Nickname: The Blues
Unofficial site - Singing The Blues
Fanzine site - View From The Tilton - Keep Right On
|Last Season - Progression||Position: 10th|
Birmingham dealt with the 'difficult second season' superbly, progressing to become an established Premiership club. The Blues were never in trouble at the wrong end of the table, and would have finished much higher up had it not been for a poor run at the end of the campaign in which they only won one of their last 11 games. They eventually finished six points off a UEFA Cup place and ten from the Champions League - it could have all been so different. The star of the season was Mikael Forssell, on loan from Chelsea, who bagged 17 Premiership goals, out of Blues' 43, in a side not known for its ability around the opposition's goal.
|Transfers - In and Out|
Emile Heskey (Liverpool) - £6.25m
Jesper Gronkjaer (Chelsea) - £2.2m
Jamie Price (Cheltenham) - £100,000
Dwight Yorke (Blackburn) - Undisc.
Sam Alsop - Free
Darren Anderton (Tottenham) - Free
Chris Cottrill - Free
Colin Doyle - Free
Julian Gray (C Palace) - Free
Muzzy Izzet (Leicester) - Free
Mario Melchiot (Chelsea) - Free
Carl Motteram - Free
Darren Purse (West Brom) - £500,000
Aliou Cisse (Portsmouth) - £300,000
Bryan Hughes (Charlton) - Free
Tom Williams (Barnsley) - Free
Andrew Barrowman (Blackpool) - Loan
|First Choice XI|
GK Maik Taylor; RB Mario Melchiot, CB Kenny Cunningham, CB Matthew Upson, LB Jamie Clapham; RM Jesper Gronkjaer, CM Robbie Savage, CM Muzzy Izzet, LM Stan Lazaridis; CF Emile Heskey, CF Mikael Forssell.
|The Gaffer - Steve Bruce|
After a somewhat nomadic start to his managerial career, during which he had short spells with Sheffield United, Huddersfield Town, Wigan Athletic and Crystal Palace, Bruce was eventually lured to St Andrews. His impact was immediate, leading the club on an amazing run of form to earn a place in the Premiership via the play-offs. Since then the improvement has continued and Bruce is now considered one of the best young managers in the game - and a possible successor to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. The squad is now immeasurably stronger than it was two seasons ago and Bruce will now aim to earn a spot in Europe to continue the progress. Bruce has attracted some quality players to the club and the future looks bright.
|Player to Watch - Emile Heskey|
Despite one fine season, 2000/01, in which he notched 23 goals, Heskey failed to deliver at Liverpool and will face pressure to produce the goods at St Andrews. At £6.25million he is Birmingham's record signing, and he should get the chance to play up top - rather than out wide as he was often forced to by Gerard Houllier. But Heskey, who has been the target of other clubs' boo-boys in pre-season due to his Euro 2004 performance, has a lot to lose. Should he not produce the goods this season he will be written off as a spent force. His international career is seriously under threat due to the emergence of Alan Smith and Jermain Defoe, and a bad term in the Midlands would probably put it at an end - despite Sven Goran Eriksson being a fan. It's time to deliver.
|Young Gun - Mathew Sadler|
This 19-year-old left-back looks a fine prospect for the future, starting two Premiership games in 2003/04, including the game against Manchester United at Old Trafford. A homegrown product, Sadler has skippered England at both Under-16 and Under-17 level, representing his country up to the Under-19s. He was loaned to Northampton Town in late-November 2003, playing eight games in a two-month stay. And the club showed their commitment to the youngster by awarding him a new two-year contract in May. He should push on in 2004/05, but the example of Darren Carter shows how difficult it is for young players to come through the ranks at the moment.
|From the Terraces|
Heskey, Izzet, Gray, Melchiot, Gronkjaer... These names look, on paper at least, to be the basis for a side capable of challenging for Europe. With Forssell back again on loan from Chelsea, and Savage having finally put pen to paper to put an end to the persistent Everton rumours, the backbone of a strong side is certainly there.
Whether the new players gel quickly enough, and whether Bruce can continue to get the best out of his players, remains to be seen, but most fans are confident of another improvement to be seen this season. In fact, some are talking about this being the best ever Blues side. They have the chance to prove that, if they can beat the 1956 mark of 6th place and FA Cup runners-up.
|Best - Europe||Worst - Bottom half|
Steve Bruce has made some very astute signings this summer. Jesper Gronkjaer will provide width on the right the side has often missed, Muzzy Izzet has proved to be a creative genius and Mario Melchiot brings established Premiership quality. If Heskey can also return to goalscoring form then there is every chance that Birmingham can realistically challenge for a place in Europe next season. Bruce has shown he is a shrewd operator, rising to each challenge the Premiership has presented. There is no danger of Blues being sucked in at the wrong end, it's really a question of how far they can go.