23. Mar, 2022


I loved the 80s, but on reflection I feel 1983 and 1984 were my favorite years. It was a vibrant time for many, although life must have been tough for the 2 million poor souls who were unemployed and the coal miners who were having their livelihoods decimated by sweeping pitt closures.

It was a period when Synthesized music ruled the pop charts. Spurred on by the success of The Human League's Don't You Want Me Baby a host of new acts enjoyed great success. Solo singers Nik Kershaw and Howard Jones were joined by The Thompson Twins fronted by Tom Bailey, Kershaw's "Wouldn't it be good" was one of my favorites. Mum loved Matthew Wilder's "Break My Stride" ,another cracker. As was Wang Chung's "Dance Hall Days" My chart was topped by two belters, "Every Breath You Take" by The Police and "Africa" by American band Toto. I heard recently that "Every Breath" is the most played song in radio history.

Only Fools and Horses was capturing the public's imagination, as was Deirdre Barlow's affair with Mike Baldwin in Coronation Street. They even flashed out the final outcome on the Old Trafford scoreboard. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE SCORE, LOOK AWAY NOW. DEIDRE STOPPED WITH KEN.

Things were pretty good in our family. Along with Nan Winnie we had some cracking family holidays. In 83 and 84 Weymouth was our favourite destination. We had a fun packed agenda on the South Coast. Playing on the beach, setting out to sea in our dingy. Seeing Jimmy Tarbuck and Cannon and Ball play Bournemouth's Winter Garden Theatre. Dad and I went to watch Weymouth play Barnet in the Gola League (now National League) Barnet were managed by Barry Fry, I wonder what happened to him? We even met a former Birmingham City player. One day we entered a sports shop, I think I wanted something for my Subbuteo set. A very pleasant Scotsman served us, the conversation jogged on to football. and which team I supported" "oh Birmingham City, I used to play for them." came the joval reply. The gentlemen's name was Jim Dailiey who did indeed play for the Blues in the early 1950's. Jim was pretty useful as it turned out, one season he was the clubs top scorer. Although his best days were with Sheffield Wednesday and Workington Town. He once scored all of Wednesday's goals in a 5-1 win over Barnsley and scored 81 goals for Workington, who were then a Football League club. Funny enough Dad, grew up in nearby Whitehaven when Jim was playing for the Cumbria club.

However, 1984 was also the year I suffered my biggest disappointment as a Blues fan, I actually thought we would win the FA Cup. We had another cool kit then, made by French leisure ware firm Patrick. The traditional royal blue shirt had a white collar, two circular pin stripes ran down the length of the shirt with the badge in the middle. I had my own Patrick shirt, purchased from a local market. The standard white shorts were topped off with red socks. Blues manager Ron Saunders introduced the red socks to vanish the St Andrews curse. Legend had it that a group of gypsies lived on the wasteland that St Andrews was built on. Incensed by the eviction, the travelers placed a curse on the ground. A century of failure had followed leading many to believe the curse was real. Saunders was one of them and consulted a local church to exercise the curse. They recommended the red socks and the souls of the players boots to be painted red. In edition a Crucifix would be placed on each of the St Andrews floodlights. Ron Saunders was not the last Blues manager to take measures to beat the curse. A decade later, Barry Fry urinated near the four corner flags, It is true, I am not taking the ..

The kit was worn by a pretty notorious set of footballers. Although not in the Peaky Blinders league, the early 80s Birmingham City side could certainly look after themselves. The hard core consisted of goalkeeper Tony Coton, defenders Noel Blake and Pat Van Den Hauwe, midfielders Robert Hopkins and Martin Khul and striker Mick Harford. The group were rowdy young working class lads who had a series of fights. Night Clubs in Broad Street and Taxis on the Tyburn Road seemed to be the usual venues of mayhem.

Nevertheless this lot could actually play. Our cup run began with a tricky Third Round tie at Sheffield United, Blues captain Billy Wright scored a penalty in a 1-1 draw.. Three days later the Blades were beaten 2-0 in the St Andrews replay. Another Wright penalty and a goal from Harford booked a 4th round trip to Sunderland. The run looked like ending as the home side led 1-0 with 10 minutes remaining, however goals from Khul and Harford silenced the Roker roar. The winner was particularly sweet for Harford who was returning to his hometown. Maybe the red socks had done the trick, what gypsies curse. Our name was finally on the cup! A feeling that was reinforced following a 3-0 win over West Ham in the 5th Round. A St Andrews crowd of 29,570 saw goals from Hopkins .Tony Ress and another Billy Wright penalty saw off the Hammers.

After the match a riot started and Hopkins exchanged blows with visiting fans. Robert Hopkins was also a massive Blues fan, he attended the horrendous 1975 FA Cup Semi Final replay defeat to Fulham. Hoppy was planning to buy a ticket for the second replay when Fulham scored their last second winner. Despite been signed by Aston Villa as a teenager ,he wore a Blues tracksuit going into training.

In the Quarter Finals we were handed a home tie against Watford, the Hertfordshire club had enjoyed a meteoric rise. Under the chairmanship of rock superstar Elton John and the shrewd management of Graham Taylor the Hornets had risen from the Fourth Division to the First Division in 5 years. The previous season they had finished First Division runners up to Liverpool. However, this season was proving more tricky. Star Striker Lurther Blissett had departed for AC Milan in the Summer and Watford were now marooned in mid table. But they still had the prodigious talent of 20 year old winger John Barnes in their ranks. 

Watford spotted Barnes playing for Sudbury in the Middlesex league. Three years later he had blossomed into the most exciting young player in England. Blessed with sublime skill and explosive pace, Barnes was the man to watch. Nevertheless hopes were high, we had beaten Watford 3-0 at home in the league and were on a 8 match unbeaten run. As The Weather Girls sang about Raining Men, Cyndi Lauper informed us that "Girls just wanna have fun" and Nena regaled us with the strange tale of 99 Red Balloons. Cup fever hit the blue half of Birmingham, life long fans were flying in from Australia. I did not go, the hooliganism factor had put us off. I listened to the game on Radio 2, in those days we had second half commentaries from the fantastic Peter Jones.

But 40,022 people did pack into St Andrews on Saturday March 10th 1984, it remains the last occasion the old ground hosted a 40,000 plus gate. We were dealt a blow when regular left back Jim Hagan failed a fitness test. Rookie full back Mark McCarick was handed the task of keeping Barnes quiet.  But mid way through the First Half Barnes struck. Steve Sherwood's long goal kick was headed clear by Noel Blake. The clearance fell to Barnes. The left winger turned and put the ball through McCarick's legs before hammering a shot into the roof of the net, a superb goal. Minutes later Barnes crossed for Nigel Callaghan who side footed home, however the goal was disallowed following Mo Johnston's foul on Coton. Then poor McCarick was left spinning again as another Barnes cross was headed over by George Reilly.

Blues were fortunate to be just one down at the break, but were a different animal in the early stages of the second half. The home side were level on 50 minutes following brilliant play from Hopkins. His surging run and cross was bundled into the his own net by Watford defender Steve Terry. Our tails were up, commentator Alan Parry told Match Of The Day viewers "St. Andrews is buzzing, for the first time in years." Moments later Harford's volley was saved by Sherwood. However, it was the Hornets who delivered the telling blow. With 10 minutes left Les Taylor's well struck shot flew past Coton (who later joined Watford) and into the net. A Barnes tap in made it 3-1 and the dream was over. I did shed a tear, the last time I cried following the result of any football match. You soon learn there are more important things in life.

The game marked the emergence of John Barnes (pictured in the cover photo, tormenting the Blues defence). In the Semi Final he set up the winning goal as Watford overcame the brave resistance of Third Division Plymouth Argyle. A scintillating run and cross was headed home by Reilly. The Hornets were beaten 2-0 by a resurgent Everton in the final.. A month later he scored a famous goal in England's 2-0 victory over Brazil in Rio.. The Maracana Stadium was stunned as Barnes dribbled his way past 4 Brazilian defenders before scoring. Sadly the goal proved more of a curse then a blessing. Understandably Barnes was never able to live up to such standards in a England shirt and became the target of the Wembley boo boys. He did however play in 2 World Cups and enjoyed a stunning club career with Liverpool. Graham Taylor also endured a difficult spell with The Three Lions. He became England manager in 1990 but was sacked following failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup.

Birmingham City fell apart following the Quarter Final defeat. A derby victory win over Aston Villa was their only win in their remaining games, a run that saw them relegated. The returned to the top tier 12 months later. But in January 1986 they were beaten by none league Altrincham in the FA Cup 3rd round. Alty won 2-1 at St Andrews, the winner came from a Robert Hopkins own goal. Ron Sanders was sacked the following day. In 1984 Elton John had a big hit with "I guess that's why they call it the Blues." Tell me about it.