x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Power of the football party-poopers

As English Championship club Birmingham City's request to host a home match to celebrate the birthday of its one famous player is refused, Will Batchelor lifts the lid on some other notable dates which failed to move the Fixtures Officer.

Trevor Francis in action for Birmingham City.
Trevor Francis in action for Birmingham City.

Is there any greater humiliation than discovering your football club begged the Football League Fixtures Officer for a home game to celebrate the 60th birthday of your one and only famous player?

It speaks volumes about a club's history - or lack of it - when the only anniversaries relate to the landmark birthdays of sepia-tinged terrace heroes.

Well, yes, it turns out there is a greater humiliation. It is when the fixtures people decline said request but still tell the media all about it so everyone can have a good laugh. Then they schedule you to play an away match against a club where the same player actually won something.

This was the situation facing Birmingham City fans (including me) this week, as the fixture list for the 2013/14 season was released.

The Championship club failed in its special request for a home game on April 19, 60 years to the day since one Trevor John Francis entered the world, no doubt via a mazy run, magically evading the grasp of four nurses on the way out.

Instead, we will be away to Nottingham Forest, with whom Francis lifted the European Cup.

Fortunately, to offset my shame, I have managed to discover - or possibly fabricated - this letter from the league Fixtures Officer, proving that Birmingham was not alone in making odd requests …


Dear Sirs,

It is with great pleasure and considerable relief that I enclose the league schedules for next season. As you know, we try to accommodate all special requests from clubs.

With regret, however, I must therefore inform you we could not grant the following.

Manchester United: proposed home game, December 5. While we appreciate that the M6 motorway is vital for the passage of United fans travelling back home from Manchester to the south of England, the 55th anniversary of its opening does not warrant a celebration. Try again in five years?

Blackburn Rovers: proposed winter break. We are sorry but everyone else plays over the Christmas period and Rovers cannot be excused, no matter how "hectic a time of year" it is for those, like club owner's Venky's, in the poultry business.

Newcastle United: proposed home games, September 18 and November 25. We were a little confused by this. You seem to be saying that Ant & Dec, the comedy duo from the north-east, have different birthdays. We always thought they were the same person.

Norwich: proposed rest day, April 26. We cannot grant rest days simply for a family wedding - although we do sympathise with the argument that, in the region of East Anglia, such an event really does involve the whole county.

Cardiff City and Swansea: proposed season extension until June 7. Look, we are not getting into this. You will just have to decide which of you "owns" Sir Tom Jones, then get back to us with your request for a birthday celebration match. Besides, you do know he has lived in Las Vegas for the past 40 years, right?

Wigan Athletic: proposed commemorative home game, May 7. No, we had no idea that owner Dave Whelan broke his leg on this date in the 1960 FA Cup Final. Set up a market stall with his pay-off, did he? And the rest is history, you say? Well, that is interesting. He should mention it more often, really spread the word, then we'll think about marking the occasion.

Liverpool: proposed home games (various). With so many celebrity fans, it is simply impossible to honour them all with a birthday match. So, let's start with those who started following the Reds after, say, 1992. That should narrow it down a bit.