As football fans we tend to focus on the present day. This leads to an ignorance of mistakes of the past & a failure to appreciate that things have almost certainly been worse. So despite Carson Yeung’s current tenure being endured by long suffering Birmingham fans, Brad Smith argues that’s it’s been worse.
After two relegations in four years, Birmingham City were a club on their knees. They had spent 12 of the previous 14 years in the top flight, and now found themselves languishing in the Third Division, and were recording their worst league finishes in their 110 year history.
Ask any Birmingham City fan the same question, and you will no doubt get the same response. When attendances were down to around 6,000, and Ken Wheldon sold the club to the Kumar brothers, the second-city team embarked on the worst four years in their proud history.
When you mention the Kumars to most people, you’ll no doubt get a chuckle as they remember the seven series comedy shown on the BBC. Not Birmingham City fans though.
Rival fans got to watch their own comedy 10 years previous to that, as promises failed, the new owners went bust, and the club was on the brink of bankruptcy.
The footballing world knew Birmingham as a top-division club, and after a 7th placed finish in Division 3, they were touted to go up the following year. However, the season was one that at a stage was a fight to stay in the Division, and lack of investment from the new owners led to protests from what was left of the St.Andrews crowd, and eventually the resignation of manager Dave Mackey.
Lou Macari took the reins, and steered the Midlands side to a Leyland DAF final victory over Tranmere, which was little consolation to the fans, who still couldn’t understand how they were in this division. Following this win, Macari upped sticks and went to Stoke City, and Terry Cooper was left with the task of promotion, with little to no funds from the board.
The problems were now filtering down to the players, several refused to renew contracts, and few could see what would come of the next few seasons. The ground was falling apart, and after a boy was killed during the 85/86 season, nothing had been done by the current owners, leaving the ground to spiral into the worst conditions it had ever been.
Luckily, that 91/92 season ended with promotion, but with no thanks to the board, who were increasingly running out of money. Signings were made via money raised from supporters, and Cooper was now at loggerheads with the board, demanding funds to keep the club together, and to make urgent signings to keep the club in the division.
November 1992 will forever be a month etched in the minds of City fans, as the Kumars businesses were put into receivership, and after months of fans wanting them to sell, their majority stake in the club was put up for sale.
With the team dropping fast, administration continued for four months, before the saviours of the Gold brothers and David Sullivan took over, steering the club to safety that season by just two points, and although relegation came the year after, the clubs finances had steadied, while the next 10 years saw them turn the ground into a Premier League stadium, and into a top division club again.
Many fans are unhappy at the current regime at the helm of Birmingham City, but a look back 20 years quickly reminds us, that we were potentially months away from not having a club at all.
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