Birmingham, along with a handful of clubs in the top two divisions, suffer from an label which is always difficult to fulfil and very hard to shake off — if you really want to that is. Birmingham City are a ‘Big Club’.
A big club that should be Lording it in Planet Premiership, slugging it out on a level playing field with neighbours Aston Villa, rather than doffing caps to those who mingle in high society. Birmingham are desperate to go to back to the ball, but are having a longer than expected wait for an invitation.
The blue half of the city has not dined at the top table since 1986 and, in 1989, fell into the third division for the first time in their history. Then came a jump, Birmingham became the first team to be promoted from the third to the first division as the league was renumbered following the advent of the Premiership in 1992.
Prodigal son Trevor Francis returned to the club in 1996, taking over from the new-player-a-week regime of Barry Fry, and the club have hovered around play-off door to the promised land ever since — defeated at the semi-final stage in the last two seasons.
Some would suggest that Francis has got to plot a successful route out of Division One this time around, and it’s looking good so far. The team is lying third in the table, just adrift of early pacesetters Watford and Fulham.
The former England striker, one of the best players of his generation, wished to totally reshape his squad in the summer, but did not have the financial clout to play millionaire swapsies. Instead, he opted to play the cost-efficient Bosman game with some success.
Nicky Eaden from Barnsley and Danny Sonner from Sheffield Wednesday arrived, along with Mickael Sabathier and Christophe Grondin from Toulouse, all on frees. The expenditure on record signing Geoff Horsfield from Fulham was covered by the departure of Gary Rowett to Leicester, who went through the exit door with Simon Charlton.
The personnel has certainly changed at St Andrews since Jose Dominguez spent 18 months at the club between 1994 and 1996. Dominguez has fond memories of that spell. "The club has a special place in my heart," he said. "I hope they make it into the Premiership for they deserve it. They are a big club with a fine stadium, passionate fans and a dedicated chairman."
Birmingham won the League Cup in 1963, but suffered their worst defeat in all cup competitions against Spurs in the 1967 FA Cup — a 6-0 reverse in the sixth round. A place in the next round is all we ask for tonight.