WHEN Birmingham City take to the field in Swansea tomorrow night there will be one lifelong Blues supporter sat in the Liberty Stadium stands who will remain glum no matter what the outcome.

Marcos Painter is as much of a Bluenose as anyone sat up in the Tilton Road End on a Saturday afternoon. Raised in Chelmlsey Wood and a virtual ever-present at St Andrew’s as a child, Painter realised a dream when he was snapped up by Birmingham’s Academy as an eight-year-old.

Even, after progressing through the youth ranks, when he had to move away from the club at 20 to seek first-team football, his love for Blues never diminished. When the Swansea City defender eagerly awaited the announcement of the fixtures at the start of the season, there were two dates he was waiting for - Birmingham home and away.

Those dates have remained etched on his memory since but Painter’s hopes of facing his boyhood club were shattered just under four weeks ago when he was stretchered off with cruciate knee ligament damage in Swansea’s 3-0 victory over Southampton, an injury that will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the season. While it denies the Republic of Ireland international of the chance to continue his development with the upwardly mobile Swansea, more crucially it means he will miss tomorrow’s encounter as well as the St Andrew’s fixture on December 28.

Painter is frantically attempting to arrange tickets for a host of family and friends who will be heading to south Wales tomorrow night. He may not get away with sitting in the away supporters’ end but there is no doubt that he wouldn’t look out of place if he did.

“It was going to be a big game for me as I’ve been a Birmingham fan for all of my life,” he said. “At the start of the season I was looking forward to both of those games but circumstances have changed because of my injury, I’ll be spectating rather than participating.

“Those were really going to be the massive games for me, the hardest one to take will be the St Andrew’s fixture which is just after Christmas. Birmingham is always the first fixture I look for even when all the cups have been drawn, it’s such a shame that I will miss it.Half of my family are coming down, a few will be in the Birmingham end but my close family will be in the Swansea stand. I’ve got a fair few tickets to sort out and I haven’t got them all yet, it looks like I might have to open up a few fire exits. ”

Painter, who underwent an operation on his knee a week ago today, has followed second-placed Birmingham’s results but hasn’t seen the Alex McLeish effect up close. The personnel has changed considerably since Painter left permanently in January 2007 and he says that he’s not too sure what to expect from Birmingham.

“The backroom staff that were at the club when I was there have all left and I don’t know how Alex McLeish likes his teams to play football but I would guess that it would be the right way,” he said. “You won’t be able to tell until the two teams meet on Friday but I’m confident that it would be a good game because I know that we like to get the ball down and play. Birmingham were tipped for promotion at the start of the season so it’s doesn’t surprise me that they are near the top. When you’ve got a quality squad like Birmingham have, you’re always likely to be contenders.”