Our panellists are looking ahead to a Wembley clash with the Hammers, but first they have to relive the nerve-jangling moments in the play-off semi-final second leg at St Andrews, when it looked as though a chance at returning to the Premier League was slipping from their grasp...
The second leg of our play-off game may not have turned as dramatically as Sunday’s Premier League title race, but rest assured, it was every bit as nervy!
However, we are going to Wembley, and we have a chance to make it back into the top tier at the first time of asking.
Birmingham’s tactics were clear from the outset – get the ball to Zigic as much as possible – but in the main we were able to nullify this. Both teams had their chances, but for us to score just before and just after half-time put us in a fantastic position.
Matt Phillips took his goal excellently to crown a top-notch performance, and although the nerves were jangling after Birmingham stormed back, we managed to see it through and take the tie.
There are few clubs outside the Premier League who have had the privilege of visiting Wembley as much as us, and we hope that this Saturday will see us add to the good memories we have from there. The confidence coming from supporters of West Ham is beginning to turn into arrogance and I hope we can turn this to our advantage.
It’s going to be a tricky game, but I believe we can win if we play to our best. Birmingham MOM: Matt Phillips
The second leg at St Andrews was an absolute thriller. Tough to watch in the last half-hour, but we rode the storm well, we didn’t buckle under the pressure, and ultimately secured the return to Wembley.
But this is where the hard work has begun. West Ham will not be easy to beat, we already know what this season has brought against them. However, we’re not the same team that lost to them twice.
This is where we trust that Ian Holloway and the players are focused and determined. In a one-off game, absolutely anything can happen, and you have to fancy our chances. With the strength we have up front, and how solid we’ve been in defence recently, there’s no reason we can’t beat West Ham. Both teams have match-winners, let’s just hope they prove to be in tangerine.
Wembley will once again be packed with a sea of tangerine, and it needs to be a sea of noise too. Two years ago reaching the Premier League was the impossible dream. Now we know it can be done, and we know what it means to be there.
We’re 90 minutes away from a return. That’s 90 more minutes of all of us, players and fans alike giving it everything we’ve got one last time this season. We have nothing to fear, only dreams to dream. Believe. Birmingham MOM: Matt Phillips
So we are going to Wembley! After a tumultuous night at Birmingham, when we appeared to be coasting through, it was only after a heroic defensive performance that we confirmed our place, with the fans playing their part in keeping the atmosphere going.
After the scenes we saw two years ago, it would be fantastic to see another sell-out in tangerine. The team richly deserve it after going through the despair of relegation, only to bounce back so magnificently.
West Ham will obviously go into the game as favourites after two wins against us through the regular season. However, I believe that they will be coming up against a different side, in terms of attitude as much as personnel. Defeat at Reading was a turning point, as since then, the defence have stepped up, attacking the ball, rather than waiting and reacting. The run of clean sheets is a clear demonstration of that. West Ham must have a sense of superiority and we can exploit that, in our favoured role as underdogs.
All to play for, and in effect, a game without pressure for us. Yes, we want to get back into the Premier League, but for West Ham, the pressure is all the greater. Again, we can use that to our advantage and revel in the occasion.
See you at Wembley. Birmingham MOM: Ian Evatt
A look at the league table and the results against West Ham this season is enough to tell you we’re the underdogs, and that the Hammers will probably be the ones to emerge victorious on Saturday.
But then football isn’t won or lost on paper, and that’s the beauty of it. In a season filled with expectation, we now face a game where nobody is really expecting us to win.
I’m not saying there won’t be nerves, but there won’t be a heavy demand weighing on the shoulders of the players, and that will allow them to play with wonderful freedom and enjoy the match.
That same weight will be weighing heavily on Big Sam’s thunderous shoulders – they can’t afford to bottle this. They’ve spent a huge amount of money on players, but they’ve already missed out on automatic promotion, what will it mean if they miss out on promotion altogether?
And what about us? Ollie looks in it for the long haul, and our, erm, ‘thrifty’ chairman has ensured there’s no expensive wage bill to worry us if we don’t make it this year.
It all means we’ll win. Birmingham MOM: Matt Phillips