Above the clouds. Nicola Zigic.

by Matt Savin

Three words to sum up the season:
1 – ENTERTAINING: When compared to the last one, this season was always going to be an improvement. This is not simply through ridding ourselves of the drudgery of Alex McLeish’s style of play – unless you do a Norwich or a Swansea, seeking promotion to the Premier League is usually more enjoyable than trying to stay in it, as you get to see more wins and more goals for less money. Thanks to Chris Hughton we’re also playing in a style that is rarely without incident: we’ve failed to score a goal only six times in the league, while on 14 occasions (or almost a quarter of all matches) we’ve scored three goals or more.
2 – UNCERTAIN: This season can only be considered a success given the decimation of the squad in the summer. Yet the lingering concern is that anything other than promotion will mean administration. As the club haven’t filed their accounts for 18 months, only the owners truly know how much of a mess we’re in, but their protracted silence rings louder than any alarm bells. Would we have sold our only natural left-winger in January if we didn’t have to in order to stay afloat? And so imagine the fire sale if we fail to win promotion – the worry of many a Birmingham fan is that Portsmouth are the blueprint for our future.
3 – BARKING: How else to describe travelling to the Riverside, Vicarage Road and Madeira within ten days of each other? Or drawing at home to Barnsley and then beating Maribor away? It’s also barking that we’ll have played at least 62 games this season, rotating a core squad of only 21 through an average of two games per week, and are still in the reckoning for promotion. The season may also end up Barking if the fates conspire for a final epic showdown with a certain football team who dwell not far from there in the play-offs.

Player of the season: CHRIS BURKE
The ginger Scot’s purchase of this ginger Scot was a brilliant parting gift. A consistent winger is hard to find, but Burke achieved just that to make himself the must-use forward option on the team. The statistics speak for themselves: 14 goals from right wing and more assists than any other Championship player this season. That he only has two Scotland caps is shameful.
Honourable mentions should also go to the controversial but tireless Marlon King as our top scorer, and Curtis Davies for topping up sound defensive displays with crucial goals.

Newcomer of the season: NATHAN REDMOND
Not yet heard of him? Don’t worry, you soon will have – he’s the teenage wonderkid whose name will be picked out of the lazy hacks’ transfer rumour tombola more than any other Championship player this summer. Birmingham hearts swelled at his terrorising super-sub wing-play and cracking goals in the league this season, and then sank when he put himself in the shop window with similar displays on TV in the FA Cup. All Birmingham fans will be hoping that he and our dirt-poor board resist the lure of the Premiership and filthy lucre this summer.

Most improved player: DAVID MURPHY
Another McLeish purchase that Chris Hughton has gone on to get the most out of. A virtually unused left-back in the Premiership, and on his performances you could understand why. But this season he’s been a revelation, keeping out Liam Ridgewell with some sound defending, and as with Curtis Davies, bagging the goals from defence – with 7 this season; that’s almost one in every 6 games.

Singular performance of the season: NIKOLA ZIGIC (vs Leeds Utd)
‘Barking’ is also a word you could use to describe the end result of watching the 6ft 8ins striker Nikola Zigic play football. A man who, on a reported £50k per week, is contributing to our financial demise. A man who mainly plays like Bambi on ice after a few too many beers; a man who often looks like he could do with the concept of football being explained to him in pre-match team talks. And a man who suddenly rises like Godzilla from a deep sea of calamity to score all of our goals in a 4-1 away win over Leeds. And as is his want, he quickly went back to being injured or rubbish. But how can you not love him? The stuff of legend.

Game of the season: BRUGGE 1 BIRMINGHAM 2
And for those who were there, this too was the stuff of legend. The light in the gloom of mediocrity that was the league at the time, 10,000 Birmingham fans journeyed by rail, sea and air to turn a small European town into a raucous Brummie enclave for 24 hours. Each club has its idiots, but few were present as we celebrated a chance to leave the UK for actual footballing reasons. Non-stop singing, a last minute winner, and even a lasting friendship with Brugge fans ensued after we joined them in applauding in honour of their late striker Francois Sterchele on the stroke of the 23rd minute.

Disappointment of the season: LIAM RIDGEWELL
Went from being a useful Premiership player to a nice-to-have-on-the-bench stand-in thanks to that contagious disease amongst modern footballers – being a Premiership footballer in your own head.

Hero of the season: CHRIS HUGHTON
If evidence were needed of the positive effect a good manager can have on an entire football club, one need only glance northwards across the second city to witness what the exact opposite looks like: Alex McLeish concocting a replica of his last season at Birmingham, but in claret and blue and mercifully without any silverware in tow. In contrast, under financial duress Chris Hughton has galvanised a ragtag squad to the double feat of consistency in the league and impetus in cup runs. Were we to win the £50m play-off lottery, it is therefore feasible to consider him capable of keeping us in the Premiership next season. But whatever path his career takes in the near-future, few Birmingham fans will begrudge the man who has brought joy back to St Andrews in what should have been one our darkest seasons.