Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Football (again)

10 days ago, I'd not have believed I'd be writing this blog post. You see, 10 days ago Alex McLeish was still Blues manager and we were signing players he'd identified as being key to our promotion campaign next season.

Then the rumours linking him to the Aston Villa job started gathering pace and then came the bolt out of the blue: he'd resigned. By email. Just as Blues' acting chairman was crossing the t's and dotting the i's on two more deals, McLeish sensationally tendered his resignation.

And now here we are, with McLeish, the man who delivered Blues' finest hour (followed by relegation), pitching up at our arch rivals across the city. By all accounts he's been taken aback by the storm his defection has caused, as Blues try to pursue a claim for compensation for the loss of the manager they decided - for whatever reason - to back after our last relegation.

I think the biggest shock about all that has happened is that it's cast McLeish in a whole new light. He was supposed to be hurting along with the rest of us after we slid - meekly in hindsight - out of the top flight. We were told he wanted to atone, and then as soon as the first Premier chairman expresses an interest in his services, he's off like a shot. Because make no bones about it, McLeish would not have quit Blues unless he had another job lined up.

McLeish walking out on Blues is hard enough, particularly as I continued to back him in the face of all the evidence: poor quality football, a dearth of attacking intent (we deserved relegation for the fact we were the only Premier League side to average less than a goal a game) and the rest. But to then turn up at Villa Park, well that's just a real kick where it hurts.

All respect I had for McLeish has gone. I daren't read back what I've previously posted, because by his actions he's proved himself to be less of a man. I genuinely thought he might be our Brian Clough or Sir Bobby Robson, but I don't remember either man quitting their job to pitch up with the hated local rivals, tarnishing the memories along with everything else.

The childish part of me wants McLeish to crash and burn (of course, the fact he'd be doing it at Villa would be an added bonus), but the adult part of me berates myself for such pettiness. Instead, while I want him to fail, I can't help but fear what every Bluenose must secretly fear: that having won his first English trophy with us, he'll promptly win cups with Villa too, eclipsing his achievement with us and rubbing our faces in the dirt to boot.

McLeish is now well aware of the storm he's created. He'll know he can't possibly deliver the Villa fans their deluded ambitions of challenging for a top four spot, but he knows how to win a cup, and he'll realise that one way to get them onside is to target the Carling or FA Cup next season and do his damndest to win one or even both. It would be typical of Blues that within 18 months of winning our first meaningful major trophy our bloody hated rivals go one better with our ex-manager at the helm.

But bizarrely, having said all of this, I'm genuinely excited (and afraid, as this is Blues after all) for the future of my beloved club. A new manager with new ideas and more attacking intent, someone who goes out to win games instead of simply attempting to avoid defeat. At the moment it appears to be a straight fight between Chris Hughton and Gianfranco Zola as to who takes the reins of Birmingham City FC. I'd prefer the former, but if the latter surrounded himself with the right backroom staff, then who knows what the future might bring?

Oh look, there go the pigs, flying off into the sunset. Still, at least they're not taking our Carling Cup win with them. I'll be living off that for decades.

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