Tom Brady delivered a pre-match pep talk to inspire Birmingham to victory as the NFL superstar attended his first game since investing in the club.
Brady became a co-owner of Blues last month and addressed the squad before this win over Leeds. He then joined the celebrations in the dressing room after Lukas Jutkiewicz’s 90th-minute penalty.
‘It was great to have one of the world’s most famous sportsmen chat to the group,’ said Blues boss John Eustace, who dedicated the win to former Blues and England forward Trevor Francis after the club’s first home game since his death on July 24.
‘He gave us some real good words of advice. A lot of the players love the NFL and have been to the matches at Wembley and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. It meant a lot to the players for Tom Brady to come into the dressing room.
‘He has a vision for the club where he wants it to be a world brand. We want the club to grow, get better and be known around the world. He is a great person for that.’
Lukas Jutkiewicz converted from the spot in injury time to win it for Birmingham vs Leeds
The Championship clash at St Andrew's looked set to end in a draw after a lack of chances
Birmingham co-owner and NFL legend Tom Brady watched from the stands for the first time
Brady also made a surprise appearance in The Roost – a pub located a stone’s throw from St Andrew’s - before the game and for much of the 90 minutes was probably thinking he should have stayed there.
But with time running out, Daniel James made a ridiculous challenge on Ethan Laird and though sub Jutkiewicz’s spot-kick struck the foot of Illan Meslier, the ball flew into the net instead of wide.
MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS
Birmingham (4-2-3-1): Ruddy 6; Laird 6.5, Sanderson 7.5, Long 7, Buchanan 6.5; Bielik 6.5, Sunjic 6; Anderson 5 (Miyoshi 65min, 6), Bacuna 6.5 (James 88), Dembele 7 (Longelo 90+4); Hogan 5 (Jutkiewicz 88)
Subs (not used): Etheridge, Williams, Chang, Cosgrove, Williams,
Leeds (4-2-3-1): Meslier 6; Ayling 5.5, Cresswell 7, Struijk 7, Byram 6; Gray 7, Ampadu 7; Shackleton 6 (Rodon 90+2), Poveda 6, James 5; Gelhardt 6 (Rutter 67).
Booked: Ampadu, Byram
Subs (not used): Klaesson, Darlow, Gyabi, Bate, Hjelde, Drameh.
Referee: Tim Robinson (West Sussex) 6
Leeds look troubled. They are without a league win since relegation from the Premier League and fans voiced their anger at Wilfried Gnonto, who was not in the squad as he seeks a move away. Luis Sinisterra was another who did not travel and boss Daniel Farke hinted the Colombian was in the same boat as Gnonto, as well as suggesting he would effectively bar wantaway players from first-team training.
‘It’s quite normal that transfer speculation affects other players,’ said Farke. ‘They are not living on the Moon and these situations don’t make life easy for the group.
‘I want a group fully focused and committed. This club is bigger than any player or manager or board member. I’m not begging anyone ‘Please play for us’. The club too big.
‘If player doesn’t want to be with us they can train alone and use their own dressing room. I need players who are fully committed to defend the shirt.’
As Brady took his seat in the directors’ box alongside chairman Tom Wagner, Blues paid a moving tribute to Francis, their own homegrown hero, bringing a banner bearing his image on to the pitch. Francis was also given a round of applause in the eighth minute, a nod to the number he wore for his boyhood club.
There was nobody remotely in Francis’ class on either side here. Neither goalkeeper had much to do beyond claiming high balls and set pieces in a desperately dull opening period.
The second half was scarcely better but just when it seemed both sides would take a draw, James effectively handed Blues the points by allowing Laird to run inside him and then crashing him to the floor. Jutkiewicz’s spot-kick was poor and straight at Illan Meslier, but luck was on his side as the ball hit Meslier’s foot and ricocheted into the net.
Jutkiewicz came off the bench to secure the Blues' first win of the Championship season
Blues boss John Eustace says it was great to have Brady deliver a pep talk before kick-off