I’m sure we all know the words to Elton John’s version. I often think it’s an apt musical incarnation of life as a Birmingham City fan. You see, I really dislike Blues. I imagine Blues fans dislike Blues. I actually dislike Blues more than The Boggies. I can’t quite put my finger on why. I mean, I enjoy playing The Albion. I enjoy the rage and the fury that overcomes me in a positive way. But Blues. Blues just bring a disdainful feeling of disgust.
St Andrew’s has a very hollow feel. I was once there during a previous job for an e-cigarette company. We were using the facilities at St Andrew’s for a Conference and to keep up the comical nature of the club were being housed in ‘The Jasper Carrott Suite’ – Blues have so few footballing legends they’ve resorted to this. Further comedy ensued when security decided to ban all vaping inside the Jasper Carrott suite for a company whose business is exactly that. I vividly remember the grim security guard standing on guard, waiting for a puff of vapour to spout in the air for him to pounce on the culprit with all the politeness of a Silverback Gorilla. There is no joy at St. Andrew’s. And who can blame them for their joyless existence as a football club? Maybe I’m being harsh, but Paul Robinson, David Davis, the Blues fans vain attempts to goad over their summer transfer activity. It all adds up in the end.
Talking of joy, how about that Ruben Neves? Unfortunately for us he was now suspended for our visit to Small Heath. His parting shot for this week off was a lovely outside of the foot caress into the path of Jota for the second goal versus Bolton. Wolves Twitter was awash with who should replace the poster boy of the Fosun Revolution – N’Diaye or Price? In the end Nuno plumped for N’Diaye and his physicality and thrust ended up being required on an odd night of fractious football.
We got through it. The game was a turgid example of what can happen when a soulless football team slowly sucks up the quality of a football match until it is all but non-existent towards the end of the game. We weren’t great, especially in the second half. But we still absolutely, unequivocally deserved to take home three points.
There was a distinct lack of Neves in the midfield and the speed with which we moved the ball had dropped, but last night called for a durability and resilience in the face of evil. The opposition resembled a pack of hooded Dementors, desperately trying to eat away at any sign of flowing football. It was clear who their primary target was and it’s amazing that in this day and age of football, such evident Dark Arts can go unpunished for so long. A lot of Sunday League players make up for being shit by being angry and ‘hard’. Birmingham City managed to take this mantra up to the second tier of English football. Diogo Jota though…
Like a shining Patronus in the face of adversity – I make no apology for my Harry Potter references here – he bulldozed his way through challenge after challenge. It was as if he’d walked into the Land of the Giants, but instead of turning and heading back where he came from he decided to slalom his way through each one, almost running between legs and under limbs to evade them. He was battered and bruised for his efforts, but as Leeds found out a couple of weeks ago, you rattle Diogo at your peril. Marc Roberts should have seen red early on for a horror challenge. You could have forgiven Diogo for not stepping anywhere him for the rest of the game, but on two occasions he made Roberts look foolish in the first half. Bluenoses stared at their own version, longing for him to do something similar. He is Blues in microcosm when compared to Wolves. Chinese owners. Plenty of spending power. Signed a Jota. Even brought in a big name foreign manager last season. And yet they’re just a pale imitation of a football club, a dreadful tribute act, that mate you feel sorry for that you bring along to the pub just so you can hear his crappy impressions every now and then.
The first half was littered with moments of real quality, with Cavaleiro again at the heart of it. I maintain that when Cavaleiro is on top form, he brings the best out of the teammates around him and we can look untouchable. The fluency of the move that led to Cav striking at goal bore no resemblance to the rest of the game and belonged on a much more fitting stage than Small Heath. Once more, without truly hitting top gear we found ourselves in total control.
The second half was a tough watch. The Sky Sports commentators did their best job of creating the idea that Birmingham were clawing their way back into the game. You saw these Dementors in blue clothing rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of a throw-in in the final third, a floated cross into the area, an aimless ball into the channel for their striker to chase. We used to get excited about these things once upon a time. All tools from Mr Championship’s repertoire. Except this was his half-brother, Mr Champion-shit. You have to be a special team to not create a single chance of note when apparently ‘in the ascendancy’.
Despite this relative comfort and control – contrary to what anybody said we were in total control of the second half as well – I got nervous. Don’t ask me why. Maybe the sight of Blues just brings the worst out of me as a Wolves fan. Maybe the depressive nature of the environment got to me a little. I found myself cursing our players for the first time this season. I lamented the performance a little. Is this arrogance? It’s not a characteristic us Wolves fans have ever succumbed to – we’ve never been good enough. I sat alongside my wife and summed up the situation: I have yet to see Wolves lose this season. We’re in December. We’re 10 points clear of third place. We have a January transfer window on the horizon. Our Player of the Season last year hasn’t got into his stride yet. We were missing the best midfielder in the league. They didn’t have a single shot on target against us. I could go on, but once I’d thought about it all I came back to my senses.
We could leave the hell-hole. We had our three points and a few rattled Birmingham fans and players tucked into our pockets. This isn’t a game we’ll look back upon with too many fond memories but we’ll recall it as another step towards the Promised Land. It was a wobbly, shaky step fraught with danger and misery and all manner of awfulness. But we took it in our stride and marched on.
The bright lights and warmth of Molineux awaits this Saturday. It’ll be good to be back.