WILL history repeat itself when Birmingham City come to Wanderers in search of safety this Saturday lunchtime?
Almost 20 years to the day, Barry Fry’s Blues turned up at Burnden Park looking to haul themselves out of the relegation zone on the penultimate weekend of the season.
Fry had taken over from Terry Cooper in a blaze of publicity at the start of 1994 and assembled a bulging squad of nearly 50 players by the end of the campaign.
The wholesale changes in personnel took their toll on the club’s form but after an embarrassing FA Cup exit at the hands of Kidderminster Harriers, the Midlanders started to climb towards safety.
Victory at Burnden would have lifted them out of the bottom three at the expense of rivals West Brom, but after Roger Willis had put them ahead against Bruce Rioch’s men, Andy Walker pounced on a mis-hit shot from John McGinlay to level the game before half time.
Whites keeper Aidan Davison kept Birmingham at bay in the second half – and the frustration of travelling fans was clear as they spilled out on to the streets of Bolton later that evening.
It was mirrored in the dressing room too. Barry Fry was typically outspoken, dismissing Walker’s goal as a “poxy equaliser” and the Burnden Park playing surface as “the worst in the division.”
The Blues boss held out hope that survival could still be secured with a win against Tranmere on the final weekend: “We’ve got to hope for a miracle now, so it’s just as well I believe in them.”
Walker’s goal proved his last in Wanderers colours before a summer move to Celtic.
Birmingham won on the final day at Prenton Park but West Brom’s victory at Portsmouth condemned the Blues to relegation.
Despite the disappointment, Fry was still carried off the pitch by fans in recognition of the job he had done.
“When I was appointed I promised the owners I would get them out of this division; I just didn’t tell them in which direction,” he quipped.