Brian Dick has an up-and-down 90 minutes at St Andrew's.


To be a Birmingham City supporter on sunday was a disorientating experience.

While the prevailing direction was down, the 26,668 who were not too disillusioned by sky-high prices and rock-bottom football to make it to St Andrew's, found themselves pulled this way and that.

Victory of the most handsome kind, the joint-best of the campaign, was not enough to avoid a second relegation in as many Premier League seasons. It did not help that, by dismembering Blackburn Rovers, they inadvertently handed a route into Europe to Aston Villa.

The Intertoto Cup may lack for prestige but a weekend in Malta beats Blackpool on a drizzly August day by anyone's estimation.

They had no option but to hope for that, however. Defeat would have sealed their fate regardless of whether Villa made it into the UEFA Cup, Intertoto or the Grand National. Despite threats from the Tilton Road End to 'go down, come back up and...' their rivalry with Villa was an irrelevance on an afternoon where they had to take care of their own business and hope that others would help them out.

As a result, the blue army found themselves wishing Robbie Savage and Derby County one last hurrah. Savage is only marginally less unpopular than David Sullivan and scurvy so, to feel compelled to invest any faith in their nemesis and such a poor team - the worst in Premier League history, would have stuck in even the most magnanimous throat. Derby did not so much disappoint as capitulate; a penny for Savage's thoughts would have been worth exactly that.

Yet the first twist of the afternoon came before the last round of matches had even kicked off. James McFadden, named to start up front alongside Mikael Forssell, pulled out with a calf strain. Residue, Alex McLeish said, of the knee surgery that kept him out last month.

That brought Mauro Zarate into the starting XI and Cameron Jerome - via New Street Station, on to the substitutes bench but not before the 12.32 train from Huddersfield had pulled into Platform Ten with his family on board.

The rumour, denied by Jerome, was that he had sulked off after not making it into the original match squad. Later, McLeish dodged the issue and pointed out the youngster was neither the first, nor will he be the last, footballer to distribute his toys from inside his X-Type pram, allegedly.

It was to be that sort of afternoon. Jerome, an apparent villain, ended up as the hero when his two goals just about erased what will go down as the miss of this season or any other.

But by that stage, Derby were on their way to gifting four goals to Reading - a side, may i remind you, that had not scored in six matches.

A quarter-of-an-hour had passed when James Harper struck at Pride Park. The first twist had been negotiated and Birmingham were still level and doomed to the drop. What hopelessness.

How kind, then, of Mark Hughes's bunch of supreme professionals to forget the old 'play to the whistle' adage and occupy themselves with a spot of ill-tempered ref-baiting.

Their entire midfield surrounded Howard Webb to protest against a harmless free kick in the centre circle when Zarate took it quickly and invited Murphy to drive forward. This the left back did, though the fact his 20-yard shot found the net owed more to Brad Friedel's error than anything mesmeric the left back did with the ball.

Small Heath exploded. Keep Right On, which had been dutifully sung until that point, became a battle cry. With Fulham drawing at Portsmouth a Savage equaliser would keep Birmingham up.

It came, too. Seconds before Webb was about to call half-time, the Tilton Road End exploded into life. Derby must have scored. Yet, as the stand celebrated, incontrovertible evidence to the contrary was being offered by the live television feed.

Former Villa striker Alan McInally was at Pride Park explaining how Reading were worth their 1-0 lead. Birmingham were only just worth theirs.

The second period started with Damien Johnson, the most committed of City players, losing possession in front of his own penalty area. The next time he saw it, Morten Gamst Pedersen had swept it into an empty net. Johnson slumped to his backside and sat, distraught, in the six-yard box.

Birmingham don't do clean sheets and despite Maik Taylor's best hopes, there was not to be one here.

They had to score and so they did. But this is Birmingham City, surely the only club in the world that could turn a 4-1 win into a tragedy.

Jerome's goals meant nothing and what was only the second goal of his senior career meant Fabrice Muamba's late header had little more than curiosity value.

As the goals rained down, the supporters were torn between cheering their team and abusing their board. What a lot a Birmingham City fan has to bear.