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BLUES:A warming from history!

Byline: JONNY GREATREX

THEY are the Midland soccer team who have become history makers after going a record 11 games unbeaten in the Premiership. Alex McLeish's Birmingham City are on the kind of run their fans could only have dreamed about before the season started.

Rather than slugging it out in a predicted relegation battle, the Blues are riding high after their best top flight form for more than 100 years.

Yet the ghosts of the last Birmingham side to go 11 matches unbeaten would have words of warning for anyone getting too carried away.

That famous team managed to avoid defeat for three months in the 1907 to 1908 season - but still found themselves RELEGATED from the top tier of English football.

Ivan Barnsley is the author of a number of books about Blues and is the club's unofficial historian, He recalled the topsy-turvey season of 1908 and said: "To go that many games without losing and then get relegated is amazing really. Particularly when you think that the season before they were quite successful. The problem was they couldn't score enough goals but they had some quite good results during that run."

Unlike the 1907/8 team who drew eight of their 11 matches, the current crop have managed an impressive seven wins, sharing the points in just four games.

And Ivan, who lives in Birmingham, thinks they have been unlucky not to be doing even better.

Fate "When you add in the fact that we have missed a penalty in one drawn game and had a goal disallowed in another we could be four points better off," he added.

"I wouldn't want to tempt fate but I think we may have managed to avoid relegation this season!" The Blues' 1907/8 run started with a 1-1 draw away to Arsenal on December 14 before two home wins against Shef-field Wednesday and Manchester City.

There then came a sequence of four draws, home and away to Notts County and away to Bristol City and Preston North End, before a 3-2 victory over great rivals Aston Villa at Villa Park.

The final three games were also draws, with the run coming to an end with a 1 -0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford on February 29.

But despite taking points in all 11 matches the team remained anchored to the foot of the table.

Their good form was hampered by a shocking start the season which saw them take just eight points from 15 matches.

The Blues were relegated at the end of the season and spent the next nine years in the game's second tier.

The present side's record equalling run started in October with a 2-1 home win against Sunderland.

Since then McLeish's men have notched up impressive draws against Premiership big boys Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool as well as wins over the likes of Wigan, West Ham United and Stoke City.

But they face a tough challenge if they want to create history with a 12 match unbeaten run as, just like the 1908 team, they are playing Manchester United in their 12th match...

jonny.greatrex@sundaymercury.net Hart's Blues Boost, Page 50

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LESSONS: The 1908/09 Blues squad, left. They avoided defeat for squad left f three months in 1907 but were still relegated
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jan 3, 2010
Words:554
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