Carson Yeung, the Hong Kong businessman whose takeover of Birmingham City is becoming ever more protracted, was due here yesterday to watch the club's first match of the post-Steve Bruce era. He did not turn up. Maybe he knew better.
Against a Portsmouth side whose own manager, Harry Redknapp, has been enthusiastically touted for the vacant England post, Birmingham's caretaker manager, Eric Black, who may yet be joining his old boss at Wigan, found himself replicating the misjudgement of another former No 2 in midweek after gambling on a goalkeeper.
Once again, it was Croatia's Niko Kranjcar who contributed to the damage. Black's decision to give the Ghanaian, Richard Kingson, a first Premier League appearance in place of Maik Taylor, who played for Northern Ireland in Spain on Wednesday, went horribly awry soon after the half-hour as the 29-year-old – who had only previously played two Carling Cup games – let a shot from Sulley Muntari roll under his body for an unwarranted Portsmouth lead.
And Kingson's discomfiture was compounded in the 82nd minute when Kranjcar drove home a free-kick high across and past him from well outside the box. "Hands up," said Black. "I picked him for the team on merit. Maik had been on international duty, and I thought Kingson had been looking good. He's made an error, and no one is more disappointed than he is."
Black remained neutral about his prospects of taking over permanently, and about the prospect of working under his old Aberdeen team-mate, Alex McLeish, following reports that Birmingham, having been turned down by Spurs' ex-manager Martin Jol and the man who led Italy to the World Cup, Marcello Lippi, have sought permission from the Scottish FA to approach the Scot. Redknapp, characteristically, was more forthcoming.
Although he played down the suggestion that he might become England manager – "I don't think so. I've never really expected to be offered it" – he became animated on the subject of those who have apparently turned down the possibility. "To be a Premiership manager is a dream, but to manage your country is an even greater dream," he said. "But I can't see any English manager turning down the offer if it was made. You'd almost have to be a traitor, wouldn't you?"
The St Andrew's faithful voiced their own views on managerial issues midway through an energetic but largely uneventful first half as the cry went up: "We want Mourinho." They could have been forgiven a touch of jaundice after the ludicrously muddled events at the club in the previous week.
The Singing The Blues fans website currently offers numerous agonised comments – "Only at the home of BCFC could this farce happen... what a sorry mess," reads one entry, while another contributor reflects: "I fear the worst – or is that being too optimistic?" Any cause for optimism was given a hefty boot after 34 minutes as Liam Ridgewell's intervention to dispossess Benjani Mwaruwari on the edge of the box unwittingly set up Muntari for a near post shot which eventually rolled past his fellow Ghanaian.
With 16 minutes left, Birmingham's frustration grew as Ridgewell, of all people, burst past Sol Campbell into the box, only to be dispossessed by a sliding tackle from Noe Pamarot. Within three minutes, Ridgewell had driven home a shot from the edge of the box, only to be ruled offside. It seemed unfair.Reuse content