St Andrew’s could be set to witness a nerve-jangling 90 minutes on Saturday but it won’t be a new experience for Birmingham City’s veteran striker Kevin Phillips.
Unless Sheffield United or Cardiff City lose earlier in the day, Birmingham will head into their 5.20pm kick-off against Preston North End knowing that victory would send them back into the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Such a scenario will create a cauldron of excitement, fear, nervousness and tension inside Birmingham’s 103-year-old home and live television will be there to capture the moment.
For many professional footballers it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, for 35-year-old Phillips it happened less than 12 months ago.
Then a West Bromwich Albion player, Phillips played the entirety of a 1-1 draw with Southampton at The Hawthorns; a result that virtually sealed Tony Mowbray’s side’s promotion due to their superior goal difference over Hull City.
Now the ex-England international is looking to draw on the experiences from that joyful night in the Black Country to help lead Birmingham to a similar outcome on Saturday.
“There’s a lot of nerves and tension (on a night like that) because we all know what it means to get promoted to the Premier League,” said Phillips, this season’s top scorer for Birmingham with 13.
“I think it showed in that game, we didn’t play to our potential. Southampton come and did an excellent job against us and took the lead then it looked like they were going to steal a victory that night but ‘Brunty’ (Chris Brunt) came up with the equaliser and it was just relief’ really, that got us promoted on goal difference.
“I don’t think we’re going to get promoted on goal difference this year because ours is nowhere near good as the other teams around us so we need to do it with our points tally.
“There’s a lot of nerves and tension but I think it’s important that once you cross that white line you try to forget about that, try to enjoy the game and try to play the football that we know can win games.”
One player who will miss out on Saturday is left-back David Murphy. After initial fears over a meniscus injury, it has been confirmed that he will be out for the remainder of the season with a broken knee cap sustained in last Saturday’s 1-0 victory at Watford.
“There was a three-man collision towards the end of the game that also included Djimi (Traore) and David split his kneecap,” Birmingham manager Alex McLeish said. “He’s going to get that pinned and we believe that he could be back for the start of pre-season.
“We are disappointed for David and obviously we have lost a player who was coming back to full fitness and had done very well in the last couple of weeks.”
Murphy’s injury came less than a week after fellow defender Liam Ridgewell broke his left leg against Plymouth Argyle on Easter Monday.
Reading kept alive their slim hopes of catching Blues with a 2-0 win at Derby County last night.
The Royals had the ball in the net three times in the opening seven minutes, only to see the linesman’s flag raised on each occasion. But they scored in the 56th minute when Dave Kitson met an inswinging cross. Shane Long – having had two efforts ruled out early – scored in the 73rd minute to virtually guarantee the Royals at least a play-off berth. Reading are six points behind Birmingham with two games to play but have a better goal difference.
It is the same story for Cardiff, who were held to a 2-2 draw at Charlton, but can be happy with a late fightback. The home team led through teenager Jonjo Shelvey in the 35th minute and Nick Bailey doubled it on 80 minutes. Chris Burke responded quickly for Cardiff before Gabor Gyepes equalised at the death.