COS contributor Nick Gregson-Jones looks at the stunning start to the season at St Andrews and two players who have been instrumental in keeping relegation candidates in the right half of the table.
When Lee Bowyer and Barry Ferguson were signed this summer for Birmingham, a few eyebrows were raised by fans, but the veteran pair have silenced many critics and helped Birmingham reach the top half of the table after 17 games.
Before the start of the season Birmingham City were one of the favourites to get relegated. Many pundits said the squad wasn’t strong enough to compete in the Premier league.
Birmingham have started the first half the season strongly with their experienced squad, and Bowyer and Ferguson have been a major reason behind this.
When Barry Ferguson, 31 was signed for Birmingham this summer, there were instant critics saying he would be a major flop for Birmingham City. This was probably due to his previous spell in the Premier League with Blackburn in 2003/04 where he suffered with injury problems and failed to impress. Ferguson was sold back to Ranger the following season.
The Scottish veteran has been an integral part of Birmingham City’s team this season, where he has been commanding in the heart of the Birmingham midfield. Ferguson has helped link up play and made Birmingham an attractive team to watch this season.
Ferguson was dropped from the Scotland starting eleven against Iceland back in April due to a well publicised ‘drinking session’ with Allan McGregor after the defeat to Holland. Ferguson hasn’t played for Scotland since this incident, but has even been tipped to be recalled to the Scottish national team due to his good form for Birmingham.
Ferguson told BBC Sport, how his move back to England has benefited his career:
“I’m loving my football here,” he added. “It’s the first time in a long time that I’m enjoying my football. I couldn’t have settled any better.”
Lee Bowyer, 32 was another signing by Alex McLeish which was questioned by fans and pundits this summer, but the player has gone on to ‘wow’ fans with his impressive form this season, in which he is currently Birmingham’s top goal scorer with five goals in the league.
Bowyer was wanted by Birmingham a few years before; He didn’t join the club due to a petition made by the fans, against him being signed because of his bad reputation.
Bowyer joined the club last season on loan and helped the club secure promotion.
When Bowyer was brought in on a permanent basis this summer, it was still questioned by many fans, this due to Bowyer’s behaviour on and off the field.
Bowyer began his football career as a schoolboy with Charlton Athletic. He first drew attention in 1994, when he and teammate Dean Chandler failed a test for cannabis use. Both received lengthy bans but Bowyer went on to become a first-team regular, making 58 appearances for Charlton and scoring 14 goals.
In 1996, Bowyer was signed by Leeds United manager Howard Wilkinson for £2.8 million, which was a record for a British teenager. Later the same year, Bowyer was convicted of affray and fined £4,500 following an incident in a McDonald’s restaurant in London in which CCTV footage showed chairs being thrown and a staff member of Asian origin was racially abused.
Bowyer was in the spotlight again when he and teammate Jonathan Woodgate were charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent and affray to an Asian student who suffered severe injuries.
In April 2005, Bowyer was in the media spotlight again after an on-pitch brawl with teammate Kieron Dyer in Newcastle United’s Premiership match with Aston Villa. This resulted in a red card, plus an automatic three-game ban, for each player. The Football Association fined Bowyer £30,000 and imposed an additional three-game ban, and the club fined him six weeks’ wages; Dyer was not fined as Bowyer was perceived to have thrown the first punch.
Bowyer commented on his ‘bad boy’ name to ‘The Sun:’
“Hopefully people are starting to realise I’m not this animal that some have made me out to be.”
He added: “Everybody in the entire world has made mistakes but I don’t know why people seem to always mention my name.
Since Bowyer’s arrival at Birmingham this summer, the midfielder has pleased many with his battling performances and box to box running. Bowyer has also surprised many with his goal scoring, as he is currently Birmingham’s top goal scorer with five goals so far.
The midfield pair have both matured under the blues manager Alex McLeish and are playing arguably their best football with Birmingham, and helping the club fight against relegation and maybe push on for more.