In his recently-published book, lifelong Birmingham City supporter Keith Dixon documents the club’s 50 greatest matches of their 134 year history. Here Andy Walker picks out five encounters that were memorable for something other than the final result.
* September 3 1892, Small Heath 5 Burslem Port Vale 1 – The First Official League Game.
It was wet, windy, kicked off half-an-hour late and saw the opposition turn up with just ten men!
However, under their original name of Small Heath, the team soon-to-be known as Birmingham City began their life in the Football League with the visit of Burslem Port Vale on a pitch next to farmland in Muntz Street.
It was the start of the 1892-93 season and the Heathens were founder members of the newly-formed Second Division.
As 2,500 spectators waited, Burslem Port Vale turned up late and without a centre-forward who had missed the train.
The era of official fixtures couldn’t have started any better for the hosts who rattled up a convincing 5-1 victory. Freddie Wheldon scored the first official goal and went on to secure a brace, while George Short, Jack Hallam and Harry Edwards completed the rout.
* December 26 1906, Birmingham 0 Middlesbrough 0 – First Game at St Andrew’s
The result was quickly forgotten but the occasion will never be as St Andrew’s played host to its first match.
Snow covered the pitch and Birmingham officials feared that the wintery weather would keep away the expected large crowd for this Boxing Day match-up.
They needn’t have worried as 32,000 people braved the chilly conditions, although the vast majority would have no doubt wished that they had stayed in their warm homes after witnessing a dull goal-less draw.
Needless to say, it was a historic occasion and the club produced a “souvenir of the New Ground”, which detailed the journey and hard work of those behind the scenes that led to the creation of a plot fit for football at St Andrew’s.
The souvenir matchday documented how 100,000 loads of rubbish had been emptied to make up what had been nicknamed the Spion Kop and also went into great detail about what was included in the grandstand on the Garrison Lane side of the ground, for example a cycle store, a training room containing a 9ft square plunge bath as well as a spacious billiard room for the players. The latter of which was furnished by one Sir John C Holder, who performed the opening ceremony.
* October 31 1956, Birmingham City 3 Borussia Dortmund 3 – First Under Floodlights.
German giants Borussia Dortmund, who at the time were one of the best teams in Europe, were the visitors for the first fixture at St Andrew’s to be played under floodlights.
Although it was only a friendly match, it turned out to be a thoroughly entertaining encounter in front of a crowd said to be over 45,000, although an official attendance wasn’t recorded.
The evening was clearly a big deal for the club as the club’s matchday programme abandoned the usual blue-dominated colour for gold. The special edition remains one of Birmingham’s rarest post-war programmes. MEB (Midlands Electricity Board) were obviously proud as they took out a full-page advertisement to put their name to The Big Switch On.
The match action itself lit up St Andrew’s.
The visitors took the lead via an own goal when new boy John Newman headed into his own net from an in-swinging cross from the fantastically-named Wolfgang Press. The Blues hit back with a well-taken equaliser from Alex Govan. Two goals from Brian Orbitt in each half helped Birmingham get their noses in front. However, Dortmund weren’t prepared to give in that easily and after pegging a goal back,
Helmut Kapitulski pounced to score the equaliser in the last minute.
The two clubs went onto forge a good relationship, while St Andrew’s has gone on to stage many more memorable evenings under the floodlights.
* February 16 1986, Coventry City 4 Birmingham City 4 – The First Sunday Game
The tradition of kicking off for a league match on a Saturday was broken for Birmingham with this trip to Highfield Road.
While Sunday games are now commonplace, this was a first for the Blues and turned out to be an eight-goal thriller.
A crowd of 14,271 turned up to watch the two West Midlands rivals do battle.
Birmingham edged into a two-goal lead thanks to Andy Kennedy and Steve Whitton before Coventry fought their way back to level in the second-half; Dave Bennett and then a Brian Kilcline penalty for the Sky Blues.
The two sides traded further blows shortly after the hour mark, Martin Kuhl for Birmingham and a superb 20-yard Bennett strike for the hosts.
Kennedy thought he had won the game for Birmingham when he made it 4-3 in the away side’s favour with seven minutes remaining.
However, while Kilcline’s first spot-kick had been questionable, a second in the 88th minute angered the Birmingham players.
Ray Ranson (who ironically now owns Coventry) was judged to have fouled Noel Pickering in the area. Wayne Clarke was booked for his protests while Kicline calmly tucked away his effort.
* December 26 2006, Birmingham City 2 Queens Park Rangers 1 – 100 Years at St Andrew’s.
While a layering of snow may not have been present as it had been 100 years earlier, stilt-walkers, fire-eaters, jugglers and face painters were on hand to whip up a party atmosphere for the St Andrew’s centenary.
A sell-out crowd filled the stadium for this Championship fixture against QPR and the west Londoners came close to spoiling the celebrations. John Gregory’s side arrived with a defensive plan designed to frustrate their hosts.
However, Birmingham did manage to take the lead through a powerful and precise Matthew Upson header midway through the first-half. Lee Cook’s deflected effort levelled terms ten minutes later.
Cameron Jerome was introduced as a 59th minute substitute and it was his first Championship goal on home soil that won the game for the Blues. Nicklas Bendtner played in Gary McSheffrey who squared for Jerome to tap-in.
A nervy finale ensued for the hosts but they held out for a forgettable victory on a memorable day for St Andrew’s.
* Birmingham City – 50 Greatest Matches’ by Keith Dixon is priced at £14.99 and is available now in all good book shops and on-line retailers.
Keith, who was raised within sight of St Andrew’s, generates funds for Birmingham City Former Players Association and has had several Blues books published, including the biography of Gil Merrick.