Many people, religiously follow Birmingham City and Birmingham City History. Therefore, it is almost coincidental that the origins of this Football Club were from a church. Moreover, its home stadium has been named after a former church.
Birmingham City History
The club started with Small Heath Alliance (a tribute to its hometown) as its name when it was established in 1975. Almost ten years later, the club obtained its professional status and was allowed to start competing officially in the Second Division that had been formed newly but had been granted in 1892.
The first league championship was won back in the former ground of the Club – Muntz Street. In the season of their triumph, the club had played 22 matches and scored 90 goals. However, because the system is known as a ‘test match’ they were not granted promotion. However, they were able to overcome this about one year later.
Later in 1905, the name of the Club became Birmingham. Then within one year, the club made various significant relocation plans as it finally completed its move to St. Andrews on time for the Boxing Day match with visitors, Middlesbrough.
The match was played in heavy snowfall and ended goalless for each side. However, the goal nets of the ground had been christened roughly three days on as Benny Green put up an exciting goal show. And for his efforts, he got a piano as his reward.
Then four years later, the club got its first full-time team manager in Bob McRoberts. He was stated largely due to the administrational intervention of Alec Wilson and Alf Jones until the former footballer retired from active soccer just before the First World War started.
Known as the heartbeat of the community, no one was surprised that the club had supported home soldiers as the ground – St. Andrew’s – was used as a rifle range created for soldiers to train. On matchdays, it was a home for servicemen who were injured and given complimentary tickets.
There was a brief suspension of football because of the 1915 – 1920 conflict, while the Blues commemorated their return as they finished in the third position in the Second division ahead of getting a promotion for its second Championship victory in 1921. The club reached its first final of the FA Cup about ten years later as they were about to record 18 seasons back-to-back playing in the First Division.
Around this time, the stock of the Club began to increase stratospherically, with the club – Birmingham City (in 1943, the suffix was attached) had Joe Bradford, the legend coming to play for the club, roofing panels were erected onto the Tilton Road and the Railway End stands, including the foreign opponents that were playing for the first time at B9 just as Spanish club – Real Madrid were thrashed 3-0 during a friendly exhibition football match.
The Second World War once again interrupted the Football League while the Kop got bomb bombardments, as the Main stands – then working as a Fire department – got burned down. Numerous ingenious efforts were made for the show to continue just like other previous tournaments as the club secured one more second-tier championship in 1948.
As the divisional status of the Club continued to stir fans and football enthusiasts, Birmingham City made it to their second final of the FA Cup in 1956. Then at that time, the Club moved to adopt its current theme song – Keep Right On.
Further efforts to rebuild the club included constructing a new Main Stand midway around the 1950s while an inaugural floodlit football match saw the club’s 1956 encounter with Borussia Dortmund. This match had a final score line of 3 – 3 and was another achievement in the continental exploits of the club. Then at an earlier point in that year, the Blues became the first club in England to participate in any European contest, as they beat Inter Milan as they moved to the Semi-final to play against FC Barcelona during the Fairs Cup challenge.
The pioneering achievements and exploits of the club got another addition in 1960 as the Blues made history as the first English club to make it to the final of the European championships as they lost to their previous foe in the last four. However, they later got to this stage one more time in 1961 as AS Roma beat them to become the champions of Europe.
Then, it was inevitable that the club would soon get its first major title, as this came most sweetly through the final of the League Cup in 1963. Playing against their Second City foes in a two-legged match, the club who were former legendary goalkeeper, Gil Merrick side managed, were able to win by 3-1 on aggregate.
Furthermore, the club witnessed more exciting performances under Freddie Goodwin and Stan Cullis as they flirted with silverware, as many rival clubs pointing the club as a serious rival to their plans preferred to value their best assets. Both strikers Bob Latchford, and the first player worth a million pound – Trevor Francis, were able to pool the funds together in the 70s before ten years of the club hanging on the seesaw.
A promotion, a relegation, another promotion, and then two consecutive demotions within a space of three years meant that the club had been consigned to division three for the first time since it was established. But, as only befitting to the players who wore the popular royal blue, the players were spurred on by adversity to make sure that they do not last for a long time in the English third division. The club even had the talent to win two Football League titles on several occasions to the surprise of more than 50,000 die-hard fans.
While moving up, the Blues sets its sights on the English premiership which was just formed newly, as they put on four deadly assaults for promotion through the play-offs after the season. All of this took place at a St. Andrew’s ground that had been massively reconstructed to become the lovely stadium as we know it today. And to ensure that the Club “Kept Right On,” according to their theme song, the fourth and last of these which occurred in 2002 automatically took the Blues to the coveted promise land.
Steve Bruce, the then manager owed it all to the brave and confident youth valour as shown by Darren Carter, a true blue. He converted the penalty that won the match after a tense shootout with Norwich City at the Millennium Stadium at Cardiff. This match at the capital of Wales also meant that the Blues were able to exorcise the haunting memories of losing to Liverpool on this exact venue during the final of the Worthington Cup a year ago.
The Club would carry out a period of revenge against Liverpool during the first out of three topnotch seasons in the top-flight, at which they were able to beat their close neighbors four memorable times. However, a fourth run in the top-flight saw the Club getting relegated back to the Championship, but this was short-lived as Steve Bruce helped the club secure an instant return back to the top-flight. Then again, in 2009, Alex McLeish was able to repeat this feat.
Furthermore, the Scotsman was able to perform another miracle as he saw the Club achieve their highest finish in the league for almost 50 years. Then again, the club added to this milestone with another stellar performance that meant that the 2010/11 class would be forever immortalized. On a stellar Sunday, in February 2011, the Blues defeated Arsenal (who were hot favorites) to life the Carling Cup. The win over Arsenal was their second major triumph at the famous Wembley Stadium which had over 30,000 Blues supporters.
The League Cup triumph was followed by the accomplishment of being in the Europa League, as the club (despite playing again in the Championship) were able to make their mark at away matches in Europe. But, the most stellar performance that came from the club was the exciting win over the Belgium side – Club Brugge, as Chris Wood netted a goal in the 100th-minute mark as if to reward the undying support of the loyal travelling fans.
While late goals at crucial matches in the game are always treasured, the Blues seemed to have specialists who know just when to score late goals. There were no other late goals that had been more emotionally important as the close-range header from Paul Caddis that saved the club from getting relegated back to League One during the closing part of the season 2013 – 14. This, however, started a long list of unflattering events but enthralling survival quests, including the 2017 guidance of Harry Redknapp.
At this time, in the middle of the Sky Bet Championship of the 2021/22 season, as Lee Bowyer, a former player took charge as the club’s Head Coach, there have been tremendous innovation and investment injected by the ownership of the Club. This new resurgence is currently fueling progression and positivity which many rivals in the game seem to be envious of.
Birmingham City Crest
Of all the popular club crests in the English league, the ‘globe’ of Birmingham City Football Club is among the most recognizable club emblems. But, this had only been officially adapted and consequently patented in 1972 by the football club. However, before then, the club had previously used two crests.
The first crest goes as far back as 1905 when it adopted the coat of arms from the City of Birmingham as its official football emblem.
This happened right around when the name of the club was made Birmingham after they had ditched the “Small Heath” moniker. However, this emblem was barely printed on the shirts.
It was in the 1970s that the club had adopted their next crest when the overlapping letters -BCFC – were displayed in the middle chest area of the jerseys adorned by players like Bob Latchford and Trevor Francis.
This present sports design was first made official in 1972 after there was a design contest held by the Sports Argus newspaper to create the club’s new badge.
The winner of the badge design contest was Michael Wood, a fan of the club. Wood was a resident of Burntwood and worked in the West Midlands Gas Board as a conversion engineer.
His design uses a globe and ball image drawn with a line, as a ribbon carries the name of the club and its foundation date, in simple blue and white colors.
The design details had been made known to people in the official magazine of the club with the date – 25/3/72. It said: “This is the new club badge of Birmingham City which had been created by Michael Wood, an Argus reader.”
“The jerseys will be worn by the players in the coming season and the badge will also be printed on ties and blazers of the club.
“The final design had been selected from a lot of entry designs in an exclusive contest that Argus had designed.”
The Commercial Manager of the club at that time, Geoff Greaves, had said: “The design is a modern emblem and is a unique deviation from the usual designs that we see every day.”
“This is a futuristic design and mixes the concept of the globe and the exploits of the club in European football which was what the fans of the club are looking forward to.” Whereas this design had been successfully adopted by 1972, the jerseys never had it until the season of 1976/1977. The club, however, tried using a colored globe and ball emblem in the early parts of the ’90s. However, it wasn’t long before the club went back to the usual version of the design.
The anthem of the club
“KEEP RIGHT ON TO THE END OF THE ROAD”
For all die-hard fans of the blues, it is a usual feeling to stand on the terraces at St. Andrew’s and scream along to “Keep Right to the End of the Road” until you have a red larynx.
This is a song that you have always song from your early days, just like your father, and probably his father, this is a song that you were put on the earth to sing!
For over 60 years, the fans of the Blues have proudly belted out the notes of KRO both during bad and good times, but have you ever taught for once why we sing this song?
What is the actual origin of the song and how was this tune adopted as the theme song of the club? How this came to be is better explained by Eric Partridge…
This started in 1870 in Edinburgh at the time that Henry Lauder, the eldest out of eight children, had been born into a poor home. At the age of 12, his family became orphaned, which gave Harry no alternative except to take jobs in the local factory flax mill to make a living.
In his early teenage years, he had to survive the uncomfortable conditions working in the coal mines which was where he had started to sing to elevate his spirits.
He had a talent for singing and his fellow workers at the coal mine pleaded with him to take part in a local singing competition. This led him to be invited as a singer in the smaller hall of music. He had a rapid rise when singing in the vaudeville arena, as he had established himself quickly as a comedian with a lot of talent, the songwriter/singer had eventually become the entertainer with the highest pay during his day.
During the First World War (1914-1918), Harry had worked tirelessly as he had recruited performers and had been able to bring together parties to perform live for British troops that were serving overseas.
Then in 1917, his biological son, Captain John C. Lauder died while fighting at the Somme.
Then Harry had obtained a letter that was sent in by a serving soldier who had been around his son as he was being killed, explaining that he was a great leader, who at the time of dying, had told the fighters to keep on fighting, saying – ‘carry on’!
Emotionally affected by what had been told to him, he had been inspired to put to words, the anthem which is now the official theme song of the Blues.
Even though his son had been killed, Harry kept performing and also brought public attention to the effort about the war, while concluding every one of his wartime performances by chanting “Keep Right On…” throughout the following years, the song became known as a classic Scottish anthem.
Harry carried on his singing performances well around the halls of music both at home and overseas. However, sadly, at 79 years old on 26th February 1950, Sir Harry Lauder died, leaving a legacy of numerous music and fine Scottish tunes.
Nearly six years on around January 1956, the memory of Sir Harry had been revived unexpectedly when on the road for a match against Leyton Orient for the FA Cup fourth round, the entire Blues squad was singing in high tone – a typical pre-game ritual that had been instigated by Arthur Turner, the team manager, to calm the player’s nerves before any big matches.
The legendary winger of the Club in the mid 50’s – Alex Govan tried to remember that time “As soon as we won against Albion in the FA Cup fifth round, we were drawn to play in the quarter-finals against the mighty Arsenal, which in those days wasn’t as easy a prospect either,” explained Govan who died at 86 years old in June 2016.
He continued, “We had made it out of our hotel located at Hendon for a short trip to Arsenal, Highbury. Then typically, as usual, just several minutes into the trip, we were lifting the roof off with our voices!
I recalled singing several favourite Scottish tunes, one of these had been “Keep Right On to the End of the Road.”
What Alex did not know back then was how such a random and simple song would become a tribute for the club and immortalized by various generations of loyal Blues fans to this day.
“Len Boyd, the skipper had kept busy singing, ‘Any Old Iron’ and then, the gaffer had shouted down the coach for Alex to give them a song. I agreed to contribute to the chanting team spirit I once more, served the team with the song, “Keep Right On to the End of the Road.” This time, other guys in the team joined me in the chorus. Then one after the other, the rest of the team understood the words. So, we kept on singing the song up until the whole coach was shattering as we stopped just outside Highbury!
“I can recall, the coach we had boarded was an old school with the seat windows wind down. The day was pleasantly warm so everyone had brought their windows down and were fully screaming out the song, “Keep Right On.”
Just then, the fans of the club that were outside the stadium could hear our voices as we were some streets away from the stadium! They too had heard the words to the song and continued singing even as they alighted from the coach.
“The song must have got some magical effect because we beat Arsenal 4-0 that day,” said the prolific winger as he remembered several years after the journey of the Blues to Wembley!”
Soon as the next round was over, Arthur Turner, the boss of the Blues, never one to show his feelings, admitted being moved greatly by the reception of the fans and explained that the passion that the song had created as it was rendered both pre-game and in-game was highly instrumental to Arsenal losing 1-3 at home for the Blues to travel to Hillsborough to face Sunderland in the semi-finals.
About this time, more fans of City had understood the words to this song and has motivated a rampant side to run off with a victory of 3 – 0 against the Black Cats. This means that they have booked their place in the final match at Wembley which they haven’t done since 1931.
On May 5th, during the finals, “Keep Right On” made the list of songs schedules for community singing, a tradition at the time before all matches, however, to keep things balanced, “She’s a lassie from Lancashire” also made the list of songs to taunt Manchester City, their opponents at the time.
Nevertheless, the noise from the Blues fans trying to motivate team players – Govan, Brown, and Boyd with typical songs from the famous lyrics of Sir Harry Lauder’s song had failed to propel the favourite team this time. Sadly, they were defeated 1 – 3 and the cup had made its way once again to Manchester City.
Govan, born in Glasgow, had been snapped up from Plymouth Argyle to the Blues for £6,500 in June 1953. He was also promised a home besides his sign-on fees. Govan himself went on to score on his debut match and scored eight goals by the end of the season. He was paired alongside the productive Eddy Brown, a prolific top striker Peter Murphy – a title-winner in Division One, an ex-winger from Plymouth Gordon Astall, and with Welsh national Noel Kinsey, the forward line of the Blues had the most class compared to any other clubs in the defunct Second Division. Every one of these five players scored goals in double figures as Birmingham won the championship during 1954 – 55.
Around 1956/57, Alex scored 30 goals to become the highest goal scorer in the club with all competitions. He had also scored over five mesmerizing hat-tricks – a really impressive feat, especially for a midfielder.
Right before dying in 2016, Alex will never miss the chance to watch his beloved ex-club on TV and regularly visited St. Andrew’s on both matchdays and non-matchdays. He even was active up until he died. He once admitted to feeling slightly choked, when he once heard the fans belt out the now historic ‘Keep Right On to the End of the Road.’
He recalled that some words to the song have been changed as against his days, but he admits still feeling intensely emotional as the song still brings back those days of happy memories, not just of the FA Cup of 1956, but also reminded him of the excellent team fighting spirit which the team had back in his playing days.
As the years rolled by, the opening lines to the song ‘Keep Right On’ had been certainly changed to suit Birmingham City more as a competitive football club. Also, certain lines within the song have been modified with time, however, whatever slight change there might be, this is still an excellent song that was put together by the talented Sir Harry Lauder to commemorate his son. This always made Alex cry each time he hears the song being sung.
The same way that “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” will always be linked to West Ham fans, in the same way, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” will be associated with Liverpool fans, in the past 60 years, the song “Keep Right On” is now synonymous with Birmingham City fans and is now seen throughout the global football world as the official theme song of our beloved club.
However, in 1956, Alex Govan, an ex-winger with the Blues never knew that his spontaneous singing of the song composed by Sir Harry Lauder on their way to Leyton Orient will later in the future immortalize his name and cement his massive contribution to the proud history and heritage of the Blues. And rightfully so, Alex – KRO!