It might be locally contentious to call them the second city’s second team, but Birmingham are no glamour outfit. Before the 2011 League Cup triumph over Arsenal they had won only one major trophy, back in 1963 – a satisfying League Cup win over haughty neighbours Aston Villa – and spent the years between 1986 and 2002 bouncing around the lower leagues and getting into financial difficulties.
Just when they thought they were getting somewhere, they followed up their recent Wembley win with a calamitous last-day relegation from the Premier League... then watched their manager Alex McLeish jump ship to manage the hated Villa.
It had all been going so well. In 2008-09 McLeish expertly guided into
the Premier League, and the year later Blues came ninth in the top
division – their best finish in 51 years. But then came relegation, the wounding loss of their manager – and ongoing speculation about the off-field running of the club. Against this background, it might be a struggle to regain their place among the elite.
Considering all this, the loyalty of their fans is worthy of praise, and when the fans belt out their anthem – old music-hall number Keep Right On To The End Of The Road – St Andrew’s feels like a truly special place to watch Blues. (Locals tend to call them "Blues" rather than "the Blues", and their city rivals "the Villa". Don't ask us.)
With a capacity of 30,000, the ageing St Andrew’s enjoys an old-school, intimate atmosphere best experience when another Midlands outfit – especially Villa or West Brom – are the visitors. The club have previously toyed with expanding into an ambitious ‘Sports Village’ or redeveloping the Main Stand, but these plans have moved slowly and are unlikely to happen any time soon.
The nearest local railway station is Bordesley, which is a 10-minute walk away. The nearest mainline stations are Birmingham New Street, Birmingham Snow Hill or Birmingham Moor Street (20 minutes walk). A taxi will cost around £6 to the ground. A number of buses run from the city centre.
If you're driving, head for B9 4RL, although parking is limited. Leave the M6 at Junction 6 and take the A38(M) for Birmingham Centre. Continue past the first turn off and then take the next turn off for the Inner Ring Road. Turn left at the island at the top of the slip road and take the Ring Road East, sign posted Coventry. Continue along the ring road for two miles. At the fourth island turn left into Coventry Road going towards Small Heath. The stadium is just off the A45.
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