West Ham United return to the scene of their darkest hour tonight, determined to banish bad memories of relegation. Two years ago a 2-2 draw at St Andrews consigned the Hammers to the drop and the loss of an entire generation of academy recruits.
Joe Cole, Jermain Defoe, Michael Carrick and Glen Johnson all moved on and Alan Pardew was recruited to rebuild. He has fulfilled his brief.
"We are ninth and want to push on," said Pardew yesterday. "For our fans there is the memory of the relegation at St Andrews and it will mean a lot to the team to get a result. I am still carrying players who were there when the relegation happened. For someone like Christian Dailly, I am sure he will be very emotional on the day."
Birmingham are now struggling. Their manager, Steve Bruce, may well look for new attacking talent in January, given the poor form of Walter Pandiani and Mikael Forssell. Emile Heskey is battling to overcome a knee injury in time to play tonight.
Bruce said: "Our midfield is good and well covered now people are coming back to fitness. But we've got to look at the situation at the back in January. Up front is also an area we've got to look at. Scoring goals has always been a problem."
Damien Johnson, Neil Kilkenny, Muzzy Izzet and Kenny Cunningham all return to the squad tonight after being rested for the Carling Cup match at Millwall last week, which Birmingham won on penalties.