|Full name||Birmingham City Football Club|
|Founded||1875 as Small Heath Alliance|
|Owner||Birmingham International Holdings|
|2012–13||The Championship, 12th|
|Website||Club home page|
Birmingham City Football Club (pron.: / /) is a professional association football club based in the city of Birmingham, England. Formed in 1875 as Small Heath Alliance, they became Small Heath in 1888, then Birmingham in 1905, finally becoming Birmingham City in 1943. They compete in the Football League Championship, the second tier of league football in England.
As Small Heath, they played in the Football Alliance before becoming founder members and first ever champions of the Football League Second Division. The most successful period in their history was in the 1950s and early 1960s. They achieved their highest finishing position of sixth in the First Division in the 1955–56 season and reached the 1956 FA Cup Final, progressed to the final of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1960 and 1961, and won their first major trophy, the League Cup, in 1963, beating Aston Villa 3–1 on aggregate. They won the latter competition for the second time in 2011. They have played in the top tier of English football for the majority of their history. Their longest period spent outside the top division, between 1986 and 2002, included two brief spells in the third tier of the English League, during which time they twice won the Football League Trophy.
St Andrew's has been their home ground since 1906. They have a long-standing and fierce rivalry with Aston Villa, their nearest neighbours, with whom they play the Second City derby. The club's nickname is Blues, due to the colour of their kit, and their fans are known as Bluenoses.
Birmingham City were founded as Small Heath Alliance in 1875, and from 1877 played their home games at Muntz Street. The club turned professional in 1885, and three years later became the first football club to become a limited company with a board of directors, under the name of Small Heath F.C. Ltd. From the 1889–90 season they played in the Football Alliance, which ran alongside the Football League. In 1892, Small Heath, along with the other Alliance teams, were invited to join the newly formed Football League Second Division. They finished as champions, but failed to win promotion via the test match system; the following season promotion to the First Division was secured after a second place finish and test match victory over Darwen. The club adopted the name Birmingham Football Club in 1905, and moved into their new home, St Andrew's Ground, the following year. Matters on the field failed to live up to their surroundings. Birmingham were relegated in 1908, obliged to apply for re-election two years later, and remained in the Second Division until after the First World War.
Frank Womack's captaincy and the creativity of Scottish international playmaker Johnny Crosbie contributed much to Birmingham winning their second Division Two title in 1920–21. Womack went on to make 515 appearances, a club record for an outfielder, over a twenty-year career. 1920 also saw the debut of the 19-year-old Joe Bradford, who went on to score a club record 267 goals in 445 games, and won 12 caps for England. In 1931, manager Leslie Knighton led the club to their first FA Cup Final, which they lost 2–1 to Second Division club West Bromwich Albion. Though Birmingham remained in the top flight for 18 seasons, they struggled in the league, with much reliance placed on England goalkeeper Harry Hibbs to make up for the lack of goals, Bradford excepted, at the other end. They were finally relegated in 1939, the last full season before the Football League was abandoned for the duration of the Second World War.
The name Birmingham City F.C. was adopted in 1943. Under Harry Storer, appointed manager in 1945, the club won the Football League South wartime league and reached the semifinal of the first post-war FA Cup. Two years later they won their third Second Division title, conceding only 24 goals in the 42-game season. Storer's successor Bob Brocklebank, though unable to stave off relegation in 1950, brought in players who made a major contribution to the club's successes of the next decade. When Arthur Turner took over as manager in November 1954, he made them play closer to their potential, and a 5–1 win on the last day of the 1954–55 season confirmed them as champions. In their first season back in the First Division, Birmingham achieved their highest league finish of sixth place. They also reached the FA Cup final, losing 3–1 to Manchester City in the game notable for City's goalkeeper Bert Trautmann playing the last 20 minutes with a broken bone in his neck. The following season the club lost in the FA Cup semifinal for the third time since the war, this time beaten 2–0 by Manchester United's "Busby Babes".
Birmingham became the first English club side to take part in European competition when they played their first group game in the inaugural Inter-Cities Fairs Cup competition on 15 May 1956; they went on to reach the semifinal where they drew 4–4 on aggregate with Barcelona, losing the replay 2–1. They were also the first English club side to reach a European final, losing 4–1 on aggregate to Barcelona in the 1960 Fairs Cup final and 4–2 to A.S. Roma the following year. In the 1961 semifinal they beat Internazionale home and away; no other English club won a competitive game in the San Siro until Arsenal managed it more than 40 years later. Gil Merrick's side saved their best form for cup competitions. Though opponents in the 1963 League Cup final, local rivals Aston Villa, were pre-match favourites, Birmingham raised their game and won 3–1 on aggregate to lift their first major trophy. In 1965, after ten years in the top flight, they returned to the Second Division.
Businessman Clifford Coombs took over as chairman in 1965, luring Stan Cullis out of retirement to manage the club. Cullis's team played attractive football which took them to the semifinals of the League Cup in 1967 and the FA Cup in 1968, but league football needed a different approach. Successor Freddie Goodwin produced a team playing skilful, aggressive football that won promotion as well as reaching an FA Cup semifinal. Two years later, the club raised money by selling Bob Latchford to Everton for a British record fee of £350,000, but without his goals the team struggled. Sir Alf Ramsey briefly managed the club before Jim Smith took over in 1978. With relegation a certainty, the club sold Trevor Francis to Nottingham Forest, making him the first player transferred for a fee of £1 million; Francis had scored a total of 133 goals in 329 appearances over his nine years at Birmingham. Smith took Birmingham straight back to the First Division, but a poor start to the 1981–82 season saw him replaced by Ron Saunders, who had just resigned from league champions Aston Villa. Saunders' team struggled to score goals and in 1984 they were relegated. They bounced back up, but the last home game of the 1984–85 promotion season, against Leeds United, was marred by rioting, culminating in the death of a boy when a wall collapsed on him. This was on the same day as the Bradford City stadium fire, and the events at St Andrew's formed part of the remit of Mr Justice Popplewell's inquiry into safety at sports grounds. The club lacked stability both on and off the field. Saunders quit after FA Cup defeat to non-League team Altrincham, staff were laid off, the training ground was sold, and by 1989 Birmingham were in the Third Division for the first time in their history.
In April 1989 the Kumar brothers, owners of a clothing chain, bought the club. A rapid turnover of managers, the absence of promised investment, and a threatened mass refusal of players to renew contracts was relieved only by a victorious trip to Wembley in the Associate Members Cup. Terry Cooper delivered promotion, but the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) put the Kumars' businesses into receivership; in November 1992 BCCI's liquidator put up for sale their 84% holding in the football club. The club continued in administration for four months, until publisher David Sullivan bought it for £700,000, installed the then 23-year-old Karren Brady as managing director and allowed Cooper money for signings. On the last day of the season, the team avoided relegation back to the third tier, but after a poor start to the 1993–94 season Cooper was replaced by Barry Fry. The change did not prevent relegation, but Fry's first full season brought promotion back to the second tier as champions, and victory in the Football League Trophy at Wembley, beating Carlisle United with a Paul Tait golden goal, completed the "lower-league Double". After one more year, Fry was sacked to make way for the return of Trevor Francis.
Francis introduced players with top-level experience such as Manchester United skipper Steve Bruce. In his second season the club narrowly missed out on a play-off position, followed by three years of play-off semifinal defeats. They also reached the 2001 League Cup final against Liverpool at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. Birmingham equalised in the last minute of normal time, but the match went to a penalty shootout which Liverpool won. By October 2001, lack of progress had made Francis's position untenable. After a 6–0 League Cup defeat to Manchester City, he left by mutual consent, replaced two months later by Steve Bruce. Bruce shook up a stale team, taking them from mid-table into the play-offs where they beat Norwich City on penalties to win promotion to the Premier League.
Motivated by the inspirational Christophe Dugarry, Birmingham's first top-flight season for 16 years finished in mid-table. Loan signing Mikael Forssell's 17 league goals helped Birmingham to a top-half finish in 2003–04, though performances and results tailed off badly towards the end of the season. First-team coach Mark Bowen was sacked and replaced by Eric Black, international players were signed, but an injury to Forssell left the 2004–05 team struggling for goals. More transfer window loan signings ensured another mid-table finish. Only two months later, chairman David Gold said it was time to "start talking about being as good as anyone outside the top three or four" with "the best squad of players for 25 years". Injuries, lack of form, and a lack of investment during the transfer window saw them relegated before the last game of a season whose lowlight was a 0–7 FA Cup defeat to Liverpool. Jermaine Pennant and Emile Heskey left for record fees, many more were released, but Bruce retained the confidence of the board. His amended recruitment strategy, combining young "hungry" players with free-transfer experience and shrewd exploitation of the loan market, brought automatic promotion at the end of a season which had included calls for his head.
In July 2007, Hong Kong-based businessman Carson Yeung bought 29.9% of shares in the club, making him the biggest single shareholder, with a view to taking full control in the future. Uncertain as to his future under possible new owners, Bruce left in mid-season to become manager of Premier League rivals Wigan Athletic. His successor, Scotland national team manager Alex McLeish, was unable to stave off relegation, but achieved promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt, and a ninth-place finish, their best for 51 years, the following season. In 2011, they combined a second victory in the League Cup, defeating favourites Arsenal 2–1 with goals from Nikola Žigić and Obafemi Martins and securing qualification for the Europa League, with relegation back to the second tier. McLeish resigned in June 2011 to join Aston Villa. Successor Chris Hughton narrowly failed to reach the knockout rounds of the Europa League and the playoff final before, with the club in financial turmoil and under a transfer embargo, leaving for Norwich City in June 2012. He was replaced by Lee Clark.
|Small Heath Alliance original kit|
The Small Heath Alliance members decided among themselves that their colours would be blue; in the early days, they wore whatever blue shirt they had. Their first uniform kit was a dark blue shirt with a white sash and white shorts. Several variations on a blue theme were tried; the one that stuck was the royal blue shirt with a white "V", adopted during the First World War and retained until the late 1920s. Though the design changed, the royal blue remained. In 1971 they adopted the "penguin" strip – royal blue with a broad white central front panel – which lasted five years. Since then they have generally worn plain, nominally royal blue shirts, though the actual shade used has varied. Shorts have been either blue or white, and socks usually blue, white or a combination. White, yellow, red and black, on their own or in combination, have been the most frequently used colours for the away kit.
There have been aberrations. The 1992 kit, sponsored by Triton Showers, was made of a blue material covered with multicoloured splashes which resembled a shower curtain. Birmingham have only worn stripes on their home shirt once; in 1999 they wore a blue shirt with a front central panel in narrow blue and white stripes, a design similar to the Tesco supermarket carrier bag of the time.
When the club changed their name from Small Heath to Birmingham in 1905 they adopted the city's coat of arms as their crest, although this was not always worn on the shirts. The 1970s "penguin" shirt carried the letters "BCFC" intertwined at the centre of the chest. The Sports Argus newspaper ran a competition in 1972 to design a new badge for the club. The winning entry, a line-drawn globe and ball, with ribbon carrying the club name and date of foundation, in plain blue and white, was adopted by the club but not worn on playing shirts until 1976. An experiment was made in the early 1990s with colouring in the globe and ball, but the club soon reverted to the plain version.
In 2010, the club signed a contract with Chinese sportswear company Xtep, reportedly worth £7.8 million over five years, to supply the club's playing and training kit and associated leisurewear. Following numerous supply and contractual issues, the deal was cancelled by mutual consent after only two years, and the club agreed that Diadora would supply the kit for the next three years. The 2012–13 home kit has royal blue shirt and socks with white shorts, the change kit is all black, and there is a pink third shirt. Each shirt bears the name of sponsors EZE Group, an entertainment and leisure company. Sponsors' names or logos have appeared on the shirts since 1982.
Tables of shirt sponsors and kit suppliers appear below.
|1998–2004||Le Coq Sportif|
Small Heath Alliance played their first home games on waste ground off Arthur Street, Bordesley Green. As interest grew, they moved to a fenced-off field in Ladypool Road, Sparkbrook, where admission could be charged. A year later, they moved again, to a field adjoining Muntz Street, Small Heath, near the main Coventry Road, with a capacity of about 10,000. The Muntz Street ground was adequate for 1880s friendly matches, and the capacity was gradually raised to around 30,000, but when several thousand spectators scaled walls and broke down turnstiles to get into a First Division match against Aston Villa, it became clear that it could no longer cope with the demand.
Director Harry Morris identified a site for a new ground in Bordesley Green, some three-quarters of a mile (1 km) from Muntz Street towards the city centre. The site was where a brickworks once operated; the land sloped steeply down to stagnant pools, yet the stadium was constructed in under twelve months from land clearance to opening ceremony on Boxing Day 1906. Heavy snow nearly prevented the opening; volunteers had to clear pitch and terraces before the match, a goalless draw against Middlesbrough, could go ahead. The ground is reputed to have been cursed by gypsies evicted from the site; although gypsies are known to have camped nearby, there is no contemporary evidence for their eviction by the club.
The original capacity of St Andrew's was reported as 75,000, with 4,000 seats in the Main Stand and space for 22,000 under cover. By 1938 the official capacity was 68,000, and February 1939 saw the attendance record set at the fifth round FA Cup tie against Everton, variously recorded as 66,844 or 67,341.[A] On the outbreak of the Second World War, the Chief Constable ordered the ground's closure because of the danger from air raids; it was the only ground to be thus closed, and was only re-opened after the matter was raised in Parliament. It was badly damaged during the Birmingham Blitz: the Railway End and the Kop as a result of bombing, while the Main Stand burnt down when a fireman mistook petrol for water.
The replacement Main Stand used a propped cantilever roof design, which meant fewer pillars to block spectators' view of the pitch. Floodlights were installed in 1956, and officially switched on for a friendly match against Borussia Dortmund in 1957. By the early 1960s a stand had been built at the Railway End to the same design as the Main Stand, roofs had been put on the Kop and Tilton Road End, and the ground capacity was down to about 55,000.
Resulting from the 1986 Popplewell Report into the safety of sports grounds and the later Taylor Report, the capacity of St Andrew's was set at 28,235 for safety reasons, but it was accepted that the stadium had to be brought up to modern all-seated standards. After the last home game of the 1993–94 season, the Kop and Tilton Road terraces were demolished – fans took home a significant proportion as souvenirs – to be replaced at the start of the new season by a 7,000-seat Tilton Road Stand, continuing round the corner into the 9,500-seat Kop which opened two months later. The 8,000-seat Railway Stand followed in 1999; ten years later, this was renamed the Gil Merrick Stand, in honour of the club's appearance record-holder and former manager – but the Main Stand has still to be modernised. In 2013, the club website listed the stadium capacity as 30,016.
In 2004 a proposal was put forward to build a "sports village" comprising a new 55,000 capacity stadium for the club, to be known as the City of Birmingham Stadium, other sports and leisure facilities, and a super casino. The project would be jointly financed by Birmingham City Council, Birmingham City F.C. (via the proceeds of the sale of St Andrew's) and the casino group Las Vegas Sands. The feasibility of the plan depended on the government issuing a licence for a super casino, and Birmingham being chosen as the venue, but this did not happen. The club have planning permission to redevelop the Main Stand, but club and council have continued to seek alternative sources of funding for the City of Birmingham Stadium project.
Birmingham fans consider their main rivals to be Aston Villa, their nearest neighbours geographically, with whom they contest the Second City derby. Lesser rivalries exist with fellow West Midlands clubs Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion. According to a 2003 Football Fans Census survey, Aston Villa fans thought of Birmingham City as their main rivals, though this was not always the case.
Birmingham's supporters are generally referred to as "Bluenoses" in the media and by the fans themselves; the name is also used in a derogatory manner by fans of other clubs. A piece of public sculpture in the form of a ten-times-life-size head lying on a mound near the St Andrew's ground, Ondré Nowakowski's Sleeping Iron Giant, has been repeatedly defaced with blue paint on its nose. Between 1994 and 1997 the club mascot took the form of a blue nose, though it is now a dog called Beau Brummie, a play on the name Beau Brummell and Brummie, the slang word for a person from Birmingham.
A number of supporters' clubs are affiliated to the football club, both in England and abroad. While an action group was formed in 1991 to protest against chairman Samesh Kumar, the club blamed an internet petition for the collapse of the purchase of player Lee Bowyer in 2005, and antipathy towards the board provoked hostile chanting and a pitch invasion after the last match of the 2007–08 season, relations between club and fanbase have never been so poor as to provoke the formation of an independent supporters' group. When the club was in financial difficulties, supporters contributed to schemes which funded the purchase of players Brian Roberts in 1984 and Paul Peschisolido in 1992.
There have been several fanzines published by supporters; in 2010, two were regularly on sale, Made in Brum, first issued in 2000, and the longer-established Zulu. The hooligan firm associated with the club, the Zulus, were unusual in that they had multi-racial membership at a time when many such firms had associations with racist or right-wing groups. The 2004 film Green Street features hooliganism surrounding a fictional match between West Ham United and Birmingham City.
The fans' anthem, an adaptation of Harry Lauder's Keep right on to the end of the road, was adopted during the 1956 FA Cup campaign. The Times' football correspondent described in his Cup Final preview how
the Birmingham clans swept their side along to Wembley – the first side ever to reach a final without once playing at home – on the wings of the song "Keep right on to the end of the road".
In the build-up to the 1956 FA Cup semi-final with Sunderland I was interviewed by the press and happened to let slip that my favourite song was Harry Lauder's old music hall number "Keep Right on to the End of the Road". I thought no more about it, but when the third goal went in at Hillsborough the Blues fans all started singing it. It was the proudest moment of my life.
Small Heath F.C. became a limited company in 1888; its first share issue was to the value of £650. The board was made up of local businessmen and dignitaries until 1965, when the club was sold to Clifford Coombs. By the mid-1980s the club was in financial trouble. Control passed from the Coombs family to former Walsall F.C. chairman Ken Wheldon, who cut costs, made redundancies, and sold off assets, including the club's training ground. Still unable to make the club pay, Wheldon sold it to the Kumar brothers, owners of a clothing chain. Debt was still increasing when matters came to a head; the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) put the Kumars' businesses into receivership. The club continued in administration for four months until Sport Newspapers' proprietor David Sullivan bought the Kumars' 84% holding for £700,000 from BCCI's liquidator in March 1993. Birmingham City plc, of which the football club was a wholly owned subsidiary, was floated on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in 1997 with an issue of 15 million new shares, raising £7.5 million of new investment. It made a pre-tax profit of £4.3m in the year ending 31 August 2008.
In July 2007, Hong Kong-based businessman Carson Yeung, via the company Grandtop International Holdings Limited ("GIH"), which was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKSE), bought 29.9% of the company from its directors. He became the largest single shareholder, but his stated intention to take full control of the club came to nothing. In August 2009, GIH announced a cash offer of £1 per share for the plc, confirming that they had "received irrevocable undertakings" from directors to accept the offer in respect of approximately half the shares at issue. When acceptances took their holding past the 90% mark, GIH re-registered Birmingham City as a private company with effect from November 2009, and confirmed that the board of both the holding company and the club would comprise Yeung as club president, Vico Hui as chairman, and Michael Wiseman as vice-president. The holding company name was changed from Grandtop to Birmingham International Holdings (BIH) in December.
Yeung was arrested in June 2011 and charged with money-laundering, and trading in BIH shares was suspended. As of May 2011[update], he was still the largest single shareholder, with 26.3% of the shares at issue. Publication of financial results was repeatedly delayed, and failure to submit accounts for the 2010–11 season by a March 2012 deadline resulted in the Football League placing the club under a transfer embargo. As a result of issues arising from those accounts, which were published in June, Hui resigned as chairman of both holding company and club.
In November, BIH announced to the HKSE that there were three potential buyers for the club, two in Hong Kong and one in the United Kingdom, the latter believed to be a group fronted by former Queens Park Rangers chairman Gianni Paladini, and that talks with one of the Hong Kong-based parties were at an advanced stage. According to the statement, the board accepted that football was a business different in kind from others in that "the aspirations of the fans need to be considered", and were looking for a new owner who could not only adequately recompense shareholders but also "take BCFC to the next level both in terms of their financial standing, business acumens and overall suitability".
Birmingham City's honours include the following:
Football League South (wartime)
Frank Womack holds the record for Birmingham league appearances, having played 491 matches between 1908 and 1928, closely followed by Gil Merrick with 485 between 1946 and 1959. If all senior competitions are included, Merrick has 551, less closely followed by Womack's 515 which is the record for an outfield player. The player who won most international caps while at the club is Maik Taylor with 58 for Northern Ireland.
The goalscoring record is held by Joe Bradford, with 249 league goals, 267 altogether, scored between 1920 and 1935; no other player comes close. Walter Abbott holds the records for the most goals scored in a season, in 1898–99, with 34 league goals in the Second Division and 42 goals in total.
The club's widest victory margin in the league was 12–0, a scoreline which they achieved once in the Football Alliance, against Nottingham Forest in 1899, and twice in the Second Division, against Walsall Town Swifts in 1892 and Doncaster Rovers in 1903. They have lost by an eight-goal margin on five occasions, all in the First Division, beaten 9–1 by Blackburn Rovers in 1895 and Sheffield Wednesday in 1930, and 8–0 by Derby County in 1895, Newcastle United in 1907, and Preston North End in 1958. Their record FA Cup win was 10–0 against Druids in the fourth qualifying round of the 1899 competition; their record FA Cup defeat was 7–0 at home to Liverpool in the 2006 quarter final.
Birmingham's home attendance record was set at the fifth-round FA Cup tie against Everton on 11 February 1939. It is variously recorded as 66,844 or 67,341.[A] According to the club website, the highest transfer fee received for a Birmingham player is £6.5 million from Liverpool for Jermaine Pennant in August 2006, while the most expensive player bought was Emile Heskey, who joined from Liverpool in May 2004 for a fee of £6.25m.
Note: Flags indicate national team as has been defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
Note: Flags indicate national team as has been defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
Birmingham City Ladies Football Club was formed in 1968. The first team worked their way through the leagues until promoted to the FA Women's Premier League in 2002. After Birmingham City F.C. withdrew financial support in 2005, the club were only able to continue because of a personal donation. They re-affiliated with Birmingham City in 2010, were founder members of the FA WSL the following year, and won the FA Women's Cup in 2012.
Birmingham City F.C. board of directors
Gil Merrick was the first Birmingham manager to win a major trophy, the League Cup in 1963. Merrick also led the club to the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final in 1961, following Pat Beasley who did the same in 1960. Leslie Knighton took the club to the final of the FA Cup in 1931; Arthur Turner did likewise in 1956, as well as taking charge of the club's highest league finish, sixth place in the 1955–56 First Division. Birmingham reached the 2001 Football League Cup Final under Trevor Francis, whose successor as permanent manager, Steve Bruce, twice achieved promotion to the Premier League. Birmingham won the League Cup for the second time under Alex McLeish in 2011. The 1966 World Cup-winning manager, Sir Alf Ramsey, took charge of the club briefly in 1977.
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