Friday, 22 July 2011

Midfield General

“Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.” No one is perfect. Least of all Barry Ferguson. He knows it too, and that’s why he has this quote inked onto his arm. A reminder, not just to himself but to us all, that a person can have done things they may not be so proud of in the past – but the future can more than make up for it, and Ferguson’s past at Rangers was made up for by his contributions to Birmingham City.

He came with a wealth of talent when singing from Rangers at the beginning of the 2009/10 season. Controlling the midfield in 83 appearances whilst at Blues, he rarely gave the ball away and was renowned by fans and pundits alike for his precise passes and perfect ball control.

Although his past remained somewhat of a burden in the eyes of football fans and journalists, this didn’t influence him in his time at Blues at all. In central midfield he adopted a sweeping role in front of the defence, and became the pass master of the Birmingham team. He was the man whom seemed to keep everything linked together during the game, and in many games; play revolved around him.

His partnership with Lee Bowyer, another man with a past yet another man able to shake it off and get on with his game, was struck up as soon as they were placed into the same team. Since then both cemented their places in the side, with Ferguson becoming an integral part to Blues’ unbeaten run and ninth place finish in his first season at the club in his first season in the Midlands.

Another relationship Ferguson made whilst at Blues was a rekindled one with Alex McLeish. The pair knew each from their Rangers days when McLeish managed Ferguson; and Big Eck, obviously still impressed with the ex-Scotland international, employed Ferguson at Blues stating he had “unfinished business in England.” And that he did. His unsuccessful first crack at the Premier League with Blackburn was brushed under the carpet with his more than fruitful time at Blues coming to the forefront. His critics were warned what he was capable of, but little did they know he would fulfill such expectations installed into him by the man he put just as much faith in; Alex McLeish.

This determined attitude has one major example: playing on with a broken rib in the Carling Cup Final. Every player gave 110% that day but to learn that Ferguson played the majority of the game with a severe injury shows just how determined the Scotsman was to succeed, and to prove his adamant doubters wrong.

Like his midfield partner Lee Bowyer, Ferguson grew up during his time at Blues – if a thirty-three year old can grow up. Although his mind slipped into mischief making at times – the controversial ‘slap’ on Laurent Kosielney’s head after Obafemi Martins scored his 89th minute winner in the League Cup Final being one of them. But stunts like that don’t make him a villain. The professional side to Ferguson’;s game is what should be remembered. His ability to pick out a pass no one else could see; carrying the ball until someone was free for him to lay the ball off too; ‘taking on for the team’ as if were by picking up a second yellow card against Manchester City in 2009 to prevent them getting the ball too far up the pitch so near to the end of the game. The same happened at Wembley where he kicked the ball away after the whistle had been blown, so Arsenal had to wait to attack. What could be labeled as childish by the opposing team, it’s something you want in a player who plies their trade for your club. The fact he’d sacrifice his own position for the sake of the team as an entirety shows he stands out from many of the selfish footballers in the game nowadays. Also, in effect, living up to another phrase marked onto his body: carpe diem. Seize the day.

Being named players’ player of the year in 2009/10 showed that his fellow team mates also appreciated everything he did for the club, and for the no-nonsense midfielder life at Blues was thoroughly enjoyable. He once stated that the spirit at Birmingham was “the best spirit I have ever been involved in” adding that the players in the squad were “the best bunch of lads I’ve met.” And it was true. Pre-relegation, the team spirit was second to none. The last two seasons have been a whirlwind of emotions; new owners, an unbeaten run in our first year back in the top flight, a top half of the table finish and a Carling Cup Final win. The one thing that made our accomplishments achievable was the spirit throughout Birmingham City Football Club, and with vital players leaving like Barry Ferguson who epitomised such spirit, it feels as if everything we have built up over the past two years has just come crashing down around us.

A new era begins as we say an unwanted goodbye to those who brought us the biggest achievement this club has ever seen.

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