January 23, 2015 by bluenosebible
By Luke Turner
After scraping past non-league side Blyth Spartans in the FA Cup Third Round, Birmingham City were handed a Fourth Round tie against Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion. The match will be the first between the two at St Andrews since their Premier League meeting in March 2011. The Baggies ran out 3-1 winners that day.
Birmingham will be hoping to replicate their fine league form since Gary Rowett has arrived at the club whilst Albion, under recently appointed boss Tony Pulis, will be looking to build on their four game unbeaten run. Pulis has won two and drawn one of his opening three games without conceding a goal in the process. His arrival has also helped Saido Berahino, a transfer target for various Premier League clubs, regain his early season form. His four goals in the 7-0 demolition of Gateshead were followed up by the winning goal against Hull City as Pulis quickly helped the Baggies claim some morale boosting victories. Monday nights draw away at Everton has set his side up nicely for the short trip to St Andrews.
The occasion will be marked by the return of former Blues players Craig Gardner and Ben Foster. The two played a crucial role in the clubs first major trophy triumph for nearly fifty years as Alex Mcleish’s side defeated favourites Arsenal in the Carling Cup Final at Wembley. Gardner, a lifelong Brummie, joined Blues in 2010 from arch rivals Aston Villa and straight away made himself a St Andrews legend. His extra time winner against West Ham in the Carling Cup semi-final was just one of his many fine moments in the Royal Blue shirt. Goalkeeper Foster was magnificent in the 2011 Carling Cup final pulling off some outstanding saves which earned him the man of the match award. One player most are forgetting about is Boaz Myhill. The Baggies number two spent just one season (2011/12) at St Andrews but it proved to be a memorable one. Chris Hughton’s side enjoyed a run in the Europa League and, also, made it to the Championship Play Off Semi-Final. The Welsh stopper was an ever present in the league side but, unfortunately, injury prevented him from appearing in the play-offs.
Whilst the cup can be seen as an opportunity for ‘fringe’ players to get minutes under their belts, matches like this deserve respect and I expect two strong sides to be fielded. Gary Rowett is set to make one or two changes to his Birmingham side but, certainly, not as many as were made in the Third Round and the Blues will be no pushovers against the Premier League side. The fixture could see a debut for new on-loan Blues winger Lloyd Dyer who is eligible after he arrived at the club from Watford earlier this week. Tony Pulis has also stated that he will field a strong eleven for the tie which I am sure will please Albion fans who would love a cup run.
It wasn’t long ago since the two clubs were competing against each other in the Premier League and, hopefully in the near future, we will see this fixture played regularly in the top flight again.
I am sure that the game on Saturday will prove to be a fascinating tie and it is one that fans didn’t want to miss. St Andrews will be a sell out and West Brom will be supported by 5,500 travelling fans. It was a surprise to see that the game wasn’t selected for live television coverage but I’m pleased that the two clubs and both sets of fans are treating the tie with the respect it deserves.
Birmingham’s rivalry with West Brom may not be as fierce as it is with Aston Villa but, nevertheless, it is still a derby and one that both sides would relish a win in. Blues v Baggies, Rowett v Pulis, the return of Gardner and a packed St Andrews. I for one can’t wait.