Harry Redknapp may have been around the managerial block a few times but that didn’t stop the 70-year-old from jumping for joy at Ashton Gate like a 17-year-old following the completion of Birmingham City’s escape act.
The Birmingham manager leapt around with a boyish enthusiasm when referee Lee Mason blew the final whistle, signaling the end of six minutes of stoppage time and confirming the lowly Championship club’s immunity from relegation following a fraught season.
Clearly relieved, Redknapp was able to celebrate wildly thanks to Che Adams’ first-half goal which proved enough to give the Blues a second win in the three games under his auspices since he arrived at St Andrew’s following Gianfranco Zola's resignation.
“The buzz is fantastic when you get a result like today,” Redknapp said. “It’s exciting. Let’s be honest, I don’t feel as though I’m anywhere near like I’m 70 years old.
“It was a long six minutes. It was a fantastic feeling when he put the whistle to his mouth. It was tense, hanging in there when they were hitting us with the long balls but we kept getting our bodies in the way.
“The last time I experienced a six minutes like that was probably the play-off final with QPR at Wembley when we were hanging on for grim life with ten man against Derby, getting bombarded but the outcomes were similar.”
Redknapp showed he relishes the big occasion. In front of a 25,404-strong audience, the biggest crowd Ashton Gate has seen in 37 years, Birmingham quickly showed they were in no mood to go down without a fight and Redknapp’ team set the tone for a dominant all-round show with a bright opening.
The 20-year-old Adams, described as a “young player with big potential” by Redknapp, was only in the squad after his red card in last weekend’s 2-0 win over Huddersfield was rescinded, and he proved he was worth the trouble from the word ‘go’.
He was twice thwarted by on-loan Schalke 04 goalkeeper Fabian Giefer, in for the injured Frank Fielding, before he struck the game’s decisive blow in the 16th minute.
Lukas Jutkiewicz sent Adams racing towards the panicky Robins defence and he successfully pick-pocketed the hesitant Aden Flint before cleverly planting a low shot beyond Giefer to give his team a 16th minute lead.
The fact on-loan Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham’s only notable contribution of the first half was to nod Jacques Maghoma’s shot off the line summed up Birmingham’s dominance as goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak did not have to make a save of note.
It meant the club owners’ bizarre decision to sack Gary Rowett and hire Gianfranco Zola when Blues were in contention for promotion did not backfire. but this impressive performance will have many fans still wondering what might have been following two wins in 24 games under the Italian.
“I don’t know what the problems were but they found another yard from somewhere,” Redknapp said.
“I’ve tried to make them confident and believe in themselves., tell them how good they are. That’s all I’ve said really, given them pats on the back. They have worked hard on the training so we worked together as a team.”
As for his own future with Birmingham, he remains open-minded. “It depends on everything,” he said. “It’s difficult. I’ve got a good situation in my life; I’m not chasing work.
“I’ll have a chat and see what their ambitions are. If they are ambitious and want to go somewhere and have a go next year then I’d be interested. But I don’t know what their plans are. They might have someone else in mind. Honestly, I haven’t discussed anything with anyone. Lets have a chat and see what plans they have got."
For his part Johnson added: “The bit that disappointed me was the flow to the game. The minute scored, it was interruption after interruption but it was a difficult game to officiate on. We tried everything we could to get a goal but Birmingham defended with their lives.”
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