Birmingham City were without doubt the success story of last year’s Premier League season under Alex McLeish. Mooted by many as relegation candidates having just been promoted from the Championship – the Blues at one point were at the total opposite end of the table and were even close to challenging for a Europa League spot. In the end, they finished 9th which was the clubs best position in the league for 51 years.
Consistency seemed to be the key for McLeish and his men as he managed to name an unchanged line-up for 12 consecutive games (21 November to 7 February) – setting a new Premier League record in the process. This, coupled with the performances of certain individuals kept Birmingham from becoming embroiled in a relegation battle. The season-long loan signing of Joe Hart proved to a coup, as him and his back four of Stephen Carr, Scott Danns, Roger Johnson and Liam Ridgewell received the plaudits from many. Even Lee Bowyer – a man, who has had a chequered career to say the least, underwent a mini revival last season.
The most impressive thing about last season from the Blues was their unbeaten run. Having been defeated by Arsenal on the 17th of October Birmingham managed go undefeated all throughout November, December and three-quarters of the way through January – stretching a very impressive 12 games – before been beaten by Chelsea on the 27th of January, not that there is any shame in that. City already looked to be assured of their Premier League status for another year.
In preparation for the new season, Alex McLeish has already gone out and splashed the cash on a new goalkeeper and striker. Due to the fact Joe Hart will be remaining at Manchester City, the Scot has signed out of favour Ben Foster from Manchester United at a fee of £6million, while also snapping up Serbian international Nikola Zigic for the same price from Valencia. Enric Valles has also signed for the Blues on a free transfer coming from Dutch side NAC Breda.
By no means have Birmingham got the strongest squad in the league or the strength in depth that others may possess, taking that into account they do look to have one of the better squads in terms of the teams that will be likely to finish in the mid-table area of the league. Even in looking at the teams that have come up from the Championship this season, it is fair to say that the Blues have a realistic chance of extending their stay in the top flight for at least another season.
Birmingham do have a particular nous for grinding out results which was displayed last season – their home form and clean sheet record of eleven being a further example of this. Carson Yeung since taking the club over has backed the manager both financially, as well as on and off the field and he looks to have brought some much needed stability to the club.
This season will be all about the Blues consolidating their position in the Premier League further after last season’s heroics. However, after all this progression they will need to be very careful this time around to avoid the ignominy of the dreaded “second season syndrome” that has happened to teams before them, along with themselves in previous years.