There’s often a few incidents that shape a season. Whether it’s the emergence of a fresh new talent, the employment of a new tactical system or simply just a wonder goal that sparks a run of good results. You could probably pick one or two turning points from almost every season and follow the upward and sometimes downward (in the case of Gary Rowett’s sacking) spiral of events.
Every now and then though, you get to witness an event that almost epitomizes a season so perfectly that you could show the replay to an outsider and they’d have the perfect understanding of the campaign. These moments are rare, but magical and I’d argue that we were treated to one against Rotherham last Monday.
I’m sure you all know the passage of play that I’m referring to, but in case you’re unsure, allow me to set the scene…
It’s the 62nd minute and Blues have pulled back an equaliser after a dreadful first half display that saw the boys go into the break 1 – 0 down. Birmingham have pulled one back after emerging from the dressing room with a bit more of a spring in their step – aided by the new diamond formation. The ball finds its way to David Davis in our own half and his natural instincts to boot the ball up the pitch take over.
(After discussion with friends, I’m willing to accept that Davis MAY have been intentionally looking for Che on the wing… MAYBE..)
As far as I was concerned, that ball was now dead. The Rotherham defender slowed down and made a half hearted attempt to control the ball, the crowd tutted at the hoof and I looked down at my phone to make some notes.
But then up pops Che Adams to keep the ball alive.
After knocking it forward and rounding the linesman, Che met the ball on the byline and placed an inch perfect pass to a wide open Jota who subsequently slotted it home.
Whilst it’s important to remember that this was ONLY Rotherham, I don’t think I’m over stating things when I say that if Mo Salah, Raheem Sterling or Marcus Rashford et al had done this, it’d be all over the mainstream media. Hell, Gareth Bale did something similar a few years ago and you may as well have renamed TalkSport ‘TalkBale’.
However, it’s not just the skill that I want to focus on here, it’s the attitude. Under previous managers that ball would have indeed gone dead. The team (including Che) would have turned back to defend in preparation of another attack and we’d have accepted our draw with a grimace.
Things are different this season though.
Watch the clip back and you’ll see that as soon as the ball is hoofed, the boys are on their toes heading upfield. There’s a belief in Che and a belief in each other. This group is no longer willing to accept mediocrity and if there’s a chance to make something out of nothing, then they’re going for it.
The plaudits have naturally all gone to Che, but by the time that ball is crossed both Jota and Juke are waiting in the penalty box in ample space and Mags isn’t too far behind them. All three attackers have placed their trust in Che and sprinted from their own half on the belief of a chance.
Maybe I’m getting too emotional over a cross, but to me that whole short sequence of events fully epitomises our season. We’re so much more than fans of other clubs and national media outlets would have you believe and whilst they would gladly use Mr Mitchell’s image as a representation of Birmingham City, I’d opt for a still of that cross, or even a shot of Juke with his arms raised high in the air like a proud dad that’s just witnessed his first born score the winner.
Blues have been up against it this season and with absolutely zero help from anyone else, we’ve fought back against adversity to retain our Championship status. The boys on the pitch have never given up and all the management and coaching staff have been equally determined and steadfast.
After flirting with the playoffs and far exceeding our own expectations, we found ourselves in yet another relegation battle but everything about this one was different. Dare I say it, it was almost a bit of enjoyable drama? Kind of like nearly getting into a fight with the school bully but managing to talk your way out of it. It’s a bit scary at the time, but a great story to tell on your lunch break!
The team knew they were facing the threat of the drop and undoubtedly hold very strong views about the 9 point deduction but they took it all on the chin and handled themselves perfectly.
In addition to this, strict embargoes meant that Monk and co had their hands tied with transfers and finances but rather than whinge and moan about it, they kept their heads down and fought on. Any one of them could have thrown their hands up in despair but it NEVER happened and certainly never publicly.
As for THAT goal? Never has a passage of play been such a perfect example of the never-say-die attitude that has been rife throughout the club this season. Che could quite easily have let that ball go, Jota could have simply saved his energy and not bothered making the run and Mags could have seen 2 attacking players ahead of him and thought “why bother?”. But none of them did.
Like the rest of the squad, they Kept Right On and took the lead.
This may be the last great thing Che ever does for the club but after being so wrong about him last year, I’d like to thank him, and the rest of the squad, for a throughly enjoyable season. We’ve had ups and downs but no one ever gave up and I truly thank them all for that.
Che has come a long way this season and it’s fair to say he’s grown as a player both physically and mentally. Wherever he plys his trade next season, I hope he remembers the ethos instilled in him by Monk, Pep, Jimmy and all the coaching staff at the club because it really has done him – and the rest of the squad – the world of good.
Photo Courtesy: Roy Smiljanic / BCFC