February 20, 2016 by Shane Ireland
By Shane Ireland
A place and three points off the play-offs, 15 games remaining – isn’t too bad, is it?
Birmingham City are in with a shot at promotion to the Premier League. A return to the big time after a five-year absence.
It might not quite transpire with a win at Wembley on May 28th, of course, but Blues have a chance, and the prospect of Gary Rowett’s side sneaking into the Championship top six is a feasible one indeed.
Hopes and dreams carry a lot of weight in football – fans latch onto a possibility of glory – and with Blues just a win away from the coveted spots, those ambitions remain very much alive.
Back in August the general feeling from the St Andrew’s faithful was a leaning towards mid-table, a top-eight place maybe, a genuine play-off push unlikely – but after a splendid showing so far, that doubtful sixth position is becoming more of a reality.
Blues have been as high as second this season and, although arguably a false position in truth, any side which reaches the very upper echelons of the table must be encouraged and believe in themselves that they can mount an assault on the top six.
Fellow promotion hopefuls Hull City, Burnley and Middlesbrough are yet to visit B9 this campaign and although those fixtures will no doubt offer a greater challenge than when playing so-called ‘lesser’ sides, Blues’ record against the division’s leaders shows that proposition of those matches is to be relished.
While Birmingham have stuttered on occasions against the Championship’s basement boys – goalless draws at Bristol City and more recently Rotherham United spring to mind – Rowett’s side have been most expressive when taking on those around them.
Barring the 2-1 defeat at home to fifth-placed Sheffield Wednesday earlier this month, Blues dominated in 3-0 wins against Derby County and Ipswich Town and last year gained very credible points away at Burnley and Middlesbrough.
Playing those around you in the table can help gain valuable ground on them, but every fixture from Tuesday’s visit of Bolton Wanderers to the final-day clash in Cardiff is as important as the one before.
Blues have a chance, a real opportunity, to throw financial clout out of the reckoning (Diego Fabbrini aside, of course) and carve themselves a fighting chance of a lauded return to the Premier League through sheer determination, teamwork and excellent leadership.
The majority of the squad was brought together on a budget far lower than that of the side’s promotion competitors and Blues’ plucky charge for the top six represents a success story even if it ultimately ends in failure.
The circumstances off the pitch serve only to complicate matters but as a club, Birmingham have managed to put that to one side and concentrate on the football which has seen them climb to seventh.
Back in 2012 when Chris Hughton’s play-off bid as manager was halted in the semi-final by Blackpool, Blues were unlucky not to reach Wembley after a terrific season which brought with it fond European memories.
This time, many would fancy Birmingham if they got to the same stage.
There’s still a long way to go and plenty of twists and turns on the horizon no doubt, but whatever the outcome, this has been a prosperous season for Birmingham City Football Club.