McLeish has suffered his second relegation as Birmingham manager
By Laurie Fitzgerald
After a thrilling final day that was billed as “Survival Sunday,” it was Birmingham City that joined Blackpool and West Ham United in being relegated from the Premier League.
Alex McLeish‘s side suffered a 2-1 defeat to Tottenham at White Hart Lane after a last-minute winner from Roman Pavlyuchenko.
That result, coupled with Wigan’s 1-0 win away at Stoke, meant that it was a third relegation in six seasons for the Blues.
Out of the trio of sides dropping into the Championship, it must be particularly perplexing for Birmingham fans to find themselves in this situation.
It was less than three months ago that the club experienced the ecstasy in beating Arsenal 2-1 in the Carling Cup final at Wembley, culminating in their first major silverware in 48 years.
That win also guaranteed European football at St. Andrew’s, but it will be in the second tier of English football – not seen since Millwall in 2004.
Ever since that famous day in February, Birmingham have seen their form slump in the league, with just two wins recorded in their last 12 games.
That run also saw just one point picked up in their final six matches, their last victory coming at home to Sunderland in mid-April.
One of the biggest reasons for their fall from grace are the injuries that the Blues have had to overcome.
The likes of Cameron Jerome, Nikola Zigic and Lee Bowyer have had spells on the sidelines, meaning that goals have been difficult to come by.
With just 37 goals all season, they are the lowest scorers in the Premier League and their profligacy in front of goal has proven costly.
Just how costly remains to be seen, with an estimated loss of between £30-50 million from television revenue in dropping from the top-flight.
However, the biggest turning point may have come in an innocuous moment in their Carling-Cup first-leg semi-final at West Ham back in January.
Scott Dann, who formed a crucial partnership at the heart of Birmingham’s defence, went off with a hamstring injury.
The damage was so severe that the former Coventry centre-back needed an operation, ruling him out for the rest of the campaign.
Since then, McLeish has tried different partners alongside Johnson, with Liam Ridgewell, Martin Jiranek and Curtis Davies all having a go at filling the void of 23 year-old Dann.
But 32 goals conceded in 17 league games tells it’s own story. They simply haven’t had the same defensive authority without Dann alongside Johnson.
Birmingham found goals were in short supply last season. But their brilliance at the back meant that they recorded many narrow wins, resulting in a ninth place finish.
Unfortunately, the dreaded second season syndrome has struck for City, and once again they plan for life back in the Championship.
It remains to be seen whether McLeish will be there to try and guide the club back to the Premier League like he did in 2009.
Blues owner Carson Yeung will look at what changes need to be made, but he knows that in McLeish he has a manager that has experience of getting this team out of the division.
There is also the issue of retaining the likes of Johnson, Dann, Ben Foster and Craig Gardener, who have played a big part in their success the past couple of years.
Whatever the squad looks like come August, the fans now hope the club make an instant return following relegation for a third time in a row.
So what do you think? What are the main reasons for Birmingham’s relegation? Will McLeish be there to try and take the Blues straight back up next season? Let us know your thoughts.