Sunday 7th May 2017 ko 12.00
BRISTOL CITY 0
BIRMINGHAM CITY 1 (Adams 16)
This one had been pencilled in for some time, as it was my girlfriend Robyn’s team’s last home game of the season, and when the tickets were artfully discounted, the chance to explore the new Lansdowne stand too. Robyn and I had watched the reverse fixture back in November, Birmingham won 1-0 and we departed thinking that Bristol City would probably need to win the final game to guarantee safety. Little did we know…
History will tell that the Blues sacked manager Gary Rowett, hired Gianfranco Zola, and by the time he was sacked too Birmingham had gone from play-off hopefuls to being in serious relegation trouble. Harry Redknapp was brought in to save them, but even with “Honest ‘arry’s” guile, it was Birmingham that needed the win to stay up, Bristol City had stayed up courtesy of an unlikely win at not-yet-promoted Brighton the previous week.
Unquestionably the player of Bristol City’s season was forward Tammy Abraham. On a season-long loan from Chelsea, the 19-year-old scored a remarkable 26 goals but all good things must come to an end, and this game served as a farewell to a talent that still remains relatively untapped. It will be interesting to see where he ends up next season. Bristol City and their fans would love to have him back but the player made it tactfully clear he has more lofty ambitions.
It was interesting exploring Ashton Gate’s new signature stand. I’d had a look at the Lansdowne stand’s lower tier during my previous visit and the decoration in tenants Bristol Rugby’s blue seemed rather incongruous. But the top tier’s concourse manages to offend noone, it has absolutely no colour scheme at all, unless a side playing at Ashton Gate decides to play in breeze block grey!
But the view from the front row is excellent, including the sight of the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge, and I could watch the game as a neutral, enjoying rather enduring the tension. I have far too many friends at St Andrews to want them relegated, and so I and I’m sure at least one Bristol City fan tried to square the circle of wanting both sides to win!
The Blues scored early, through Che Adams who’d scored at St Andrews, and while most felt Bristol would find a way to pressurise the obviously nervous visitors the truth was that any pressure they did muster was short-lived. It wasn’t that they named a weakened side, or didn’t make an effort, it was just the pressure to perform had disappeared the previous week.
So Birmingham survived at the expense of Blackburn and this season’s theme of the EFL’s relegated clubs being appallingly run continued. Birmingham’s fans celebrated their escape in front of a nervous looking Redknapp and even more nervous looking stewards! Meanwhile Bristol City’s fans thanked Tammy Abraham while wondering how on earth they are going to replace him?