Birmingham City are currently members of the English Championship. In their 135 year history they have played at four grounds, with some interesting stories surrounding them.
Birmingham City were formed in 1875 as Small Heath Alliance where the club members decided that the club colours would be blue and white. This remains the same to this day with the club affectionately known as “the Blues” and their supporters referred to as “Bluenoses”.
|Small Heath FC in the early 1890’s|
Over their existence they have also been known as Small Heath, Birmingham FC and since 1943 by their current name.
They initially played their home matches on a piece of waste ground off Arthur Street in Bordesley Green, soon moving to an enclosed, fenced off field in Ladypool Road, Sparkbrook. Here they were able to charge for ground entrance but a year later they again moved to a site next to Muntz Street.
Known as Coventry Road at the time of the club's occupation, the ground has gone into the folklore of the club now being usually referred to as Muntz Street. From 1877, here they stayed for the best part of 30 years.
|Covered terrace at Coventry Road/Muntz Street|
Coventry Road / Muntz Street seemed to have been quite a substantial ground. Bordered on 2 sides by farmland, it was a field surrounded by terracing sufficient to hold 10,000 people. They built a wooden stand and increased the size of the terracing, giving a capacity of 30,000 but this was still not sufficient for the needs of a club in that boom era of football.
The playing area was notoriously bad with crevices and even potholes in the pitch. There are stories of Birmingham City being offered and accepting bribes to switch cup ties away from the ground, whenever they were drawn at home. In most cases however, when moving the matches to the opponents venues, the Blues still managed to win.
|OS map showing Coventry Road/Muntz Street|
It was clear that they had to find a new home after they played a home match against local rivals Aston Villa, where several thousand spectators scaled the walls and broke down turnstiles to get into the ground for a 1st Division match.
A new site was identified back in Bordesley Green, less than a mile away from Coventry Road, where a brickworks once operated. Here the land sloped steeply, but despite this, in less than 12 months a new stadium emerged ready for its opening on Boxing Day 1906 with a match against Middlesborough.
The weather very nearly put a stop to this first ever match at St Andrews, with many volunteers being needed to help clear snow from the pitch and the terraces.
During the 2nd World War, the Chief Constable of Police ordered the closure of the ground because of the danger from air raids. It was the only ground to be thus closed and was only re-opened after the matter was referred to Parliament.
Ironically, it was badly damaged during the Birmingham Blitz, with the main stand being burned down, but the fact that a fireman mistook water for petrol probably did not help!
St Andrews is reputed to have been cursed by gypsies who were known to have camped nearby to the site prior to the ground being built. To this end, in the 1990’s the club’s manager of the time, Barry Fry, investigated ways of lifting the curse from the ground. One suggested method was for him to urinate in all 4 corners of the pitch - whether this action was successful is debatable, but it has to be noted that fairly soon after he was removed from his post.
St Andrews has changed very much in the last few years. Now an all-seater stadium housing approx. 30,000, it is a far cry from the vast, desolate, desperate arena, which used to hold up to 75,000 people in days gone by.
A more partisan crowd than the “Bluenoses”, when in the throws of a promotion or relegation battle would be almost impossible to find.