Magic City Brigade

NOTE: I recorded a podcast with Collin Barnwell, Vice President of the Magic City Brigade, the Birmingham Hammers’ Supporters Group ahead of the Atlanta Silverbacks/Birmingham Hammers game at Silverbacks Park. The recording didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped so I transcribed it. Enjoy.

——

Collin, thanks for joining me. Talk about the formation of the Birmingham Hammers.

MCB Founder Forrest Collins and Hammers Founder Morgan Copes

Photo via Magic City Brigade

The club was founded in 2013 by Morgan Copes and John Killian. They played a non league season in 2015 and then joined the NPSL in 2016. (There is a great appearance by John Killian on Flakoglost podcast)

How did last season go?

Last year we didn’t do that great, only won two games but it was our first season. We had some first year woes, and fired our coach after the season. We hired another coach Wulf Koch, who is an experienced collegiate coach and has done very well at the University of Auburn at Montgomery. We’ve got a very charismatic coach who has a great staff. This year it’s looking up.

So the team is formed and then Forrest gets involved and the Magic City Brigade come to be. Talk about that.

Forrest started it in his dorm room. He enjoyed watching the Supporter Groups of Portland and Orlando and Seattle and figured if Birmingham was going to have a team, why not have a Supporters Group like that or one that mimics that style and choreography.

I got into the party a little late so to speak. I came to the Hammers in late 2014/early 2015. When I heard about Forrest and the Magic City Brigade I started coming out and joining them at events. 

Just been a work in progress ever since. Started as a couple of guys who wanted to watch the game together and is now formed into group that goes to matches home and away. We are Hammers supporters and we enjoy football, that’s the biggest thing.

Touching on that, I came to the first official game for the Hammers when they played Chattanooga FC in Birmingham. I reached out to you guys and joined you at the tailgate. Nice big spot to tailgate, and although the Chattahooligans were there and much bigger, they have a several year head start, but you guys were there, had some pizzas and some food and some beer, just hanging out. It was great.

Another thing I wanted to mention is that you guys had a great tifo for the first game. It had a couple of stars and smokestacks from the ironworks. Talk about that and your inspirations.

The tifo was a rendition of what makes Birmingham iconic and that would be Sloss Furnaces and the iron industry at the turn of the century. It displayed the stacks of Sloss Furnace and the Birmingham city flag, which is a tri-color flag, red/white/red with a red star in the middle of it and the seal of Birmingham. It was our take on that, and we got our first tifo done and we wanted to make it about the city and not about us.

The Hammers play at Sicard Hollow. There is no rigging, there are no barriers, there are just bleachers, there is nothing to unfurl as it were. However the facility has a nice hill in one corner and you guys staked the tifo down and it was up for the whole game, which I think is better, and at halftime I was able to get some pictures.

We were talking earlier about in tifo in general. You guys have a lot of DIY flags that are hanging on the fences of the facility. Talk about tifo for a fourth division club. How do you execute that?

There’s teams to look up to in the fourth division from a creative and inspiration standpoint like Chattanooga and Detroit City. All of our tifos are homemade. We buy the fabric at supermarkets, wherever we can find it, we buy the paint at the supermarket. It’s very free hand, very do it ourselves, it looks crude, it looks rough, but that’s who we are. We’re new to this, we’re not trying to make a publication out of this. We’re just doing things our way and people seem to enjoy it.

Going back to the first game, the Chattahooligans had close to a hundred fans and you guys didn’t have as many. I did like that you were on the opposite end of the field, little give and take, and you guys just did your thing. Had a nice big drum, a couple of chants, very organized. I like your attitude: we’re new, we’re trying and we do what we can.

Photo via Magic City Brigade

That’s one of the biggest things. We are not here to please the front office, we are not here to please other people. I have had several conversations with the owner and they have told me to stop bugging them with questions/permission about this and that. Everything about our club is very grassroots and it’s very do it yourself.

My wife and I live about an hour and a half north east of Birmingham, so we are not close and can’t get 30 people together to paint a tifo, so all the tifos that are constructed at my house are done on the kitchen table or the parking lot our apartment complex. All the others are done a combination of driveways and parking lots. It’s very do it yourself, get some dirt on your knees and paint.

Talk about 2017 season for the Magic City Brigade. Do you guys plan to have watch parties.

Being that streaming has become more of a thing for lower division clubs, we’ll probably have some watch parties for some our away games.

One thing I talk about with lower division supporters is that you guys get to travel. For Atlanta United, I get to go to one game this season, but for the other 16 I’ll be at a bar or home or whatever. For NPSL, especially the Southeast Conference, it’s pretty doable if you really commit you can go to every game.

I know for me, my plan is to attend about 85% of the away matches, with two of them being a six hour drive from my apartment, so it’s not feasible. If I had more resources I would go to all the games. The format makes it ideal for travelling and they are close drives. It’s very regional. That’s what I like. If you’re willing to commit to those seven to eight hour drives, you can go to every match.

We’re planning on having someone at every game, whether it’s one person or it’s like today here in Atlanta, it’s seven to ten of us. We will have at least one member of the Brigade at each game and that speaks volumes to who we are in the fourth division.

Let’s talk about the 2017 season. Who is in your division?

Southeast Conference is split into two division–East and West. The Birmingham Hammers are in the West with Chattanooga FC, Inter Nashville FC, Memphis City FC and New Orleans Jesters.

I know you’ve started blogging, done a couple of previews. What can fans or neutrals look for from the Birmingham Hammers this season.

I run a completely fan oriented blog, https://bhamhammersblog.wordpress.com/ and it’s a 100% fan take on the experience, so it’s completely biased. We had one fan from another team who said that the blog was not an accurate reflection and I told him yeah.

This season we are in better form than last season. With a new coach and a new staff who are chomping at the bit to get started. We had one preseason match and in that match we played the Alabama ODP team and they were excellent. I don’t know how ODP teams are across the country but they were quality and we beat them 6-0. I don’t think that’s 100% comparable to the NPSL but this season I can see us making the playoffs. We have to win our home games and get some points and I think that’s doable.

Who are some players to watch out for?

Photo via Birmingham Hammers

Our keeper Bradley Louis. He’s been with us for three seasons.

Photo via Birmingham Hammers

We also have a new face, Jorge Delgado. He’s a forward who played at Mississippi College, and his career stats are impressive.

So expectations for the season? What would you be happy with?

I really don’t care what the record is. It’s bringing amateur soccer to Birmingham. I could see us winning every game but also I could see us dropping a couple.

How can readers find out more about Magic City Brigade and the blog.

We are on facebook and twitter (@MCBrigade14). You can find me on twitter (@BhamForeman) and the blog is https://bhamhammersblog.wordpress.com/.

I’ve been joined by Collin Barnwell from the Magic City Brigade and we have been tailgating before the Atlanta Silverbacks/Birmingham Hammers game. Collin, thanks for taking a couple of minutes to talk and have a great season.

——

The Birmingham Hammers defeated the Atlanta Silverbacks 2-1.

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