Lady brings the Blues out of their deep slumber

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The Independent Online
WHEN Barry Fry was the manager at Birmingham City, he did not always see eye-to-eye with his boss, but it was clear within a few moments of Vanessa's Day With Karren Brady (C5) that the old wheeler-dealer had passed on at least one lesson to his erstwhile chief executive. Vanessa Feltz's first stop was Brady's home, where she gave us all a guided tour, and the only excuse you could think of for much of the stuff hanging on the walls was that Barry must have taught Karren everything he knew about buying lots of overpriced rubbish.

A cheap shot, perhaps, but then, if Brady isn't used to those by now, she is in the wrong job, and on this evidence at least, quite the opposite is true. In the modern footballing world, a successful chief executive needs ruthlessness, determination and an ego the size of the main stand, and the CEO of the Blues has all three in abundance - the ego in particular. When she arrived at St Andrews, it was a sleeping giant. Four and a half years later, it is a roaring monster, and the only shame is that the rampant growth of Brady's self-belief has not been mirrored by either the team or the stadium.

In fact, Birmingham have a side to match their ground - half-finished. This could be glimpsed if you peered beyond the trademark Feltz froth and the girlie chat as the pair cruised a few shops and did a bit of lunch before moving on to the office, and Vanessa's first football match (a 0-0 draw, unsurprisingly enough). To be fair to both, this was clearly an atypical day for Brady, who admitted to taking just three days' maternity leave when her daughter was born a couple of years ago, while Feltz, one of the queens of daytime telly, never claimed to be Jeremy Paxman. And superficial though it all seemed, there were plenty of moments which said more about Brady than an in-your-face interview ever could.

Her attitude to the lowlier members of her staff, for instance, leaves something to be desired ("Kevin? Is that the old guy with the moustache?" she asked at one point), but overall, Brady emerged from the encounter very well, if only because you could see why so many football people dislike her. It is not so much that she is very young and very female, but rather the pin-sharp business brain, which is prepared to look long and hard at the cosy way clubs used to administer themselves, and then slap it until it wakes up. Sexism, perhaps, is merely a convenient smokescreen, but even close to home, it is something she cannot escape. "She's doing very well," one fan said, "for a woman", and that was the lowest blow of all.

Aston Villa fans, of course, will point out that Birmingham are still in the First Division, and are likely to remain so for another season at least. However, City did at least have a ball to themselves in the draw for the fourth round of the Cup (ITV/Sky Sports), which was conducted with rather less gravitas than in the days of Bert Millichip and that chap with the blazer and wrap-around hair.

Kevin Keegan and John Toshack had the task of sticking their arms into the ball-juggling machine, and neither could resist the role of bingo caller when a suitable number appeared. On Radio Five Live later, a caller objected that their flippancy detracted from the solemn business of the draw, but when Graham Kelly and David Davies are involved in something, you really have to accept what light relief you can find. Then again, you could always simply imagine the smug grin on the face of the Newcastle chairman, when the Magpies came out after Stevenage, and then think how he must have looked when he realised it might not be a home tie after all.

Thanks to the admirable efforts of Coventry City, there was no chance that either Keegan or Toshack might be accused of arranging a cushy home tie for their former side. The problems at Liverpool, and specifically in their defence, were among the topics discussed on Turnstyle (C5), and you can only suppose that the guests have heard one joke too many about the number of people who watch - or even receive - the new channel.

Harry Redknapp delivered a thorough, unforgiving - and very well- informed - judgement on the situation at Anfield, which would have sounded unusually forthright from any Premiership manager. But this was not just any manager. This was the one whose son plays in Liverpool's midfield. Does Roy Evans get Channel 5? Will Jamie still be there this time next year? If the response to the first question is yes, you would not want to bet on the answer to the second.

An even better question is what drives people like Tony Bullimore to set sail for a patch of the Southern Ocean so remote that an Australian Navy frigate going like a 'roo on speed takes several days to get there. This, sadly, was not even briefly addressed in the 999-style reconstruction of his miserable time in an upturned yacht, Miracle At Sea (ITV).

We were warned that "some of the scenes have been reconstructed", and so they had - the one at the beginning, the one at the end, and apparently everything in between. And whatever the indignities Bullimore may have suffered while awaiting rescue, none, surely, could match the experience of lying on a shelf in a mock-up of his boat while an off-screen teccie threw buckets of water into his face. After that, you can hardly blame him for seeking the solitude of the open sea.