Once upon a time, in a land so far away time itself had actually come to a halt, there was a football team called Birmingham City. To be honest, calling them a football team was pushing it a bit as they were to football what Steptoe was to scrap, but I digress. This ‘football’ team had dreams of one day playing in the greatest of tournaments, the Premiership. So they went about signing lots of has beens, some never had beens and some never bloody will be’s and – of course – Lilly Savage. The story kind of ends happily as they made it to their Shangri-la, to find out whether they hung on of course, you will need to wait for the next exciting instalment.

The ‘City’ that this ‘football’ team came from had to be seen to be believed of course. There are two things that you would pick up very quickly if you visited this mythical land. Firstly, everyone who lives there has a blocked up nose and is therefore impossible to understand, and secondly the place makes Beirut look like the world capital of culture and design. The best selling holidays for these apparently flu ridden people, are in Afghanistan. This is mainly as the property and general surroundings are so much nicer there and not because they do a good deal on Beechams Powders.

One cold grey day, much like all the other cold grey days they had, another football team arrived in town. Now this team was a real team, and Chelsea was their name. Now, if this was not a fairy story Birmingham would of course never have been allowed to kick the same ball as the boys in blue from West London. But in stories such as these anything can happen. So on this particular day the people of Birmingham (their pockets stuffed with tissues) climbed out of their skips and cardboards boxes and headed towards an unfinished piece of wasteland called St Andrews. A team of pub players would never have a chance against quality opposition in real life of course, so to make this fable more interesting we do need to add in their Knight in not so shining armour, Sir Mark ‘who shall I send off next’ Halsey, who made the long journey from Lancashire on whippet back.

The problem with Sir Mark was that he had been dropped on his head many, many times when he was younger. This led him to be easily confused which on occasions meant he would send off a player for being fouled, or possibly even send off the wrong player altogether – well they do all look the same in their nice clean football kits after all. Sir Mark, as was his want whenever he officiated at a Chelsea game, tried so hard to spoil the proceedings that even his prized Whippet decided to crawl under some bricks (comically named the Executive Lounge) and die. Whenever a player from SkipCity fell over, he would book a Chelsea one. Whenever Lilly Savage, his golden locks flowing beautifully with half a pound of Lard rubbed in, asked him to give a free kick, he would oblige. Yet still, through it all, the quality of those brave boys from West London shone through.

A fine display – once more – from Lord Carlo of Cudicini in the early stages meant that the Brummie boys were left with nothing but old copies of the Big Issue to keep them warm before His Highness Franco of Zola made the breakthrough with a fine half-volley on the stroke of half-time. Birmingham’s winless run was stretched to 10 games when the good king Eidur sealed his man of the match display with a fine header just four minutes into the second half. The wicked Chelsea supporters sang cruel songs to their compatriots telling them that they, ‘might as well go home’, with little understanding of how hurtful a chant such as this could be. One Brummie, nasal spray in hand, burst into tears. “But I like being able to sit on a plastic seat, I don’t want to go back to my hole in the ground”. But, sadly, no one could hear his forsaken cries.

Even Sir Mark now began to think that his attempts to help Birmingham were futile. He seemed so impressed when Jimmy Floyd Havawank actually ran with the ball, that he awarded a penalty which Jimmy himself stepped up to bang into the back of the net. His generosity satisfied, he decided to level things up by awarding one to the home side for no apparent reason which Lilly Savage rather fortunately scrapped home off of the inside of a post. Shortly after, Sir Mark decided to put the poor Brummies out of their misery by blowing his whistle.

The mighty boys from West London had travelled north, across fields and cobbled streets, and performed quite poorly up until His Highness Franco of Zola scored his goal. Although much better in the second half they did not quite seem to click against the team of waifs and strays who seemed more than happy to put the boot in whenever the chance arose. No one from the Chelsea end, of course, was too bothered with that as they headed back down the M1 with three precious points. Where they all lived happily ever after.

TEAM; Cudicini – Melchiot, Terry, Desailly, Gallas – Gronkjaer (De Lucas 74), Lampard (Morris 62), Petit, Le Saux – Zola (Hasselbaink 45), Gudjohnsen.
Subs not used: de Goey, Cole.

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