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Saturday, 05 January 2013

Can Aston Villa and Birmingham City both avoid the drop this season?


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Sqf Steve Coulter general

"No more heroes anymore", lamented Hugh Cornwall and the Stranglers. The punk anthem may be reborn during match days at Villa Park and St Andrews.
 
Aston Villa and Birmingham City fans may loath each other, but right the Brummie brothers are in the same boat. Sadly the vessel is barely seaworthy and liable to sink at any point. With a double relegation on the horizon, the distress calls should be blaring out.
 
But a mournful silence seems to have descended on England's second city. Villa and Blues fans appear resigned to their gory fate. But where did the anger go? Apathy wasn't always on the menu.
 
Just ask Doug Ellis, the longtime chairman of Aston Villa. For years Ellis was the target of Holte End fury. Villa fans wanted rid of Deadly Doug. They called for the chequebook to be flashed by Douglas, but despite all of that the Villa didn't do too bad. They won the League Cup twice and were Premier League runners-up in 1993.

Several claret and blue bosses have also incurred the wrath of the natives. David O'Leary and Gerrard Houllier were subjects of uncomplimentary banners, but the daddy of discontent has to be Alex McLeish. A section of fans stormed the Bastille when Big Eck was appointed.  You half expected a guillotine to erected on Witton Lane, but even McLeish's mob weren't walloped at Stamford Bridge, Houllier was castigated for fielding an under strength side in a Cup Tie at Manchester City. However,  I don't recall his side getting thumped by Wigan.   
 
Randy Learner seems a first rate human being. He treats the fans with respect. One of his first acts was to reopen a local bar near Villa Park. The club are also strong supporters of the Birmingham-based Acorn Hospice. While may clubs courted lucrative sponsorship deals, Aston Villa agreed to bear the Acorns logo on their shirts. Yes Randy Leaner has a lot to be proud of, but in the harsh world of top level football, he hasn't delivered.
 
At first it was and roses. Martin O'Neil was appointed and big names arrived, but failure in the 2010 Carling Cup Final signalled a decline in fortunes. Learner pulled the plug and a host of top performers were sold. While Gareth Barry and James Milner spearheaded Manchester City' renaissance, their formers employers went in free fall. 

To cut a long story short Villa are in a mess. Paul Lambert replaced fellow countryman McLeish, but the Lions began to shop at Pound Land. This group of talented youngsters may come good, but this is Aston Villa we are talking about.
 
Things are even worse across town. Birmingham City are nosediving towards League One. The Blues are also fielding a team of teenagers, but the youthful element can't hide a dismal campaign by City. Lee Clark's squad boasts England goalkeeper Jack Butland, £6 million pound striker Nikola Zigic and prolific marksman Marlon King. All of whom have featured heavily this season. This backbone is supplemented by the creative talents of Chris Burke and Ravel Morrison. Despite this pool of handy players the Blues are just four above the Championship drop zone.

Like their neighbours, City have been humiliated on national TV. The 5-0 home defeat to Barnsley will live long in the memory. The team from the Dog and Duck would banish such an inept display, let alone a team of highly paid professional footballers. We all have our off days, but Birmingham were equally woeful at Sheffield Wednesday, Watford and Coventry. The last time the Blues were in such a sorry state 'Sack the board' was top of St Andrews charts.  Now we get a few bars of 'We don't care about Carson' before home time.
 
After each defeat the downcast Geordie gaffer has slated his charges. Nathan Redmond, Burke and Morrison have all been criticised by Clark. Jake Jervis was the latest in the firing line. The young striker has recently returned from loan spells at Carlisle United and Tranmere Rovers. Jervis returned to the fold in the New Year's day defeat to Cardiff City. In the post match interview the manager was asked about the second half substitute. Clark revealed that Carlisle and Tranmere felt Jervis wasn't good enough to secure a permanent move. Maybe the boss is trying to provoke a reaction, hoping the "I'll show him" mentality will surface, but in no terms was this is a ringing endorsement of Mr Jervis.
 
The off-field problems are well documented. Owner Carson Yeung is due to stand trial for alleged money laundering in April. Here lies the great irony. Both Lambert and Clark are protected from an instant appointment with a P45. One mention of boardroom turmoil will take the heat off. It's not me guv, but someone is to blame for the season from hell.

So while everyone shifts the blame, maybe someone should ring the coastguard.
Calling all Birmingham City and Aston Villa fans: Who do you blame for your season from hell? Can Clark and Lambert turn your fortunes around? Could Villa really be joining City in the Championship next year or could the Blues even be facing Coventry in League One? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.

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