BLUES AVOID ‘ARMAGEDDON’
Tearful boss calls for action
WE’LL keep right on to the end of the road, sing the Birmingham fans. And boy, did their team ever follow that advice.
Dead, buried, done for; with 14 minutes to go and Bolton 2-0 up, not even the hardiest Blues fan believed their boys would be in the Championship next season.
This is a side who haven’t won at home since October.Who haven’t kept a clean sheet in 16 games.Who haven’t even collected a point for a month. It simply wasn’t possible they could score twice.
But 15 crazy, wonderful, inexplicable minutes later, that’s exactly what they had done. As Sir Alex Ferguson said: “Football, bloody hell!”
Lee Clark has never been the type of manager to mouth platitudes. He wears his heart on his sleeve, dissecting performances with a raw, emotional honesty that is often painful to watch.
Before the match, he had warned that relegation to the third tier for the first time in 20 years spelled “Armageddon” for a club penniless and rudderless since the arrest of former owner Carson Yeung in 2011.
“And when the final whistle shrilled, the relief poured forth. With tears streaming down his face, the Blues boss tore down the touchline, wrestled his way past the stewards and flung himself at the 3,800 travelling fans.
“The emotions... it was just madness, absolute madness,” said Clark, missing his coat and still drying his eyes. “I buy into the club and I felt for the supporters so much in the last few weeks. That was my sole objective; everything that went through my mind, day in day out, was to
do it for the fans. The supporters have taken the word support to a new level.
“They’re real characters, and people who support us when things aren’t going so well. My celebration was to thank them. I just wish I could have run that quick when I was playing!”
Talking of paceless, Nikola Zigic has all the mobility of a giant redwood, his lumbering figure personifying the awful stasis that has gripped the Blues during Yeung’s ill-fated reign.
But every dog, no matter how overpaid, has his day. First came a towering header from a Mitch Hancox cross.Then, with seconds remaining, the Serbian rose again, his header cleared off the line but bundled home by Paul Caddis.
Zigic is the sole, costly relic of Birmingham’s relegation from the Premier League and while it would be pushing it to suggest he has repaid his crippling £65,000 a week salary, the 33-year-old’s last match will at least go down as his finest.
“Zigic has been inspired,” said Clark. “He’s grabbed the lads by the shirt tails and pushed them on.”
The challenge now is to ensure this glorious day at the Reebok becomes a springboard rather than a stay of execution.
Though Yeung is gone, the problems remain. The unwillingness of owners BIHL to invest has forced Clark to conduct his great escape with raw rookies and loanees. If a new buyer cannot be found – and so far there is none of the horizon – then a repeat may be too big an ask.
“Everyone at the club needs to use this as a wake up call,” said Clark. “Whether that’s new investment or new owners.This cannot happen to this club. It’s too big and the support is too good.”
WE’RE SAFE: Birmingham players celebrate in front of their travelling fans
KEY MOMENT: Birmingham’s Paul Caddis heads in the equaliser. Above: Lee Clark cries on bench