The alarm sounded just after six and it was up and out if I was to make the 07.19 train from Blackwater to Guildford to meet up with Will where we’d arranged to rendezvous. There was a light steady drizzle as I left the house on a deserted and quiet Sunday morning, the dawn had just broken. I was greeted by the sight of the clumps of pretty tête-à-tête daffodils, purple, white and yellow crocuses, winter pansies and early spring blossom, freshened by the soft rain and each in their way never failing each year to give an enormous amount of pleasure. The train was bang on time and I was at Guildford station before twenty to eight where Will was waiting and we were soon along the A3 and onto the M25, relatively quiet for once. We arrived at the Baginton Oak just after 09.20 for a much anticipated full English breakfast which washed down with a nice cuppa set us all up for the day. From Baginton, our group reinforced with Chris and little Jack headed down the A45 to St Andrews. Whilst different, I still prefer football to be played at 3 pm on a Saturday afternoon. I fully understand the security imperatives especially for local derbies and the commercial pressures of television but I still feel some of the essence of the occasion is lost somehow. Will and I played on the pub’s quiz machine for twenty minutes or so while we waited for breakfast. Having lost our £2.00 (Will and I know how to live! 🙂 ) we tucked in.
It was soon time to travel to St Andrews and we arrived well before kick off. The cold wind was gusty and it had to be hoped in the stadium that it wouldn’t have too much of an effect but judging by the flags on the grandstand it was blowing hard towards the Tilton end. It was a cold but bright day and the ground soon filled and loud renderings of “Keep Right On!” rang around the crowd. Blues kicked off and sustained an early period of pressure forcing a couple of early corners which were defended stoutly by the visitors. Kieftenbeld was in the book on 3 minutes for a late challenge of Jack Grealish but it did at least get the crowd going. It took a while before Villa got up the other end and on ten minutes forced a corner of their own. As the players were lining up for the set piece, an individual broke through the cordon of stewards at the Tilton end, ran up behind Villa captain, Jack Grealish and took a haymaking punch at his jaw from behind, knocking the Villa player to the ground. The perpetrator was rapidly constrained by his team mates and stewards and was delivered into the arms of the police who promptly arrested him. This sadly turned out to be the main talking point of the match.
There were a couple of chances for each side; Jacques Maghoma shot tamely at Steer having been set up by Che Adams early on and just before the break the striker shot inches wide of Steer’s right hand post with the keeper relieved to see it go by. Morrison also missed a good chance at the near post from a corner mid way through the half but went at the ball with the wrong foot and diverted the effort wide. On balance Blues had the better of it in the first period but Villa probably carved out the two best chances through El Ghazi whose smart shot was well saved by Camp close in and Tammy Abraham put a close in effort high and over on the half hour.
Second half was pretty non-descript from a Blues stand point though Villa weren’t exactly pulling up trees either. On the hour the ball broke for Che Adams who was clear through on goal until he was felled by Kortney Hause who was arguably last man. The referee had let Jutkiewicz especially and Che Adams occasionally, be pushed, elbowed, grabbed, manhandled and repeatedly fouled by Hause and Mings with no sanction until this point. Hause could easily have been dismissed for a cowardly challenge on Jutkiewicz just before the break which pole axed the big striker in the first half but Mr Robinson chose only to give a free kick when a minimum of a yellow card if not red was required. The play had deteriorated in quality but Blues rode their luck when El Ghazi got in on the right his cross was headed powerfully goal wards by John McGinn but Blues were saved by Wes Harding standing on the line on 64 minutes.
The warning was not heeded and after good build up work once again down the right the ball was switched across to the left to Neil Taylor who fed Jack Grealish. He ran at the defence turning inside and Blues failed to challenge and put pressure on the ball. The Villa midfielders was 15 yards out when his left footed effort passed through a first of legs to find Camp’s bottom left hand corner. The away fans who had been fairly subdued came to life and went delirious. There was now another unsavoury incident as Grealish ran into the Villa support and was engulfed by the crowd. Now I fully understand the excitement that scoring brings but overzealous celebration brings with it problems and consequences; the stewards have a duty to prevent players piling into the crowd and a steward apparently got taken away by the police for over forcefully removing Grealish back to the field of play. I’ve seen the footage and frankly there’s not much in it and there is no evidence that the player was kicked as was later reported. The steward is trying to do his job and Grealish shouldn’t have been in the crowd in the first place. He was booked which is a consequence and players behaving like this may well get suspensions for such silliness later in the season. I would like to see players sent to a sin bin for ten minutes to make yellow cards have teeth. Players know that it not really going to affect them in the game being played so cards like this or “taking one for the team” are meaningless.
Blues did have a bit of a go towards the end and substitute Craig Gardner should have equalised in the final minute when the sitter went over the bar from close range. A header from a corner hit the side netting on the wrong side sadly; for a moment parts of the ground thought that one was in. Che Adams probably should have had a penalty awarded but Mr Robinson was unmoved. In the end Villa took the spoils despite no want of effort by Blues. Whilst the result wasn’t wholly deserved it reflected the little bit of extra quality in midfield; Jack Grealish, though it irks me to admit it. Without him Villa are pretty ordinary; they weren’t great but they won. Blues got mugged again because of failure to put pressure on the ball leading to the winner and missing the good chances we did create. Frankly, the football, the result and the occasion was overshadowed by a cretin who has brought our club into disrepute and shamed the game of football in general.
On the way home the unsavoury scenes were the story not the game. On TalkSport Dean Saunders suggested that Birmingham City should be harshly dealt with and I understand a number of football pundits are saying the same. An opinionated Arsenal fan stated it should be at least twenty points docked and we wouldn’t be cheering the assault so loudly if we ended up in League 1. I speak for the overwhelming majority of Blues fans when I say that I irrefutably condemn the moron who assaulted Jack Grealish this afternoon. One observer said to TalkSport that the fans appearing to cheer the idiot’s antics were merely excited by the unusual which is a natural reaction of a large crowd. It cut no ice with Dean Saunders and others phoning in but I can see the caller’s point and I agree with him.
However, I feel that there should be some sense of proportion here; the imbecile that shamed us this afternoon has been arrested and no doubt charged with criminal assault. He will be processed through the courts and I hope, like many others, that he receives a custodial sentence. He will be banned from the ground for life according to the club. Now what of the football authorities? It is not their job to consider the assault in their assessment except in the bearing it had due to the failure of security and stewarding. It is on these matters that any sanction such as points deducted should be based not the assault; that is the job of the courts. So before ex-players and people with vested interests such as Ex-Villa player, Dean Saunders and fans from other teams in our league start shooting their mouths off, perhaps we should have a careful, thorough investigation and the gathering of proper facts before knee jerk reactions are taken which may set unfortunate precedents for the future.
In all honesty, after today, I’m past caring what happens for the rest of the season; it is irrelevant. If we are to be punished for Financial Fair Play and now this, so be it; do your worst, Birmingham City Football Club will go on.
The Good: The cooked breakfast at the Oak.
The Bad: The defending for the only goal; you simply cannot keep backing off good players affording them time and space. There has to be pressure on the ball.
The Ugly: The disgraceful incident in the tenth minute when one of our so called fans attacked Villa captain, Jack Grealish. There is no call for this type of criminal behaviour in society at large let alone at a football match. I’m sickened to the core; this imbecile does not represent anything about Birmingham City Football Club.
Birmingham City: Lee Camp, Wes Harding, Michael Morrison, Harlee Dean, Krystian Pedersen, Jota (Kerim Mrabti 58) David Davis (Craig Gardner 79) Jacques Maghoma (Conor Mahoney 71) Mikael Kieftenbeld, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Che Adams.
Subs not used: Connal Trueman, Josh Dacres-Cogley, Conor Mahoney, Beryly Lubala.
Yellow cards: Kieftenbeld 3, Jutkiewicz 45 + 1, Davis 52,
Aston Villa: Jed Steer, Neil Taylor, Tyrone Mings, Kortney Hause, Ahmed El Mohamady, Jack Grealish (Birkir Bjarnason 84) Glenn Whelan (John McGinn 63) Conor Hourihane, Anwar El Ghazi, Tammy Abraham, Albert Adomah (Andre Green 63)
Subs not used: Lovre Kalinic, Keinan Davis, Mile Jedinak, Jonathan Kodjia
Goals: Grealish 67.
Yellow cards: Hause 61, Grealish 68, McGinn 90 + 2.
Referee: Tim Robinson: a simply awful performance. The Villa centre halves got away with blue murder kicking, elbowing and manhandling Jutkiewicz all afternoon. How Hause didn’t get booked in the first half is beyond me and frankly he was lucky to stay on the pitch when he elbowed Jutkiewicz in the head just before the break. He eventually got a yellow card on 61 minutes for a last man foul on Che Adams when the young striker was through on goal. Had Mr Robinson done his job properly this would have been a minimum of a second yellow if the player was actually still on the pitch at all!
PS: I have not given the players or the referee scores as I usually do; it’s superfluous in the circumstances.
Bazza KRO 🙁