JUT THE JOB FOR KEEPING BLUES UP
Striker enjoys community champion role
CHARITY begins at home for Lukas Jutkiewicz as he tries to keep Birmingham City in the Championship yet again. He’s done it twice before. The first time was inadvertently when he scored Bolton’s second goal as they led 2-0 four years ago and put Blues 14 minutes away from League One.
Birmingham got the point they needed for safety three minutes into added time.
Then, a year ago, Jutkiewicz was in the Birmingham team that got a 1-0 win at Bristol City which again saved them from the drop.
This afternoon, Birmingham are back for yet another relegation day encore, against promotion-chasing Fulham.
The Blues may well stay up, even if they lose, and a draw will be enough to secure their status.
A win would do it in style as they bid to avoid League One football for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century.
Jutkiewicz, signed from Burnley for £1m, not only gives a hand on the pitch, he does it off it as well.
At Christmas, he rang and texted to find out what was needed for a local foodbank and went to Tesco and bought it.
Jutkiewicz got to the checkout with cereals, biscuits, soups, beans, coffee and pasta. He’s been to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham on behalf of the club’s charity partner, Cure Leukaemia, and, when a young fan was upset and in tears at a game, Jutkiewicz stepped in.
Someone was using foul language in the family stand and 10-year-old Martha Poole and her family left early.
The club investigated, moved the odious man, and fixed up for Martha to meet Jutkiewicz, her favourite player, at another home game and he gave her his shirt.
His and other players’ willingness to be involved with fans is one of the reasons manager Garry Monk will stay at Birmingham, regardless of whether they are in the Championship next season.
Monk was reluctant to say he will be staying because he didn’t want today’s headlines to be about him rather than the team.
But he has confirmed he intends to be at Birmingham for the length of his three-and-a-halfyear contract.
“If I’ve signed a contract beyond this season, what does that say to you?” asks Monk. “I’ve no intention to be anywhere other than at this club.
“I don’t want to be the headline ‘Garry Monk stays’ or ‘Garry Monk is going to be here’. I want the headlines to be all about Sunday.”
Birmingham expect more than 28,000, their biggest crowd for three years, to see if they can end Fulham’s 23-game unbeaten league run.
Jutkiewicz hadn’t played a league game for three months when Monk arrived but has played in all his ten games since, scoring three times and bringing in four points. As gifts go, that’s charitable. “When I came in we had one day to select the team before that first game,” recalls Monk. “I knew Jutkiewicz as an experienced player, an ultimate professional. I wanted to put that on the pitch straight away.
“From that first game, he has taken it on board and delivered the performances we expect from him.
“He has embraced it. Jutkiewicz has been a perfect example of trying to raise his game, the team’s as well.
“The thing I noticed here was that the players are very conscious of what the club means to the fans and the city.
“Often in football now, players can be very self-centred and in their own bubbles. That feeling with the fans gets lost along the way.
“Swansea is the best example of that to me because I spent most of my career there.
“Having ten years understanding what that meant, outside of your own bubble, I’ve always carried that with me.
“These players actually care about it, not just themselves.
“On Sunday, we need to make sure we retain our status and then we take it into a new era. We take it to a situation where we are never in this position again.”
BLUE HEAVEN: Lukas Jutkiewicz celebrates scoring for Birmingham. Inset: With food for Birmingham Central Foodbank. Below: Boss Garry Monk