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Birmingham City supporters spent much of the last week worrying whether the club would clinch promotion at Reading. Steve Beauchampé applied some lateral thinking and was never in much doubt.*

They’ve had many critics, not least amongst their own fans, their football has been laboured, nay tortuous, to watch at times, but after 46 matches Birmingham City (as they did two seasons ago), are back in the Premier League at the first attempt.

Such was their consistency, their relentless ability to grind out results when performances suggested (and often deserved) otherwise, that during the entire season they never fell below third place in the Championship, though (thanks to Wolves’ even more notable achievement of heading the table all season) never rose above second.

As the season wore on I lost count of the number of times people warned that Cardiff/Preston/Bristol City/Swansea/Sheffield United etc. etc. were coming with a run and would overtake Blues, but none ever did.

These runs petered out in the face of Blues’ season-long ability to pick up points however well or badly they played.

By winning over half their matches, and drawing over half of the remainder, Alex McLeish’s team were able to ward off any threat to their promotion credentials, and prove a maxim that I’ve felt for a while (though never checked statistically); that clubs who are at the top after 10-12 games are almost always so come the season’s end.

 Because while a side can whizz up and down the mid-table placings, and a few victories can ease a side away from the drop zone, it’s actually bloody difficult to dislodge teams once they are at or near the top.

In fact, I estimated some weeks ago that to overhaul Blues, Sheffield United would have to win eight of their final nine matches, and that’s an almost impossible task in the competitive world of English football, not least as the closer you get to your goal, the more nervous and prone to error you can become.

Yet Blues had qualities essential to any successful side, whether they play in the Champions League, the Championship or in parks football. They were organised, they kept their shape and stuck to their game plan and they never gave up (late goals won or saved several matches).

Sure, memorable performances were rare and they were often outplayed for long stretches (Plymouth, and Ipswich [away], Doncaster [home] especially spring to mind) but by mid-season (when they hit a particularly onerous patch yet continued accumulating points) it became obvious that if they were going to blow up and slip down the table, they’d have done it already, as they could hardly play much worse.

They conceded very few goals (37 in 46 matches), no one thrashed them and of course, the failure of other teams to capitalise on Blues falterings helped in no small measure - but that’s the case in every division in any season. Ultimately (and again I’ve not checked this) I reckon Blues accumulated roughly as many points as second-placed teams in a 24-team league usually do.

As a classic Division 1½ club (in old money terms), followers of Birmingham City know to enjoy the moment. With the owners stating that there’ll be little or no money available for McLeish to strengthen the squad (though when push comes to shove I expect that they’ll find him something) a season of struggle and eking out of points (and goals) here and there probably lies ahead.

As West Brom have shown three times now, if you don’t spend big money then relegation soon follows.

Owners David Sullivan and the Gold brothers will probably be hoping that McLeish’s ability to get a quart from a pint pot will see them through and it might...but I thought that last time and in the end they were an embarrassment.

(*Then again, he predicted they’d finish 14th last season - and they sank to an ignominious relegation, so Nostradamus he ain’t!)



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