Monday, 28 February 2011

Birmingham City Football Club - Carling Cup Winners 2011

Now how great does that sound?

It was always going to be the success for one team and failure for the other. Ultimately, the team to come out on top would be the one who wanted it more - and no one can deny that we, Birmingham City, wanted it more than Arsenal. The passionate performance by the players and the scenes of jubilation long after the final whistle had been blown told you everything you needed to know about how much it meant for the club as a whole.

While Arsenal fans made their way to Wembley with confidence, we made ours with belief and in the end I think that's what sealed it. Arriving in London all you saw was a sea of Blue. It was a real day out for us and one I know every single Bluenose there will cherish forever; and it still would be remembered forever even if the end result hadn't quite turned out how we wanted it to.

Getting into the ground and seeing thousands upon thousands of Blues already in their seats and just a few Arsenal fans scattered around their end told you more of the story. The Birmingham players came out to elated cheers from the Blues fans, and the Arsenal players walked out to a chorus of boos from the same end; with Arsenal fans still no where to be seen.

The moments before kick-off were special. I thought it was all done brilliantly and it felt like we shouldn't be there, really: it was such a big occasion and that's when it really hit home what we were about to take part it - a Carling Cup Final.

As the game got under way so did the singing. Every single Blues fan there did themselves and the club proud as it was magnificent support from the off. We gave everything that could be asked of us and thankfully, in turn, the players gave everything that could be asked of them. It truly was a brilliant performances from every single player and substitute. From the back with man of the match (he's making a habit of this in Cup Finals!) Ben Foster who was absolutely superb and has been all season. The mistake he made against West Ham was highlighted and comments about "England's goalkeeping future" rose it's ugly head once again, but if Ben's performances in every other game this season were highlighted as much as that one mistake, then no one would be complaining about the future of goalkeeping: they would be praising it, safe in the knowledge that we have both Ben Foster and Joe Hart competing for the number one spot.

Stephen Carr. Our captain, our leader. One again he was phenomenal. He always does his job and he does it with such brilliance, especially in big games. I hope that idiot (of want of a better word) on 'caught offside' watched that performance and realised how much of a mistake he made by stupidity labelling Carr as a dead weight that Birmingham City must get rid of.

As for the rest of the back four: Roger Johnson, Martin Jiranek, Liam Ridgewell. What can be said that hasn't already been said? All I can say is thank you. You were all brilliant. Some of the tackles, Jiranek and Johnson especially, were timed to perfection. It was the true art of tackling mastered by two true professionals and I hope Mr. Wenger, no - everyone - saw that and appreciated it for what it was.

McLeish's tactics of 4-5-1 until just before the end worked superbly. Larsson ran himself ragged again and Ferguson, Bowyer and Gardner battled for everything. Even though there was a mass witch hunt for Bowyer throughout the game even the haters of the man could see how much he has grown up: he didn't let it get to him, he just continued to play his game and got what he deserved from such a professional and fighting performance. I also though Keith Fahey was great. Playing him in a 4-5-1 formation works well and his that hit the inside of the post - my heart - I thought it was in, I really did. It was unfortunate that Gardner had to go off and you could tell that in the way he walked/stormed over to the bench when his number came up. But his replacement Beausejour was up to the challenge and worked his socks off and had a performance to be proud of.

Nikola Zigic. Where do I star with him? He's not beautiful to watch, he sometimes seems bambi-like and he's not exactly the 20 goal striker every club wants yet few have: but he gets in the right positions, no one knows how to handle him and he scores vital goals like the one he scored yesterday. And oh when he scored. The place was buzzing already but that just installed even more belief into every Blues fan and player there. The West end of the ground was bouncing and everyone burst into song. We were 1-0 up against Arsenal. In a cup final.

Our game came through a set piece - something which we do best. So Arsenal's goal was only going to happen through what they do best: run at you. Van Persie's goal was well crafted and superbly finished, and I take my hat off to him (although I didn't at the time for obvious reasons!) The crowd went a little flat but the belief, that was still there, and it never really went all game and I think that's what helped us to prevail. In fact, I know.

As the game neared the end it got more and more tense. At 85 minutes, my dad said "it looks like it's going to extra time then." At 89 minutes, it was all over. Ben Foster's overzealous kicks have been inconvenient at some times this season - not this time though - as his long kick set up what proved to be the winning goal.

It takes a moment of magic to score, but in this case it was a moment of pure calamity in the Arsenal defence and one of the most beautiful gifts Birmingham City has ever received, as Obafemi Martins slotted home the "easiest goal" he has ever scored, and back flipped away in celebration as the Blues fans went, quite frankly, absolutely fucking ballistic.

All we needed to do was to hold on for 5 more minutes. Cameron Jerome came on and held the ball up brilliantly. We were aching for the final whistle and when it came, the loudest roar Wembley has even heard erupted from the one end of the ground, and the players ran, jubilant, towards where the deafening noise was coming from. It was scenes of utter joy: fans crying their eyes out, shouting at the tops of their voices, while the man on the PA system announced the winners of the Carling Cup Final, and the big screens flashed with congratulation messages. We had done it. The team no one expected to conquer: had conquered, and we had pulled off the most magnificent cupset in recent years.

The celebrations went on for a long while after. The cup was lifted, the players celebrated, and paraded round the pitch covered in Blues scarves, hats, flags and champagne. The players and fans alike were having the time of their lives out there and no one wanted it to end. Blues songs rang out loud over Wembley and the party was in full flow. As the players left the pitch clutching the first piece of silverware the club had won in 48 years, the Blues fans - lauded as one of if not the loudest set of fans the new Wembley has ever seen - left the ground how they had arrived at it: smiling.

I'm a believer in fate. But also a believer that you have to work hard to reach goals. This season has lacked a bit of luck - maybe yesterday we finally got that bit of luck at just the right time. Maybe in the end it actually does come down to fate, as well as the right amount of character, passion and belief.

Our name forever engraved onto the trophy; the memories forever etched in the minds of everyone connected with Birmingham City Football Club.

No comments:

Post a Comment