United were pretty dreadful during their away draw against Birmingham last season, with an own goal saving us following a dismal performance. Still, Birmingham denied Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs the three points at St. Andrews after enjoying a very successful return to the Premiership, so there was certainly no shame in dropping points there.
Kevin Ball, owner of popular Birmingham blog, Joys and Sorrows, has spoken to me about how he felt last season went and what he hopes for this season.
Scott the Red: Were you happy with your team’s performance last season?
Kevin Ball: Last year was beyond expectations, we set a new record for clean sheets and a new record for an unbeaten run in the top flight. We also had out highest finish since the 50’s.
STR: Even had you not just been promoted again, finishing 9th would be a strong finish, so you rightly should be chuffed. So where do you want to go from that this season?
KB: Hmm, difficult. I think most will be considering a mid-table finish, however the 2nd season is usually more difficult. As a result staying up is our first target. Anything beyond that is good!
STR: And who do you anticipate being your most important player in helping you stay up this season?
KB: Good question. Last year our back 5, including keeper, were amazing, but the J&S man of the season was Barry Ferguson. He was a rock in midfield who always seemed to have time on the ball. I’m sure he’ll figure this year. With a change of keepers, your old boy Foster, I would imagine that could be a difficult one so Dann and Johnson will be key again in the middle of the defence.
STR: You’ve got a former Fergie player as your keeper and another former Fergie player as your manager. How do you rate McLeish’s ability to take your club forward?
KB: Again good question, getting better all the time. I wasn’t 100% sure when we went down, but now he has really begun to prove himself. I like his manner too. He’s always prepared to give credit to the opposition and never slags off our own side – but will admit when we haven’t been good enough.
STR: What’s your favourite chant you’ve heard sung at your ground?
KB: I wasn’t there, but the “Let’s all do the Wenger” against Arsenal when the fans stood up waving their arms around.
STR: Can’t knock anyone who takes the piss out of Wenger! So, where do you think United will finish this season?
KB: First or second. It will depend on whether Chelsea can re-produce the same form as last season. If they do, you’ll be 2nd.
STR: You think? I thought Chelsea were pretty crap by champion standards, with the lowest points total since 2003. Anyway, if you could have any two players from United’s current squad playing for you, who would they be?
KB: Any of your midfield or attackers, I’m not fussy!
STR: What are your thoughts on United’s debt?
KB: I guess it’s all relative. Pompey had problems because they didn’t really have any value. United are known all over the world, and so have huge value. Having said that it must be a concern.
STR: Yeh, you could say that! So, what is your favourite game your club have played against United?
KB: Ha ha, it has to be when we were at the bottom of Div 1 in the 1978/9 season. We went 1-0 down and came back to win 5-1. I think Given did the damage for us. Failing that the 2-2 draw at your place that Jasper Carrott does one of his sketches on!
STR: What is your worst game your club have played against United?
KB: We’ve always done pretty well even in defeat, so I can’t think of one! Sorry!
STR: Alright mate. Thanks a lot and all the best for the season… apart from against us!