From the Press box

Nicole Carroll: A one woman mission to make a name in football

Posts Tagged ‘Birmingham City

Christmas is coming, and all I see is tat…

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With the Liverpool ownership saga overshadowing the up coming events of this weeks Premier League outings, I’m finding it hard to talk about our away trip to That London in the visit to Arsenal, so I’m throwing myself a curve ball and looking at off the field matters.

My family are  all Blues fans, we make no attempts to cover this up. It also makes it surprisingly easy to shop for my Blues loving relatives, as anything with the famous ball and world logo makes a present instantly fantastic.

I’m struggling this year though. I know that it is only October and many people hate talking about the dirty C word this early, but I’m an organised lady. I’m the sort of girl who likes to have all the presents wrapped up by the second week of November, so the run up to Christmas can be filled with drinking copious amounts of Baileys and enjoying the delights of Birmingham’s German market (big cookies, pretzels, doughnuts – yes please).

So, in my pursuit in finding something worthy to be bestowed on my family members, I’ve taken to surfing the club shop website but to be honest, I’m disappointed. More than disappointed in fact – it’s just, well the best word for it is probably naff.

Once you get past the replica kits, there seems to be a lack of clothes which are suitable, or even stuff that most people will wear.

T-shirts with polaroid designs on the front. Old fashioned polo shirts.  Jumpers which don’t seem to come in any other option than “chav striped”.

When you get past the clothing, it seems to get worse however. Novelty dog name plates. Door signs. Lampshade covers. Gold plated jewellery.

It just disappoints me so much, because with a captive audience of Blues fans, we could be doing it so much better. However, I do have to ask myself, what do football fans really want to see in their own club shops? I’m not really sure if I can answer that.

The problem is, that unlike other retail establishments, Blues have a range of ages to cater for, a range of different tastes and both male and females to try and entice with their wears. You have the young male supporters, who are usually adorned in designer brands, to try and tempt away from their logo’d attire, as well as the normal bloke on the street who just wants something to wear that represents his club at the same time.

Blues are never going to get it right, but perhaps a new philosophy should be brought to merchendising our own club shop.

Personally, if I’m going to offer up a suggestion, is for fewer ranges with some better quality pieces. Nice plain jumpers for men with a small Blues logo – nothing tacky, something you could wear over a shirt and not instantly recognise it’s a piece of official merchandise.

If Blues are going to sell jewellery, such as the gold pendants that many fans choose to wear, then why not form links with local businesses to supply good quality jewellery through the club shop. With a club so close to the Jewellery Quarter, then surely something could be sorted so fans have the chance to buy real gold pendants, and for the club to benefit from this, as well as forming good links with local jewellers?

A lot of people won’t see my point, but I think that if Blues want to push forwards and present themselves well to potential foreign fans, that any online club shop needs to be of a quality that matches a Premier League club.

Here’s my question though: Do you know of any club that produce a good standard of club memorabilia? Does it really matter? Comments below as usual



Written by Nicole Carroll

October 15, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Proceed with caution

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Sometimes, a season can seem to go wrong in the same space of time that good fruit turns to mush. This almost seems to be one of those times.

Although, on paper, we’ve had a good draw with Liverpool and have picked up a few points on the road, the statistics make us look bleak. In our last 17 Premier League matches, we’ve won twice.

Despite final day masterstrokes by the maestro that is McLeish, we haven’t found the winning formula of the “unbeatable” squad of last season. The team that never gave up, the team which almost always seemed to be able to turn a bad situation into a draw.

If anything, we’ve reverted. We’ve even shown glimpses of being exactly the opposite of the unbeatables team, letting leads slip away from our grasp as was the case against Bolton.

A lack of goals and poor performances does not a happy Blues fan make.

I think most people can fall into two camps right now. I’ll name them, the “Let’s see at Christmas gang”, and “We’ll be relegated by November tribe”.

Let’s see at Christmas followers like to see a bigger picture. They can see beyond the form and results of the early part of the season, and believe that the league table will take its shape in December and it is simply too early to call for doom and gloom tales to fall onto the club.

The ‘We’ll be relegated by December’ tribe feel that the current form will indicate how our season will pan out. On paper and on the pitch, we’re starting to struggle, and we’ll find ourselves deep in a dogged relegation battle. By the time Christmas comes, it’ll be too late to turn it around.

I hope there are a third set of fans though. The ones who are happy to proceed with caution. I think I roughly fall into this. I won’t lie – alarm bells are slowly rising in decibels in my mind, and I’m desperately hoping the next win should get us back on track to winning ways. I do recognise however, that things need to change ASAP before any sort of rot sets in.

It’s quite scary for pundits to call Birmingham a real Premier League team, but title alone means nothing. The aim at the start of the season was to stay in the Premier League for a third consecutive season and throw off the tag as a yo-yo club. McLeish has a vision for the club, and it is a Premier League vision. 17th will do for me, but we need to work for it.

Alex McLeish is the best manager to be at Blues in living memory. We have one of the best squads to adorn the St. Andrews turf. Good ingredients supposedly equal the best results. Good things come to those that wait (I hope).

Written by Nicole Carroll

October 2, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Positive Progress

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Another week has passed for the Premier League, and Blues are slowly but surely making progress towards that imaginery forty point marker which should guarantee us a third consecutive top flight season.

Four matches into the 09/10 season for Blues left us on 4 points, with results looking like this: LWDL, whereas four matches into this season leaves Blues 2 points better off with a record of DWDD.

With 6 points on the board, it means that Blues are now 15% towards a 40 points marker, and look to be already making progress on last seasons performances.

This shows on the like for like matches of last season. Here, I’ve tallied our results so far with the corresponding fixtures from the previous season, and it shows that as well as improving on our overall starting performance, we’ve already picked up points off teams we failed to beat last season in the same fixture.

If we can continue to pick up the extra points off those teams we may have struggled against in away fixtures last season, we could see Blues finish quite comfortably once again. However, it is early days, yet it is encouraging to see Blues making progress both on a game by game basis, and also comparatively.

Written by Nicole Carroll

September 17, 2010 at 6:32 pm


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After a somewhat disappointing draw against Bolton, it can sometimes be difficult as a Blues fan to see the wider picture and keep our eyes on the overall game plan, which is obviously staying in the Premier League for yet another season.

As a match by match feature now, I’m proud to bring you to you, the reader, the stats-o-meter. I’m hoping that it can provide happiness when things seem to be going wrong for us, or it’ll point out the doom and gloom.

Quite frighteningly, we’re already 3 games into the season. Blues current points total of 5, made up of two draws and a win, is 1 point ahead of last seasons standings after 3 matches (LWD).

In my previous article, “Has the forty point benchmark disappeared?”,  my table pointed out that the average point tally for staying up in the Premier League is 38.1 points, but for safety’s sake, it is probably useful to say that we need 40 points to feel any sort of security in this league.

With 5 points on the board, we are 12.5% of the way to earning a third successive Premier League campaign, compared to 10% of the way at the same point last season.

Here is a random comparison between this and last season: This season we have scored 6 goals in the league, compared to one goal in the same number of games during the 2009/2010 season.

Written by Nicole Carroll

August 30, 2010 at 10:20 pm

The Zog Factor

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The public pursuit of one Mr Charles N’Zogbia has been almost like an elaborate game of kiss chase for Blues. Since January, Blues have fairly publically courted their admiration of the talented Wigan wingman, and he seems to be the man earmarked by McLeish to add width to what is a very narrow team.

I don’t mind public pursuits of players. It gives fans something to get excited about sometimes, a juicy name here or there generates interest. We’ve not been alone in chasing players, Manchester City, backed with financial clout, tracked and got their man James Milner.

What is starting to annoy me ever so slightly though, is the public knock backs. From what I’ve read, which I can’t is extensive, is that Wigan and their Chairman Dave Whelan have a definate price for N’Zogbia. I’ve gathered that this must be around £10 million, and after our £8 million approach was knocked back, I would have thought that with the new backing of the clubs owners, we’d of gone back in their and matched their offer.

At the end of the day, I see it a little bit like this. Some things you have to buy in your own lives, you’d class as essentials. For me, I’d class pants as an essential (although one man I dated did not class pants as an essential – I did question how he could handle wearing jeans but I digress).  Anyway, if I’m in desperate need of pants, I can shop around and see what pants I can get for my money. However, I can’t go to a shop, go to the till with the underwear I require and only offer 80% of the asking price. I could possibly negotiate, ask whether taking out a store card would allow me further discount, but essentially, I would need to pay the asking price.

After writing that all out, maybe it’s not quite the same. However, in an age where fans seem to be comparing old board to new board, is there essentially anything different in the way they are supposedly conducting transfer dealings? The old board were criticised for offering less than the asking price in an attempt to make it appear as if they were interested in a higher calibre of player. If we have the money, why don’t we enter into a negotiation with Wigan in which they will react seriously too, and where we might see N’Zogbia seriously consider a move to the Midlands.

Perhaps I’m just just reacting to new speculation that a further bid has been rejected, and maybe I should let things just play out for the next few days. In the Milner transfer, it was protracted over a number of weeks, bogged down with discussions over fees, player swaps and compensation.

With only a week to go though, messageboards will be tense as the clock starts ticking. Will the elusive wideman ever appear at St. Andrews, or will the last few days turn into the Zog Factor of massive disappointment? Watch this space.

Written by Nicole Carroll

August 25, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Girls know nothing about football

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I’m incensed and enraged. I’ve spat out my morning tea and have almost choked on my toast whilst digesting today’s football news.

I shouldn’t be getting wound up about what I’m going to talk about, because its link with football is almost farcical, but I will continue to wind myself up over it.

This morning I was pointed towards this article at hereisthecity, entitled “Birmingham City Fans usually have big bellies“. If you don’t want to read the drivel, the basic premise for this article is Ivana Takitall is rating all 20 Premier League clubs according to the male fans attractiveness.

The delightful article then goes to rate each clubs fans, with no fact or reasoning flung in. Just 20 paragraphs of made up stuff about the respective male fans of each clubs. One thing I get a whiff of here is the fact she’s probably a Cockney bird or a Cockney wannabe bird, seeing as on the whole she generally gives London clubs male fans the massive thumbs up, for example Fulham, “A Fulham supporter is every girl’s dream. Well off, daft as a brush, and able to go like a train for hours” although she is massively disparaging about Chelsea “In the same way that many Chelsea fans arrived from other clubs without warning, so Chelsea man will often return home after a visit to another man’s wife. Don’t trust him, or at least accept him for what he is – a selfish, flash-harry with a Narcissus complex.”

Just by reading the pieces title, you know she isn’t going to be kind about Birmingham City, who she duly describes as “These men are a little more basic than their Brummie rivals. All those years letching after Karren Brady have take their toll. And so have all the pies and pints. The biggest thing about the average Birmingham City fan is unfortunately usually his belly”. Where is her proof that all Birmingham supporters are pie eating letches? Why doesn’t she provide the stats that show that all Birmingham loving males have big bellies? If anything, I’ve sat with some very nice looking young men at the football!

Even the opening statement is nothing more than obvious, “My research has led me to believe that couples are better off not going to watch matches together’, she continues, ‘As particularly younger men much prefer to watch their teams with their ‘proper’ mates, having a few drinks before and after the game, and stuffing pie and chips like it’s going out of fashion. Arguments can often ensue when a female partner wants to join in the fun. In many way, the perfect partner for the average football fan is one who actually dislikes football – that way, the guys will be free to support their team without any ‘interference’.”

How many people have you seen on a night out who go out as a couple and end up arguing? That is just life. Generally, couples and days out together do not mix. It only takes a snidey comment from one partner in front of the other partners friends to light the blue touch paper and it all goes up.

Saying that though, a football loving bird is sometimes a massive coup for some men. Sometimes, it is quite amusing to let the woman tear apart a friend’s football theory and their only comeback is “she’s a girl, what does she know about football?”.

I know many of you will be banging your heads against the wall right now, telling me I’ve missed the point. This is obviously a tongue in cheek piece, mildly mocking each football club, using small anecdotes about each club to validate the facts in some way. I must have had a sense of humour by pass this morning though, because it just isn’t funny.

Being a girl and writing about football is tough. Horribly tough. If you have an opinion on anything which is traditionally male, the response is usually to get back into the kitchen and have a sandwich, or people view you with massive suspicion. The only way to gain any respect as a female writing about football, in my opinion atleast, is to write about football topics that men want to hear about. On the pitch formations, transfer speculation, history of the club. Those kinds of subjects always go down well. Topics like what Takitall wrote today only add to the argument that girls really know nothing about football.

Written by Nicole Carroll

July 27, 2010 at 10:08 am

We’ve won it one time…

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WE’VE WON IT ONE TIME…the Xtep cup, We’ve won it one time.

Yes it was a massively momentus day for Blues fans yesterday as took home our first silverware of the season in the shape of the Xtep Cup following our 3-2 victory over Hong Kong XI.

Goals from Scott Dan, Craig Gardner and Garry O’Connor sealed the win for the Blues, in which we saw the first glimpses of new signings Valles, Foster and Zigic.

Whilst on this tour, we’ve actually been spoiled with some brilliant coverage. Blues have been writing their own match reports and treating us to free videos of match highlights and Blues landing in Hong Kong. Similarly, local paper Birmingham Mail have two journalists in the shape of Colin Tattum and Andy Walker covering the action.

Part of this included a live blog yesterday during the match, which was played at 8am English time. Events like this are good for fans who can’t be close to the action, but it does amaze me sometimes some of the comments made by fans. Once Blues had gone 2-1 down, the moaning started. People were claiming that on this form we wouldn’t survive in the Premier League, we desperately need new signings, the performance just isn’t good enough etc etc. Although there are questionable comments made during any event like this, it does give fans the chance to ask questions of the local media and to get a feel of what is happening on tour.

I know its not the majority of fans, but eventually I had to give up with the live blog and just follow updates on twitter. If anything, a win is a bonus in a pre-season friendly. This was just a chance for players to get a run out (in very hot conditions apparently). Pre-season form really has no bearing on how a team will perform in the league – we had a poor pre-season last year, yet had a storming Premier League campaign. I would rather Blues have average performances, avoiding injuries and just building stamina, rather than going into full league mode before it is necessary.

I’m not sure if other Blues fans thought it, but how much better does the home shirt look whilst playing? I really was very undecided about the shirt, but on it is actually pretty smart and different to any other shirt I’ve seen this season. I would even consider buying one now, which is a massive departure to my feelings on the shirt previously!

Blues have two further games on this tour, one on Wednesday and one on Saturday, and Birmingham Mail shall be live blogging again. If you want to follow the action, it is all available over on

Written by Nicole Carroll

July 19, 2010 at 11:31 am