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Mad Men Pt 2 – The Middle Men

Bowyer discusses tactics with team mate Kieron Dyer

Bowyer discusses tactics with team mate Kieron Dyer

We’ve already looked at the mad men who populated Birmingham’s defence so now it’s time to turn our attentions to the midfield and forward areas.

It has to be said that Birmingham had no less an embarrassment of riches in this department and some memorable names graced the more advanced areas of the park, often electing for the comfort of an early, solitary bath time.

Kenny Burns has already been mentioned in dispatches, as has Archie Gemmill, yet these hard men appear as mere pussycats in comparison others.

One man who will long live in the hearts of all Blues fans is Robert “Hoppy” Hopkins. Hoppy was one of those rare souls who played for the Blues, Villa and Baggies in his time, but his heart was always with the blue boys.

Hoppy calmly selects another victim

Legend: Hoppy calmly selects another victim

In  two stints, 1983-86 and 1989-91, Hoppy played 205 matches and scored 33 goals. He started at the Villa and used to wear a Blues badge under his Villa shirt, such was his love for the club. Never one to take a prisoner when death or decapitation was a possibility, Hoppy left in a justifiable huff after Lou Macari cruelly left him out of their Leyland Daf Cup final triumph of 1991.

Not that Blues were ever short of tasty midfielders of Villa extraction. European Cup winner Des Bremner made the short trip across the city in 1984 to rejoin ex-Villa manager ‘Rough’ Ron Saunders at St Andrew’s.

In the following five years he helped Blues get promotion to the old First Division, then relegation to the second and third divisions before buggering off and leaving Blues in the mire. He did manage to re-design a few shins while at Blues and scored a paltry five goals between bookings.

Around the same period Blues had MIck Harford to elbow a few defenders and ‘Rough’ Ron’s team were reknowned as ‘a bit physical’. Good stuff for the fans though. Howard Gale was a fairly fiery Scouser who liked to a have a little nibble at opponents on occasion but he didn’t last that long at Blues.

Lily about to commit assault for Blues

Lily about to commit assault for Blues

It was a bit of a barren spell for mad men in a Blues shirt, especially in midfield, until the arrival of Robbie ‘Lily’ Savage from Leicester City in 2002. This was one of Steve Bruce’s most inspired signings.

Lily was the type of player you’d hate to play against but love to play with – an absolute nutter – and a hero with the crowd. Unfortunately Robbie’s maths was a bit awry and he fell out with fans when he claimed a move to Blackburn meant he would be closer to his parents…in Wrexham. Predictably, Savage scored against the Blues on his return with Rovers in 2007.

Damien Johnson, a firebrand Northern Irishman, joined Blues to inject a bit of madness around the same time as Lily, ironically from Blackburn. his fondness for a ruck and never say die attitude have kept him as a firm favourite with Blues fans and up to 2008/09 he was club captain.

One of the greatest ‘mad’ signings was that of World Cup winner Christophe Dugarry in 2003. The wayward Gallic genius managed only 30 appearances for Blues but undoubtedly saved them from relegation in 2003 wih five goals in 15 games and some touches of genius. He left in 2004 for ‘family reasons’. He was as mad as a carrot, shouting at everyone and shrugging his shoulders constantly. For this and saving us from relegation he will always be a hero at St Andrew’s.

Dugarry milks the Blues faithful

Genius: Dugarry milks the Blues faithful

Not content with our compliment of nutters, current manager Alex McLeish has excelled himself in pursuit of a fearsome midfield. Lee Bowyer was signed on loan in January 2009 and duly got sent off twice before the end of the season. In the close season McLeish, perhaps fearing Blues were getting a bit soft bought Rangers firebrand Barry Ferguson and was enquiring about Joey Barton.

Imagine lining up against those three and perhaps Lee Carsley or Damien Johnson backing them up? We await further developments but one can rest safe in the knowledge that Blues will finish plenty of games with no more then 10 men for at least another season.

I cannot wait.

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