A quick glance at the Premier League table following the weekend’s matches and you could be forgiven for taking a second glance in disbelief. No, I’m not talking about Liverpool languishing in seventh place; I’m talking about the team level with the Reds in eighth: the Blues of Birmingham.
You can’t blame City fans for feeling a little queasy given their club’s roller coaster few years. Successive relegations and promotions have made them the very definition of a yo-yo club; too good for the Championship, not quite up to Premier League standard.
That was still the opinion going into this season. With the boardroom grumbles rumbling on in the background, boss Alex McLeish made a clutch of signings, ranging from free transfers to multimillion pound deals, in order to stop the bouncing between divisions.
It wasn’t the most convincing of starts; the club struggled to score goals and they quickly found themselves at the wrong end of the table. Off the field things were still uncertain, until the protracted takeover of the club by Hong Kong businessman Carsen Yeung finally went through, after two years of wrangling which blighted their last season in the top flight.
Whether the settled picture off the field made a difference is hard to prove, but it can’t be denied that in recent weeks things have started to click.
Christian ‘Chucho’ Benitez, a big money buy from South America, finally began to settle and scored his first goal at Anfield of all places. Cameron Jerome also marked that game with a memorable strike as the Blues developed a mean streak that made them much harder to beat. In midfield, veterans Barry Ferguson and Lee Bowyer are rolling back the years. Bowyer’s winner against West Ham on Saturday was his 6th of the season. They have now won four games on the spin and have taken an impressive 17 points from a possible 21.
Alex McLeish is calming talk of European qualification, and rightly so. December is far too early to make such lofty ambitions. But given they were amongst the favorites to be relegated from the Premier League at the start of the year, this impressive recent run, coupled with promised funds in January, means it is a bright time to be a Birmingham blue at the moment.
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