December 10, 2015 by Shane Ireland
By Shane Ireland
Made in Brum’s Shane Ireland caught up with former Blues star Paul Devlin.
The winger made over 150 appereances for Blues across two spells, the first of which saw Devlin move to St Andrew’s in 1996 from Notts County.
He went on to feature heavily in Blues’ First Division campaigns, scoring 28 goals before moving on to Sheffield United in February 1998.
Devlin was recruited by renowned former Birmingham manager Barry Fry and remembers the time he spent playing under the legendary character fondly.
“Barry was fantastic,” he said. “When David Sullivan, the Gold brothers, Karren Brady and Barry came in, they really did take the club out of the doldrums.
“Barry’s such a larger than life character and you can’t help but like him.
“He was just a massive personality, he woke Blues up a bit and got them going again.
“We had some fantastic players there down the years and it was great to get the chance to play along with my two mates; Andy Legg and Michael Johnson, who I played with at Notts County.
“They were fantastic times, I went to Blues and had a good start but unfortunately only played the last 15 or 16 games under Baz.
“Then obviously Barry went and Trevor Francis came in.
“He was just a really bubbly character and he’s got such an affinity with the club even to this day.
“You couldn’t help to just want to be around him, he was just that type of character that got everyone buzzing,” he added.
The actions and tales of the Blues squad with Fry at the helm remain a hugely popular talking point to this day, and Devlin is not short of stories to tell.
Although, he thinks some should come with a content warning!
“There’s too many and the ones that spring to mind you probably couldn’t print,” he joked.
“We were staying at a hotel in Grimsby – I used to room with Michael Johnson – and in the middle of the room we could hear someone running around, banging doors and screaming.
“We went down for breakfast the next day a bit knackered because we didn’t have a good sleep, and we were playing Grimsby that day.
“Baz came down looking a bit worse for wear and asks “how did you sleep lads?”
“Not very good, gaffer,” I said, “there was some lunatic running up and down and banging the lads’ doors at 4 o’clock in the morning!”
“And he replied “yes, that was me.”
“He’d been to a party at the same hotel, got a bit drunk and decided it would be a good laugh to run up and down the corridor waking us all up in the middle of the night.
“That was just one of many stories, he even had a wee at all four corners of the ground to try and lift the gypsy curse, and Paul Tait told me that he saw Baz doing a chicken impression on the touchline after he had pulled out of a tackle.
“There are a million and one stories you could tell about Baz, he was a really fun bloke to play for.”
Under the stewardship of Blues boss Trevor Francis, who took the hot seat in 1996, and depsite finishing as the club’s top goalscorer during the 1996-7 season, Devlin moved to Sheffield United in 1998.
But after four years at Brammal Lane, he returned to St Andrew’s initially on loan in February 2002 and was part of the Blues squad which won promotion to the Premiership later that year.
Steve Bruce’s side finished 5th and after overcoming Millwall in the play off semi-final, beat Norwich City at the Millenium Stadium to return to the promised land.
Devlin, who started the match, said: “It was fantastic.”
“I’d left under a bit of a cloud with Trevor as we didn’t really see eye to eye at the time, I never wanted to leave.
“But promotion was great, I played with Steve Bruce for 18 months at Birmingham.
“His first job in management was at Sheffield United as player manager and I was already at Sheffield United, so I knew Steve really well, he was a good pal of mine and it was nice that he thought to bring me back to Blues.
“I was lucky really, we had about 12 or 13 games to go of the promotion season, we went undefeated and managed to sneak into the play offs.
“It was a fantastic time and the play off final at the Millennium Stadium is one of the most fabulous days I can remember.
“To get promoted and to score one of the penalties in front of what was a record crowd at the time for a play off final – it was just a brilliant day.
“Being a Birmingham lad and Birmingham fan as well, to be part of a team which got back into the top flight after a 16 or 17 year absence was absolutely fantastic.
“The celebrations went on for about four days afterwards, they were brilliant as well.”
You can read all about Devlin and Blues’ transition to the top flight, as well as his opinion on the current St Andrew’s crop in part two.