98 thereafter it has been a more plainer design with a designer-strip down each arm.

Blues' change strips over the years, have varied considerably with players wearing matching white shirts and shorts to white shirts and black shorts, all red, black and red halved shirts, red and black stripes with black (and sometimes white) shorts, all yellow, yellow shirts with black shorts, blue and yellow shirts and yellow shorts and even a green and yellow combination.

It was announced on 8th March that Umbro would be the new kit manufacturers from 2007-2010. Umbro's first home kit is yet another return to the penguin strip. The new away kit is predominantly white with blue trim and this year blues will also feature in a mainly red third kit. All kits include The Blues new main sponsor F&C Investments.

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