David Gold, the Birmingham chairman, threatened to quit last night after fans turned on him and David Sullivan following the club's relegation. Chants of "the board must go" greeted the final whistle, although Gold said the verbal attack he, Sullivan and his co-owner's two young sons were subjected to in front of the directors' box went far, far further than that.
"Never in all the time I've been at the football club have I seen such a large section of the fans being abusive," he said. "You could see the hatred in their eyes. I couldn't quote a word of it. Yes, I'm talking about the minority, but what is it? Six, a hundred, a thousand? If it is the majority, I will be left with no alternative but to resign."
Gold's emotions were, understandably, running high, but then so was every emotion inside St Andrew's after a thrilling performance that meant nothing. With Fulham and Reading both winning, the players' effort was to be totally irrelevant.
That it was a brave effort, by no means lacking in quality, allowed Birmingham fans – the well-behaved majority of them, that is – to go home in the knowledge that their boys, who they barely paused in cheering all afternoon, had gone down with one hell of a fight. They were not so enamoured with the board, but Gold and Sullivan have vowed to back Alex McLeish and the manager is certainly expecting them to do so.
"There's a job to done here," said McLeish, who took over from Steve Bruce in November. "It's my plan to bring in more players. I've got to add my own stamp to the club." He agreed that an instant return to the Premiership would be more than possible – "if we play like that. I was proud of them today."
Brad Friedel, the American goalkeeper, has been one of the main factors in Blackburn's success but everyone has an off moment and here, in the 31st minute, Friedel watched in horror as David Murphy's innocuous shot bobbled under his grasp. Despite Reading's early goal there was still hope and Birmingham's dominance was enough to have sent them further ahead. Yet as so often has happened at St Andrew's, the equaliser came against the run of play.
Four minutes after the break Jason Roberts saw Maik Taylor repel two point-blank efforts. He worked the ball to Roque Santa Cruz, who in turn worked it to Morten Gamst Pedersen. The Norwegian side-footed in and the stadium fell quiet, although it was the news of Reading's second at Derby that saw the volume drop most noticeably. The Blues were down and they knew it.
Credit to the team, then, for keeping at it and credit to Cameron Jerome for overcoming the miss of this or any other season. In the 72nd minute he contrived to fire over from three yards when he had time to turn round, bend over and roll it over the line with his backside. Not 60 seconds later, he atoned by cleverly converting Sebastian Larsson's cross. Then, in the final seconds of normal time, Jerome applied the necessaries to Gary McSheffrey's through-ball. In the final seconds of injury time Fabrice Muamba headed home Mehdi Nafti's cross. It was not completely joyless. Until the unruly element began their verbal attack on the accused, that is. If only it was that simple.
Goals: Murphy (31) 1-0; Pedersen (49) 1-1; Jerome (63) 2-1; (89) 3-1; Muamva, (90) 4-1.
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Kelly, Jaidi, Ridgewell, Murphy; Larsson, Muamba, Johnson (Nafti, 73), Kapo (McSheffrey, 87); Forssell (Jerome, 69), Zarate. Substitutes not used: Doyle (gk), Parnaby.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Reid, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock (McCarthy, 81); Bentley, Emerton, Vogel (Dunn, 67), Pedersen (Tugay, 67); Santa Cruz, Roberts. Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Khizanishvili.
Referee: H Webb (West Yorkshire).
Booked: Birmingham Johnson, Larsson, Ridgewell. Blackburn Roberts, Santa Cruz.
Man of the match: Zarate.
Attendance: 26,668.Reuse content