Ian Clarkson finds a well-deserved happy ending at a football club that refused to die...

Is Micky Moore the manager of the season in West Midlands football?

Consider the evidence. Bryan Robson, Paul Merson, Kevan Broadhurst and Steve Bruce all added a relegation to their CV whereas Glenn Hoddle's first full season at the Molineux helm was described as 'a complete disaster' by his own chief executive.

Micky Adams is the only manager who enhanced his reputation last season as he lifted Coventry City into eighth position in the Championship.

It was hardly a glorious campaign for our Conference sides, either, as both Tamworth and Kidderminster Harriers found themselves entrenched in the bottom eight, with the Lambs finishing 21st and only escaping the drop because cash-strapped Canvey Island pulled out of the league for next season.

Yet Moore's performance as manager of Birmingham City Ladies was nothing short of outstanding and is a salutary lesson to those who have squandered millions of pounds.

The stark contrast between men's and women's football was never more evident than at Birmingham City's final home game of the season against Newcastle.

While Bruce's men tried to preserve their Premiership status, Moore and his team, which included two England internationals, were carrying buckets around pubs in Bordesley Green in an attempt to raise funds to preserve their existence.

However, against the backdrop of extreme financial difficulties and a mass exodus of players on the eve of the season, Moore ensured Birmingham City Ladies are still playing Premier League football next season.

Winding the clock back to July, the landscape looked very different after an England team containing five Birmingham players had captured the heart of the nation in Euro 2005.

Live television coverage and soaring attendances ensured that women's football rode a wave of optimism. But the balloon deflated quicker than anyone could have possibly contemplated at Birmingham.

Their main sponsors pulled the plug and a mooted link with Birmingham City hit the buffers just two weeks before their season was due to commence.

Thirteen players immediately took their boots elsewhere and Marcus Bignot stepped down as manager due to increased commitments in his day job playing in defence at Queens Park Rangers.

A decision was taken to fold the club but Moore, after a long weekend deep in thought, decided to take up the cudgels.

Department store John Lewis agreed to continue with their shirt sponsorship and a five-figure donation from a Birmingham City fan ensured they were able to start pre-season training on the first day of the regulation season.

"I only had six senior play-ers left from last year and the League gave us two weeks breathing space," said Moore.

"We had four training sessions before our first game and really struggled at the start.

"For me, the turning point came when we lost 7-0 against Arsenal in November. I went home after that fixture and had a long, hard look at myself.

"I knew I needed to be better as a coach and change our system and shape. I formulated a plan and worked on it with the players during the following training session and the girls took it on board."

The return of Jo Fletcher in goal and the acquisition of striker Danni Bird bolstered their squad who were still well adrift of safety at Christmas.

However, a healthy team spirit engendered by Moore, allied to some polished performances saw Birmingham win their final four games and finish just three points shy of fourth position.

It was a truly remarkable feat from a side whose playing budget was conspicuous by its absence.

"Stuart Foster has worked really hard on the commercial side of our club and tried to bring in revenue," added Moore.

"However, I have to admit that having no money to work with at all has made me a better coach and manager.

"For our final game of the season we had seven players on the pitch who were from our Under-18 squad and three of those were Under-16s.

"No one had any expectations at the start of this season but we have had a lot of unsung heroes and an unbelievable team spirit.

"The players, chairman, backroom staff and coaching staff should all feel justifiably proud of their achievements. It was a team ethic that helped us survive against the odds."

Rather than rest on his laurels, Moore is already preparing for the future and can sense a modicum of momentum gathering pace in Redditch.

The Conference North club generously donated their Valley Stadium ground free of charge, which was a major factor in Blues Ladies' renaissance.

"Both the public of Redditch and the Football Club have been phenomenal," said Moore. "We don't get huge crowds but there are around 100 people who come and support us now that aren't friends and family.

"They generate a terrific atmosphere and we invite lots of girls teams to watch for free. This helps the atmosphere as well and they are always asking our team for autographs, which helps their self-esteem.

"There is a real ground-swell of opinion that wants us to succeed and we raised over £1,000 from Birmingham City supporters when we walked around five pubs prior to the Newcastle fixture.

"They suffer a lot of heartbreak and pain, but their generosity is appreciated." ..SUPL: