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St.Andrews: A Brief History
Added : 09/27/07
Small Heath Alliance played their first competitive matches on a piece of wasteland on Arthur Street, near to the junction with the Coventry Road. Their first ever game was played in November 1875 against Holte Wanderers from Aston, and ended 1-1.

They occupied this pitch throughout their initial season of 1875-76, moving to their first enlosed ground, in Ladypool Road, Sparkbrook, for season 1876-77. Capacity at Ladypool Road was understood to be around 3,000, and the first match is believed to have been in September 1876 between Small Heath and Nechells, with the home team winning 2-0 in front of around 500 supporters.

As interest in the team grew, they moved back to Small Heath in the summer of 1877, occupying a ground in Muntz Street, where they stayed before switching to St.Andrews in December 1906.

Muntz Street Initially, the Muntz Street ground could house around 10,000 spectators, but when Blues left , after 29 years, its capacity had grown to almost 30,000. The first game to have been played at Muntz Street was a friendly against Saltley College in September 11. In front of only a handful of spectators, Small Heath won easily 5-0. Although it had a well-appointed stand, the state of the pitch often left a lot to be desired. It was uneven, rutted and sloped from end to end and from one side to the other, and was known locally as 'The Celery Trenches'.

Many teams were reluctant to play at Muntz Street, and on occasions, Blues were offered money in exchange for switching venues. Wednesbury Old Athletic offered the club $5 to switch their Walsall Cup tie to their own ground. Blues happily obliged, took the money, and went on to win 4-1. On another occasion, Wednesday offered Blues $200 to switch their FA Cup tie, although on this occasion, after taking the money, Blues lost 2-0.

Originally, Blues paid yearly rent of $5 for Muntz Street. By 1905, this had risen to $300. However, it was becoming clear that the ground was becoming inadequate as their support grew. In February 1905, an estimated 32,000 crammed in to see a game against Aston Villa, and the record attendance was estimated to be close to 34,000 for the visit of Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup in February 1906.

St Andrews 1905 St.Andrews was 'discovered' by former player, director and chairman, Harry Morris. He saw 'a wilderness of stagnant water and muddy slopes' off Garrison Lane, Bordesley Green, and envisioned a footballing arena. A band of gypsies had lived on the site for quite some time, and it is widely beleived that when they were asked to move from the site, a curse was placed on the club.

Harry Morris asked a local carpenter, Harry Pumfrey (not an architect) to draw up plans for the building and laying out of the St.Andrews ground. Pumfrey was a Blues fan from Small Heath, and it is recorded that the both he and the clerk of the works, Mr. T.W Turley, displayed 'wonderful enthusiasm, working day after day in the thick of the toil, putting in up to 14 hours work on at least 4 days of each week.' The men worked tirelessly to get the ground ready and asked for no payment in return. Estimates are that close to two thousand pounds (a huge amount in those days) was saved by the dedicated work of Turley and Pumfrey, and the directors were quick to congratulate the two.

St Andrews 1950 When work began on the Garrison Lane wasteland, the first consideration was the playing surface,and in order to make this, two huge pools, filled with artesian spring water had to be drained. Once this was done, tons of rubble, including brick-ends and piles of ashes, were rolled down into the holes in order to fill them. This was a strenuous job, but the volunteers worked furiously, and by mid-June 1906, some 10,000 square feet of soil had been laid. The extent of the turfed area was 123 yards by 83 yards, providing a four yard border around the playing surface of 115 yards by 75 yards, which was one of the biggest in the country at the time. The playing surface was surrounded by a six-yard wide running track made of cinders. This ensured that all spectators were at least 10 yards clear of the touchline.

The second major project was to ensure that there was a large embankment on one side of the ground, the unreserved side. So the site was offered as a tip, and people from the surrounding areas paid the club to empty their rubbish there. It is estimated that thousands of tons were dumped, bringing the club an additional $800 in cash. Even in it's earliest days, this embankment was known as The Spion Kop.

Work continued at a fast pace, and the Kop eventually took shape. The terracing was made up of old railway sleepers, and when completed, it was said that over 48,000 spectators could get a comfortable view from this vantage point. Once the rubbish had been firmly bedded down, the club made clear its intention to erect a roof over the Tilton Road goal, in order to protect at least 12,000 supporters from the inclement weather.

The Grandstand, which ran alongside the Garrison Lane side of the ground was said to be one of the largest in the country at the time, and could accomodate 6,000 seated supporters, with a further 5,000 being able to stand under cover, on the terraces in front. In the stand itself were six sections for spectators, and the seats themselves were approached by two flights of stairs. The space under the seating was used for the club offices, the boardroom, cycle store, four refreshment rooms, and a training area that contained a nine-foot square plunge bath, changing rooms for the players, and a spacious billiard room, that was generously furnished by a wealthy Birmingham businessman, Sir John Holder.

St Andrews 1970 Thirty-Six turnstiles were situated around the ground. 16 on the Emmerline Street side of the ground, ten at the Garrison Lane side (also giving access to the unreserved section), and ten more in St.Andrew Street (for the Stand and reserved side of the ground).

Behind the goal at The Railway End, terrace accomodation was provided for 4,000 spectators. It is said that when completed in December 1906, St.Andrews could house close to 75,000 fans. The total cost of building St.Andrews was �10,000.

The ground was initially taken on a 21 year lease and the area on which it was built covered seven and a half acres.

St.Andrews was officially opened by Sir John Holder on December 26th, 1906, when Blues played Middlesbrough in a Division One fixture. It was touch and go whether the opening game would go ahead. As is often the case in Decmeber, thick snow covered the pitch and terraces, and scores of volunteers worked throughout the morning of the match to clear the playing area. The game finished goalless in front of 32,000 fans who had braved the Arctic conditions.

Asda Proposal 1978 Ground developments took effect gradually, and by the end of 1939, the rear of the Tilton Road End was covered, as was the Railway End. On February 11, 1939, the highest attendance ever to assemble inside St.Andrews, 67,341 saw Blues play Everton in a fifth round FA Cup tie.Shortly after war was declared, the Chief Constable of Birmingham closed the ground because of the danger of air-raids, and Blues played away from home or at neutral venues. The matter was raised in parliament, as St.Andrews was the only football ground in the country to be forced to close down, and the ban was ultimately lifted in March 1940.

In January 1942, the Main Stand was destroyed in the most bizarre circumstances. During the war, the Main Stand was being used as a temporary fire station, and a member of the National Fire Service attempted to put out small fire in a brazier with what he thought was water, but his bucket contained petrol ! The Main Stand was completely destroyed along with most of the clubs records. The club played at Leamington and Villa Park, returning home in 1943.

pic 6 After the war, the club set about rebuilding St.Andrews. The construction of the Main Stand got underway in the early 50's, and floodlights were used for the first time in October 1956, when Blues drew 3-3 with Borrusia Dortmund. During the 50's and 60's the Tilton Road and Kop were covered and a replica of the Main Stand was built at the Railway End.

During the seventies, the ground became the center of a major politcial wrangle in Birmingham. The ASDA supermaket chain has proposed to develop the large open space of land behind the Kop, and their plans were shared with the fans.

pic 7 They had offered to share the cost of building a new stand, which in turn, would have encorporated an ASDA supermarket underneath, similar to succesful partnerships at Selhurst Park and Boothferry Park. However, the Co-Op, who had plans to build a supermarket nearby, and local merchants who feared the competition, eventually brought the plans to a halt.

Over the next few years, many small, cosmetic changes were made to the ground, but it wasn't until the Taylor Report and the arrival of David Sullivan did Blues finally get a ground worthy of the second city.

pic 8 Over time, capacity at St.Andrews had gradually been reduced, from 68,000 before the war, to little over 38,000 by 1988. However, after the tragedies at Hillsborough and Valley Parade, and the subsequent issuing of the Taylor Report, the capacity at St.Andrews dropped to 28,235. However, it became clear that it was time to completely renovate the stadium in order to bring it into the twenty-first century.

Initially, chairman at the time, Samesh Kumar, spoke of simply placing benches on top of the terracing, in order to comply with the Taylor ruling. However, with the takevoer of multi-millionaires, David Sullivan and the Gold Brothers, plans were quickly put forward to completely rebuild the stadium. However, the intial plans were quickly redrawn after Karren Brady has made a visit to Old Trafford, and saw what had been achieved there.

pic 9 The first stage of the redevelopment began after a 'very emotional' last home game against Bristol City on 16 April 1994. After the game, supporters 'took what they could' from the old ground, including concrete, screws, bolts and even letters from the old scoreboard.

Work on the redevelopment began soon after, with Blues legends Bob Latchford, Bob Hatton and Trevor Francis officially 'breaking ground' on the new stand. The �4.5 million redevelopment encorporated a 7,000 all-seater Tilton Road stand, and the Kop with an additional 9,500 seats.

pic 11 The Tilton Road end was open for the first game of the 1994/95 season against Chester City, while the Kop was finished in time for the Coca-Cola Cup clash against Blackburn Rovers on October 4th.

The 'New' ground was officially opened on 15 November 1994, when almost 20,000 witnessed Baroness Trumpington (a spokeswoman for the department of Heritage in the House of Lords !!) unveil a plaque, and witnessed a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa.

pic 12 Soon after the completion of the Tilton and Kop, plans were laid out for the development of the Railway Stand. However, once again, unforseen problems arose, when it was discovered that a small parcel of land that needed to be used belonged to RailTrack.

After many months of wrangling, permission was eventually granted, and the building of the New Railway Stand got underway. The new stand 'officially opened' in February 1999, and houses 9,500 spectators and the new dressing rooms.

pic 13 pic 14
Posted by: yankeebluenose
on Thursday, October 3, 2007

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