Birmingham relegated despite beating Norwich

Angus Gunn kept out Blues' best first-half chance from Krystian Bielik

Birmingham City have been relegated back to English football’s third tier for the first time since 1995, despite a final-day victory over promotion-chasing Norwich City.

Blues had to win to stand any chance of staying up – and they did that thanks to a 55th-minute header from South Korean international Paik Seung-ho, his first goal for the club.

But they also needed one of the three other games to go their way – Plymouth at home to Millwall, Sheffield Wednesday at Sunderland, and John Eustace’s Blackburn Rovers at Leicester.

And it was the two second-half Sammie Szmodics goals to secure victory for former Blues boss Eustace, sacked in October when his side were sixth in the Championship, that most ironically of all sent Blues down.

Blues well up for the occasion

Roared on by their fired-up full-capacity crowd, Blues made a lively start.

Koji Myoshi twice tested Norwich keeper Angus Gunn, the first of which needed a fingertip save, while Paik was halted at close range and Keshi Anderson twice had efforts charged down.

Blues keeper John Ruddy had to be alert to deny Marcelino Nunez at his near post.

It was the hosts who came closest to scoring just before the break when Gunn had to go full length to his left to keep out a dangerous ricochet off Krystian Bielik.

But 10 minutes into the second half, the Blues finally had a lift when Anderson cut inside on the left corner of the Norwich box, His right-footed cross was deflected kindly, and Paik took his chance well, cleverly readjusting to head home from eight yards.

Blues were a goal up but home fans already knew that two of their three rivals—Sheffield Wednesday and Plymouth Argyle—were winning.

And, when it became clear that Eustace’s Blackburn were also winning at champions Leicester, the celebratory mood began to evaporate.

By the end, it had all gone very quiet, except for the 2,000 travelling Norwich fans who taunted their hosts with a chant of “Que Sera, Que Sera, Whatever Will Be Will Be, You’re Going to Shrewsbury”.

At the end, a comparatively small section of the home fans invaded the pitch.

As for Norwich, whose defeat dropped them back to sixth, they now face a two-leg play-off semi-final with third-placed Leeds United.

Paik Seung-Ho celebrates scoring for Birmingham City

Paik Seung-Ho had not previously scored for Birmingham City in 17 appearances

Third tier beckons for Blues

So it is a painful return to English football’s third tier for the Blues—for only the third time in their history.

A prospect that looked light years away back in September when, after an unexpectedly good start to the season under Eustace, global sporting superstar Tom Brady made his much trumpeted entrance as Blues’ new co-owner.

Results quickly turned, and, although back-to-back wins lifted Blues back up to sixth in the Championship table in early October, the American owners had already made the fateful decision to offload the Eustace and bring in Wayne Rooney as Blues boss. But it all went disastrously wrong.

Rooney managed just two wins in his 15 matches before he was sacked in early January, since when Blues have had four more bosses.

After Steve Spooner’s one game as caretaker manager, the arrival of Tony Mowbray prompted an upturn in terms of both hope and results.

But, since Mowbray went on sick leave in February, the Blues have won just three times.

Mowbray’s assistant, Mark Venus, accrued just one point out of a possible 18 in his six games in charge, before Gary Rowett’s return as interim boss at least brought three victories.

Rowett lost only three of his eight games in charge. But the postscript to this awful season is that five of half Blues’ 13 league wins this season came under Eustace. And the owners have already admitted that they got the timing of his departure wrong.

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