Thursday, 31 March 2011

Bittersweet Season for Birmingham?

Birmingham City pulled off a huge upset in the Carling Cup final last month when they defeated heavy favourites Arsenal to win their first League Cup since 1963. That was a massive achievement for the Second City club, however, their form in the Premier League has them languishing in the relegation zone. It would surely be a bittersweet season for the Blues if they coupled a major trophy win with relegation to the Championship.

With only one win in their last five Premier League games, the shine has quickly worn off that memorable Carling Cup win and Birmingham need to re-find the form that served them so well last season when they finished 9th overall.

Like many teams that get promoted to the Premiership, Birmingham's current squad are experiencing the phenomenon that is “second-season-syndrome”. Usually, after over-achieving in their first season in the top flight, teams suffer pretty badly in their second season. Why is that?

Well, if you think about it, it boils down to two reasons, the mentality of the players and the expectation surrounding the club. The players have a different mind-set in their second season compared to that of their first. When a team is promoted, there is little expectation for them to do well. In fact, they are expected to lose most of their games and to either be relegated or just avoid relegation. Therefore, the squad plays with a “nothing-to-lose” mentality that can often have very positive side effects as the team will play without nerves or the weight of expectation.

However, in a club's second season, things change drastically. The team suddenly has something to lose and is now expected to stay up. This change in expectation causes a change in the player's mentality, often producing negative side-effects that can lead to a disappointing League campaign.

The Blues are suffering from a cup success hangover
Birmingham have the squad and the manager to stay up. They are also a well supported club and have the pedigree to play in Europe's best League. However, they are currently playing like a team who believes it has done its job after winning a major trophy. With only nine Premier League games to go, including games against Sunderland, Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea, Birmingham need to start playing desperately.

I'm not sure that they can turn things around at this late stage. Other teams around them are currently playing better than they are and are finding the form that Birmingham so desperately crave.

If things don't change, this could very much be a bittersweet season for Birmingham City's fans.

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