Birmingham City FC: The Ups and Downs of an Illustrious English Club
Birmingham City FC History and Highlights.
Founded in Birmingham, Birmingham City FC is a professional football club in England. The club has an illustrious history, founded in the 19th century. With many highs and lows throughout its history, one of the unforgettable moments in the club’s history is its League Cup final victory over Arsenal, who were the favorites to win the cup in 2011.
The Beginning; 1875 – 1943
The original club was founded in 1875. At the time, it was known as Small Heath Alliance. By 1877, the club had started playing its home games at Muntz Street, which served as the home ground at the time.
By 1885, the club had attained professional status, and within three years, in 1888, it became the first football club to have a board of directors and attain the status of a “limited company.” This development also came with a name change, as the club’s official name became Small Heath Alliance F.C. Ltd.
Evolution Through the Football Alliance and Football League
Starting from the 1889/1890 season, the club played in the Football Alliance, a league that ran concurrently with the Football League. This arrangement was in place until 1892, when the club and other teams in the Football Alliance were invited to compete in the newly formed Second Division of the Football League. Small Heath would win the League but failed to get promoted to the First Division.
Entry to First Division
While Small Heath had finished as second division champions, it still failed to make it into the First Division. The reason is that, at the time, there was a test match to determine promotions. Unfortunately, small Heath didn’t win this match and, as a result, continued the next season in the Second Division of the Football League.
The team finished second place the next season but won the test match over Darwen this time. This was how Small Heath got promoted to the First Division for the first time.
The Early 1900s
The early 1900s were bittersweet for the club.
The period was sweet since the club had moved onto its new home ground, St. Andrew’s Ground, in 1906, after changing its name to Birmingham Football Club the previous year.
But Birmingham Football Club could not sustain the pressure of playing in the First Division and was relegated in 1908 to the Second Division. The club played in the Second Division until the end of the First World War.
After the First World War
The First World War stopped football from 1915 to 1920, when Birmingham Football Club returned to its winning ways. The club finished third in the 1920 season, and the 1921 season saw it win its second title in the second division, earning it promotion to the first division.
Following this promotion, Birmingham Football Club would remain in the First Division for 18 consecutive years before its relegation in 1939. This was before the suspension of the Football League during the Second World War.
First FA Cup Final
In 1931, during its run in the first division, the club made its first F.A. Cup finals appearance. However, it lost the final 2-1 to West Bromwich Albion, a Second Division club at the time.
Successes of the Post-War Era
Back into the First Division
Following the restart of club competitions after the Second World War, the club changed to Birmingham City FC in 1943. It appointed Harry Storer as its new manager in 1945. He saw the club to the semifinal of the first post-war F.A. Cup competition and a win in the Football League South Wartime League.
The club then won its third Second Division title in 1947 and regained its spot in first division, where it would remain until 1950.
After that, Birmingham City FC didn’t play in the First Division again until the 1954/1955 season, when they won the Second Division again and got promoted to the First Division.
Creating European Records
During this era, the club created many records for playing in European Football. Birmingham City FC was the first English team to play in European competition when they featured in the first Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1956. In this cup, they reached the semifinal before losing to Barcelona 2-1 in a replay match after playing a 4-4 draw.
Birmingham City FC was also the first English team to reach a European final. But, unfortunately, it would only finish as runners-up when it lost to Barcelona in the 1960 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final 4-1 on aggregate.
The team also finished runners-up of the 1961 edition after facing a 4-2 defeat to AS Roma on aggregate.
Finally, Birmingham City FC made history as the first English team to beat Inter Milan at the San Siro in the semifinal of the 1961 edition.
The club didn’t win its major trophy until 1963, when it beat Aston Villa, 3-1, in the 1963 League Cup final. After that, it would stay in the First Division for another ten years before facing relegation in 1965.
1965 to 2007
This part of Birmingham City FC’s history featured many financial transactions involving players and changes in the club’s leadership and ownership.
1965 saw a businessman, Clifford Coombs, assume the role of Chairmanship at the club. He brought in Stan Cullis, who took Birmingham City FC to the semifinals of both the 1967 League Cup and the 1968 F.A. Cup.
The Million Pound Player
Freddie Goodwin succeeded Stan Cullis, and he took Birmingham City FC back to the First Division and the semifinal of the F.A. Cup. The club made history as the first team to receive one million pounds for a player when it sold Trevor Francis to Nottingham Forest. This was on the back of its relegation into the Second Division in 1979.
The poor fortunes of the club started from this point, and in April 1989, the Kumar Brothers bought the club.
The new ownership almost marked the beginning of good things for the club when it won a promotion back to the First Division. However, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International collapsed, and because this bank backed all of Kumar’s businesses, the club, alongside other Kumar businesses, went into receivership. The liquidator of the BCCI put up its 84% holdings in Birmingham City FC for sale in November 1992.
The holdings were bought four months later by David Sullivan. Unfortunately, this change of ownership started badly, and the club faced relegation to Third Division in the 1993/1994 season.
However, things did turn around, and a change of manager saw the team back in the Second Division the following season after completing a lower-league double by winning both the Third Division title and the Football League Trophy.
The club got to the 2001 F.A. Cup final and lost to Liverpool on penalties under another coach. It wasn’t until the 2001/2002 season that the club secured its promotion to the Premier League under Coach Steve Bruce.
The Modern Era
Birmingham City FC’s ownership changed in 2007 when a businessman from Hong Kong, Carson Yeung, bought a 29.9% stake in the club. This stake made him the largest single shareholder.
Following this, the club finished 9th in 2009, their highest finish in the Premier League in 51 years. The club also won the 2011 League Cup final against Arsenal, and qualified for Europa League, despite getting relegated that season.
Birmingham City F.C. Honors
The following are the honors won by Birmingham City FC throughout its history;
- Second Division Champions in 1892/1893, 1920/1921, 1947/1948, 1954/1955
- Third Division Champions in 1994/1995
- F.A. Cup Runners-Up in 1930/1931 and 1955/1956
- Football League Cup in 1962/1963 and 2010/2011
- Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Runners-Up in 1959/1960 and 1960/1961
- Football League Trophy Winners in 1990/1991 and 1994/1995
- Birmingham Senior Cup Winners in 1905
- Football League South (wartime league) winners in 1945/1946