Tag Archives: Birmingham City

Premier League Files: Jordon Mutch

Premier League Career: Birmingham City (2010-2011), Cardiff City (2013-2014), Queens Park Rangers (2014), Crystal Palace (2014-PRESENT)

Jordon Mutch’s career has stalled in recent times. Still on the books at Crystal Palace, Mutch will be hoping that his persistence will pay off, having turned down the chance to move on-loan to Championship clubs this summer. His best spell in the Premier League was during Cardiff City’s single season dalliance at this level in 2013-2014.

From Derby, Mutch began his football career in the youth system at his local club and built a close working relationship with the Rams’ Academy director Terry Westley. They would link up again in the summer of 2007 when Mutch decided to ditch Derby for Birmingham, where Westley had gone as Academy director earlier in the calendar year. There was interest from Aston Villa and Liverpool FC but Mutch wasn’t going to turn his back on taking his development to a club that might not give him the opportunities to progress.

A year later, he made his first-team debut as a substitute in a League Cup tie at Southampton. He became Birmingham’s second-youngest debutant of all-time, aged 16 years and 268 days. The only Birmingham player to have featured at a younger age was the first £1 million footballer, Trevor Francis. Loan spells would follow at Hereford United, Doncaster Rovers and Watford.

2011 was Mutch’s big breakthrough at Birmingham. He made his debut in the Premier League in January, playing all 90 minutes at Old Trafford against Manchester United. The Red Devils’ won 5-0 but it was an afternoon that Mutch will look back on with pride. Days later, he signed a three-year extension to his contract which had been due to run out that summer.

He stuck with the Blues’ despite their relegation to the Championship but with the club experiencing a transfer embargo and having just lost manager Chris Hughton to Norwich City; Mutch was sold to ease financial worries. He joined Cardiff City for an undisclosed fee. This meant he would work under Malky Mackay again. Mackay had been manager at Watford when Mutch had a loan spell at Vicarage Road. A persistent foot injury would keep him out of action for five months. However, Mutch did get himself fit to play the final eight games of the season as Cardiff gained promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their history.

Cardiff’s first Premier League away victory was one of Mutch’s finest Premier League moments. In the 92nd minute, he struck a spectacular winner away to Fulham in September 2013. His 25-yard strike ensured the Bluebirds’ achieved their first win away from home since November 1961. His individual performances were brilliant. He scored seven times, including two goals in a home defeat to Liverpool FC. He hasn’t scored a Premier League goal since Cardiff’s relegation.

Cardiff went down but Mutch’s performances were enough for Queens Park Rangers to pay the Welsh club £6 million on the eve of the 2014-2015 season. He started the opening day defeat to Hull City but failed to settle in west London and would eventually move to Crystal Palace towards the end of the January 2015 transfer window. QPR were able to recoup £4.75 million of the transfer fee they’d paid Cardiff from Palace.

He has featured 40 times for Palace in all competitions but has struggled to breakthrough regularly into the first-team at Selhurst Park. He joined Reading on-loan in the second part of the 2016-2017 campaign but didn’t do enough for the Royals’ to be tempted to fork out a permanent deal for the midfielder. In August 2017, he turned down loan moves to Bristol City and Burton Albion in an effort to establish himself in the capital.

Current evidence would suggest he might need to reconsider his thoughts on moving for the good of his career. All he can do is work hard in training and hope former England manager Roy Hodgson takes a chance on him.

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Premier League Files: Geoff Horsfield

Premier League Career: Birmingham City (2002-2003), West Bromwich Albion (2004-2006)

Geoff Horsfield was one of those players who would always give a workmanlike effort. His hold-up ability and talent to back into defenders allowed his strike partners to get onto the end of decent opportunities. Horsfield’s career has been through a varied rollercoaster of emotions; from the joy of helping Birmingham City to the Premier League in 2002 to a battle with testicular cancer six years later.

His Football League breakthrough came as a teenager at the now-defunct club Scarborough before being released in 1994. Geoff had to earn his living then in part-time football with the likes of Witton Albion and Halifax Town whilst holding down a job as a bricklayer. A serious knee injury whilst in the non-league briefly threatened his longer-term football career but Horsfield would never let adversity get him down. After helping Halifax return to the Football League, he joined Fulham for £300,000 in October 1998 who were managed at the time by Kevin Keegan.

There was an immediate impact at Craven Cottage. Fulham won the Second Division title by 14 points and Horsfield was voted into the division’s PFA Team of the Year after chipping in with 15 goals from 28 games. Before leaving to take the England job, Keegan made a bold prediction: “Geoff’s your old-fashioned centre forward and we love him. He will score goals in the next divisions. He chases a lot of lost causes.”

Keegan’s successor, Jean Tigana disagreed and sold him to Birmingham City in July 2000. Horsfield proved the Frenchman wrong, featuring in the 2001 League Cup final and scoring the equaliser in the 2002 First Division playoff final against Norwich City which saw Birmingham promoted to the Premier League for the first time.

He will always be fondly remembered by Birmingham supporters for his contributions in the two Second City derbies in the 2002-2003 campaign. He capitalised on a dreadful mistake from Alpay to score the third goal in Birmingham’s 3-0 victory over Aston Villa at St Andrews. That was his first goal at this level. Six months later, he beat Peter Enckelman to a loose ball to score the second goal in a 2-0 win at Villa Park to ensure a famous league double for Birmingham as they finished a creditable 13th in their first season at this level.

However, he was slightly frustrated about his lack of starts in the top-flight and moved on in the closing days of the 2003 August transfer window, eventually to Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion via a brief unhappy spell at Wigan Athletic.

On signing Horsfield, Gary Megson suggested: “I actually went out on a bit of a limb by saying to the chairman that I think [Horsfield] would get us promoted … I think he just gave us that little something that was missing in getting hold of the ball, a little bit of cuteness up the front that enabled us to bring other people into the game.”

Megson was correct with his view. Geoff scored seven times and helped West Brom back to the Premier League at the first attempt of asking. 2004-2005 would see him have another go at the top-flight.

It started slowly for both player and club but Geoff became a Baggies’ cult figure forever with his impact on ‘Survival Sunday’ in 2005. Going into the final day of the season, none of the bottom four were safe and two points adrift of safety, it was West Brom who were the bookies’ favourites for relegation. By now, Bryan Robson was in charge and he left Horsfield on the bench for the crucial match against Portsmouth. The scoreline was 0-0 when Robson decided early in the second half to bring Horsfield on.

Within seconds, he had scored with his first touch to haul West Brom ahead and out of the bottom three. Kieran Richardson added a second goal, set-up by Horsfield and when Crystal Palace conceded late at Charlton, the party could begin. West Bromwich Albion survived and Horsfield later admitted this was the best achievement of his football career, despite the promotions he’d achieved with Halifax, Fulham and Birmingham.

He started 2005-2006 with this confidence, scoring twice against Portsmouth again and adding another against former club Birmingham but that was to be his last goal in the Premier League. He was loaned to Sheffield United in February 2006 and although he was a member of the Blades’ Premier League squad of 2006-2007, he never played for the club at the highest level.

In October 2008, Geoff revealed he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer and was advised to retire from football. After successful treatment, he returned to the game with spells at Lincoln City and Port Vale. After doing some coaching with the latter, he walked away from football completely in May 2012 to pursue his business interests.

He was a no-nonsense footballer and there is no doubt that Geoff Horsfield left his mark on the Premier League chapters of both Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion.

Iconic Moments: Derby nightmare for Enckelman (September 2002)

In September 2002, Birmingham City and Aston Villa faced each other for the first time in the Premier League era. There was plenty at stake and it was more than just three points too. Birmingham led 1-0 through a Clinton Morrison strike but there was all to play for with just 15 minutes remaining. Then, step forward one of the most bizarre goals in Premier League history.

Villa defender Olof Mellberg takes a throw-in and throws the ball back to his goalkeeper, Peter Enckelman. The Finnish goalie makes a complete meal of a simple opportunity to trap the ball and start a fresh attack. The ball rolls underneath his foot and trickles all the way into the back of the net. Enckelman puts his hands on his head as Birmingham supporters rejoice in their delight.

Geoff Horsfield later adds a third goal and Birmingham go onto win four of their first six Premier League encounters with their rivals in the Second City. Enckelman now works as a field sales executive for DHL. Earlier this year, he was asked whether he knew he’d touched the ball on its way into the net. He said: “The actual truth is I’m not 100 percent sure. I’m 90 percent sure I didn’t touch the ball, but I couldn’t swear I did.”

It gave us a derby moment in Premier League history that is rarely forgotten.

The Managers: Alex McLeish

Premier League Clubs Managed: Birmingham City (2007-2008), (2009-2011), Aston Villa (2011-2012)

The Midlands and especially, the city of Birmingham dominated the management career of Alex McLeish in the Premier League. The Scot was a huge success in Scottish football but his English spell wasn’t so rewarding. Despite winning the League Cup in 2011 with Birmingham City, two relegations and an uneasy season at Villa Park in 2011-2012 meant it was an unfulfilling experience in the top-flight for McLeish.

Early Scottish success

As a player, McLeish was a central defender for Aberdeen during their own monopoly of Scottish football in the 1980s. He scored in the 1983 European Cup Winners’ Cup final over the mighty Real Madrid and made 493 appearances for Aberdeen across 16 seasons. His performances saw him voted Scottish Player of the Year in 1990 and it led to international recognition from Scotland on no fewer than 77 occasions.

McLeish’s first management role came at Motherwell where he made the final appearances of his playing time. Under his guidance, the Lanarkshire club finished second to Rangers in 1995 but he was unable to build on this and in the next two campaigns, relegation battles followed. He left Motherwell in 1998 to take over at Hibernian.

McLeish arrived too late to stop the Edinburgh side sliding out of the top-flight but he guided them straight back into the Premiership and soon consolidated Hibs into a comfortable, attractive side to watch. He even managed to tempt the likes of former French international Franck Sauzee to Easter Road. Hibernian finished best of the rest in 2001 behind the Glasgow dominant Celtic and Rangers combination. The latter had noted his good work and at Christmas time in 2001, he was chosen by Dick Advocaat as his future successor.

Stopping the Celtic steamroller

Any doubts about McLeish’s appointment by Rangers supporters were instantly quelled. Although the title was always going to go to Martin O’Neill and Celtic long before his arrival in 2001-2002, McLeish did preside over a domestic cup double against the old enemy. The likes of Barry Ferguson, Peter Lovenkrands and Ronald de Boer made swift contributions as Rangers swept the board in 2002-2003. McLeish was keeping the winning tradition going at Ibrox. How they wish they had these days back nowadays…

Another title followed in 2005 and also under his guidance, Rangers reached the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, becoming the first Scottish side to get through the group stage since the competition’s reformation in 1992. However, Celtic had bounced back and regained the grip on Scottish football. With fan pressure growing, McLeish stood down in the summer of 2006.

After a brief hiatus from the game, he took over as manager of his country in January 2007. Under his reign as Scotland manager, the Scots stunned France in Paris to beat them in qualifying for the 2008 European Championships. Sadly though, a defeat in Georgia ended any realistic hopes of a first major tournament finals’ appearance in 10 years. A loss to Italy in the final round of games ensured Scotland’s brave failure was complete.

Days after the Italian defeat, he resigned and took over the vacancy at Birmingham City which was left open after Steve Bruce went to Wigan Athletic. His chapter in English football was about to begin.

Highs and lows with Birmingham

McLeish’s debut match as Birmingham manager was a memorable one. Sebastian Larsson’s stunning strike helped the Blues’ to a 3-2 away win at White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur. They briefly climbed to 11th in early March but a poor run of results towards the end of the season ended with the team’s relegation to the Championship, despite beating Blackburn Rovers 4-1 on the final day of the season.

Things did improve. An immediate promotion back to the top-flight followed and then, he produced a sound 2009-2010 campaign which saw Birmingham finish an impressive ninth; their highest finish in over half a century. Among the achievements was a club-record 12-match unbeaten run in the top-flight and the Manager of the Month award for December 2009.

In 2010-2011, expectations were therefore fairly high and there was a victory over champions Chelsea, plus creditable home draws with Liverpool FC and Manchester United. In February 2011, Birmingham stunned favourites Arsenal at Wembley Stadium to win the Carling Cup 2-1. However, a nightmarish run followed in the Premier League. Just two wins in their last 11 matches saw the club relegated for the third time in just over five years. Birmingham’s plight was confirmed by a 2-1 defeat on the final day to Tottenham Hotspur.

The board wanted to keep McLeish in charge but in June 2011, he controversially resigned from his position via e-mail. Five days later, he liked the Midlands so much; he stayed in the region and became Aston Villa boss. Protests were held outside Villa Park on his appointment. He was not the fans’ popular choice. McLeish signed Shay Given and Charles N’Zogbia on his arrival. Neither signing would ultimately work out well. Villa did remain unbeaten until mid-October but there was never any comfort in the role, or a great brand of football being played by his team.

Chelsea were beaten 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on New Years’ Eve but just four wins were achieved all term at home and relegation was avoided by a mere two points. His contract was terminated by Randy Lerner after defeat at Norwich City on the final day consigned Villa to a lowly 16th-place finish.

Since then, Alex McLeish had the briefest of spells at Nottingham Forest (7 games) following by stints working in Belgium and Egypt. Alex McLeish has experienced the highs and lows in football management. His teams weren’t the prettiest to watch but they were very successful in his homeland. It didn’t quite work out though in England.

Premier League Files: Nicky Butt

Premier League Career: Manchester United (1992-2004), Newcastle United (2004-2005), (2006-2009), Birmingham City (2005-2006)

Part of the young talent that were dubbed “Fergie’s Fledglings,” Nicky Butt enjoyed a lengthy and fruitful Premier League career, winning six Premier League titles at Manchester United. He is back at the club where he received his big break helping today’s youngsters in the academy as well as being one of the five ‘Class of 92’ owners at Salford City FC.

The midfielder turned professional in 1993 but he had already made his Premier League debut by then, appearing as a late substitute in Manchester United’s 3-0 victory over Oldham Athletic in November 1992. It wasn’t until the 1994-1995 season though that the Old Trafford faithful got to see Butt play on a regular basis.

Roy Keane and Paul Ince were the main central midfielders at the time but with Paul Parker injured and Gary Neville still an emerging talent, Keane was often asked to deputise as a right-back. That meant Butt got more opportunities than expected and when Ince departed in the 1995 pre-season for Serie A with Inter Milan, Ferguson elected to draft Butt into the team on a regular basis as Ince’s replacement.

Goals were not a crucial part of Nicky’s game. Instead, his job was to be the ball-winner in midfield and allow the creative talents to take control going forwards. Nevertheless, he could still chip in with the odd strike. This included a goal in the opening minute of a fixture with Liverpool FC in October 1995 which was Eric Cantona’s comeback match after his nine-month ban for his kung-fu kick on a Crystal Palace supporter. In 1997-1998, Butt made the PFA Team of the Year and many believed this was his best season in the colours of Manchester United as he developed leadership qualities after a knee injury robbed the club of Keane’s presence for much of that season.

Although he started the 1999 UEFA Champions League final victory in Barcelona as Keane was suspended, Roy’s return to fitness, coupled with Paul Scholes dropping back into a central role meant Butt’s first-team opportunities got more limited into the millennium. As competition increased in the midfield, he realised it was time to leave the club that developed him. In January 2004, Nicky Butt handed in a transfer request. Sir Alex Ferguson admitted: “Nicky Butt has asked to leave; it is a very sad situation. Nicky has given Manchester United great service but he wants to play first-team football.”

After turning down a move to Birmingham City, Butt was signed by Sir Bobby Robson for Newcastle United in July 2004. Signing a four-year deal, he was seen as a replacement for Gary Speed who had departed for Bolton Wanderers. Robson was sacked though four games into the new season and Graeme Souness was not convinced by Butt’s performances. He signed Emre, Amdy Faye and Scott Parker and sent Butt packing on-loan to ironically, Birmingham City in August 2005.

He scored on his Blues’ home debut in a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City and played 24 times but after finding out that Steve Bruce had picked his son Alex ahead of him for an away trip to West Ham United, he walked out of the squad and was fined for his lack of discipline. He apologised and returned to the squad but Birmingham were relegated at the end of the season and he returned to Newcastle.

Butt became an integral part of the Newcastle line-up on his return and would captain the side on many occasions when Parker and Michael Owen were injured. He won over the fans’, who had been sceptical about his arrival in the first place and stayed with the club even after their relegation from the top-flight in 2009. He helped get them back into the Premier League before retiring from football.

He might not have attracted major headlines but Nicky Butt had a medal-winning career.

Memorable Matches: Birmingham City 3-0 Aston Villa (September 2002)

Goalscorers: Clinton Morrison 31, Peter Enckelman OG 77, Geoff Horsfield 83

Teams:

Birmingham City: Nico Vaesen, Martin Grainger, Darren Purse, Kenny Cunningham, Jeff Kenna, Paul Devlin (Darryl Powell 79), Damien Johnson, Aliou Cisse, Robbie Savage (Bryan Hughes 87), Clinton Morrison (Geoff Horsfield 69), Stern John

Aston Villa: Peter Enckelman, Ulisses de la Cruz, Alpay, Olof Mellberg, Steve Staunton, Ronny Johnsen, Gareth Barry, Mark Kinsella, Jlloyd Samuel, Juan Pablo Angel (Darius Vassell 45), Marcus Allback (Dion Dublin 45)

Referee: David Elleray, Attendance: 29,502

This was the first meeting in the Premier League between these Midlands rivals and the first Second City Derby in the top-flight since 1986. It would turn out to be an evening that Birmingham City fans will remember forever and one that Peter Enckelman has never forgotten…for all the wrong reasons.

Birmingham had adjusted well to life in the big time. Managed by former title winner Steve Bruce, the Blues had already beaten Leeds United and came from 2-0 to grab a point at Anfield against Liverpool FC five days earlier. Graham Taylor was in the Villa dugout for his second stint in charge but his team weren’t exactly sparkling despite a home victory over Charlton Athletic last time out.

The home side were on the front foot from the opening exchanges and deservedly took the lead in the first half. Paul Devlin played a ball into the box which deflected off Robbie Savage into the path of Clinton Morrison. The Villa defenders stood waiting for an officials’ flag that never came and the forward made no mistake from seven yards out in dispatching the ball past Enckelman. That was his third goal in two matches.

There was a reaction from the visitors. Ulisses de la Cruz smashed the crossbar and half-time substitute Darius Vassell had a goal chalked off for offside after Martin Grainger and Kenny Cunningham got in each other’s way. The game was still perfectly in the balance as the last 10 minutes approached, before one of the craziest goals we’ve ever seen in the Premier League.

Olof Mellberg took a throw-in and played it back to his goalkeeper. Enckelman took his eye off the ball for a split second, miscontrolled it and the ball trickled into the back of his net. The Finn looked rather sheepish and did well not to react to provocation from some excited supporters that ran onto the pitch to celebrate the goal. Bruce’s reaction on the touchline summed it up. There was a debate on whether the goalkeeper actually touched the ball but judging from Enckelman’s reaction, he clearly did.

Moments later, another calamitous mistake by a Villa defender, this time from Alpay allowed substitute Geoff Horsfield in to score a third goal and power Birmingham to a priceless and magnificent victory. They finished 13th in their debut season and became a stable Premier League side for the next four campaigns. Crucially, they won both matches that season against Aston Villa and finished three places higher in the table too.