They should have been the “Golden Generation,” that Birmingham City team of 1956. They were also the `bookies` favourites to win the F.A. Cup final at the old Wembley Stadium against Manchester City.  After all, it had been 25 years since the `Blues`  won through  to a cup final but they lost 2-1 to neighbours West Bromwich Albion.

The “Blues” played their football that season with pace, poise and power while playing their way through mist, mud, rain and snow. It was hoped that they would maintain their winning ways on the sun drenched hallowed turf of Wembley Stadium. 

All the signs were good. The “Blues” scored 18 times and conceding only five goals in that F.A. Cup run. Incredibly they played all of their cup ties AWAY in each of the rounds, the first team ever to do that and still reach the Cup Final. They brushed aside Torquay United 7-1, won 4-0 at Leyton Orient, dumped their rivals West Bromwich Albion out of the cup with 1-0 win, and then disarmed the Arsenal with a 3-1. In the semi-final at Hillsborough,  Blues playing in unfamiliar red shirts, swept aside Sunderland 3-0 to the serenade of a new song from the terraces called “Keep Right On.” 

All the previous six post-war semi-finals on Sheffield Wednesday’s ground had produced the eventual F.A. Cup winners so all of Birmingham’s supporters were buoyant with hope despite having to wait another seven weeks from when the semi-final played on St. Patrick’s Day (17th March) to the Cup Final day on 5th May 1956.

Birmingham's centre-half, the late Trevor Smith, was a future England International.  The change of colours that the `Blues` would wear for the final white shirts and dark shorts seemed somehow appropriate.

Alf Bond was the referee at the Torquay game and he would see the job through earning the right to officiate in the final. Aged 45, he lost his right arm at the age of 19 years when working in a factory.

In comparison to the obscene amount of money negotiated by certain Premiership players today, each player in 1956 would collect a modest £50 for their appearance at Wembley. The winning team would share the prize money in the region of £7,000.

Now to the game that left every Birmingham fan and forecaster dumfounded. Manchester City made a last minute change to their team by bringing back Don Revie and playing him at centre-forward. Revie had been in dispute with the club since the start of that season and had only played in one FA Cup game.  The match is remembered for the injury to Manchester City keeper Bert Trautmann who broke a bone in his neck after colliding with Peter Murphy. However it was Don Revie who dominated the game for Manchester City and inspired them to victory.

At half-time the score was 1-1 with Noel Kinsey equalising for Birmingham. Something happened in the “Blues” dressing room. We will not know the full facts of the dispute but according to Eddy Brown, who was interviewed years later by Tom Ross (now of Free Radio in Birmingham) it was something to do with the shirts they were wearing. In the stifling heat the shirts were a heavier material and were unsuitable for the conditions, sapping the player’s energy. 

Manchester City had a cooler continental styled shorter sleeve shirt with a `V` neck which was better suited to the heat. Nevertheless even though Eddy Brown said that the Birmingham kit was the wrong type for the day, he proclaimed he would never wash the grass stains or perspiration from the shirt.    

In the second half Birmingham faltered in the heat and lost 3-1. The dream of victory was lost. 

Though the `Blues` lost the Cup Final, the Blues supporters who were there will say, it should not have detracted, whatsoever, from what was a  brilliant team performance  throughout that season. Maybe if Birmingham had won the F.A. Cup the club would have been galvanised. Maybe more success would have followed and honours come their way?  

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