Derby days revisited
THE moment is almost upon us, as we descend down Island Road, into the depths of Perry Barr and on, on into Witton and the Victorian edifice carved out beneath the concrete smear of Spaghetti Junction.
For many Albion fans, the Villa game is THE derby whereas for me, having gone to a comprehensive disfigured by the kind of indiscipline that allowed the open wearing of gold and black, it was always Wolves that mattered most. After all, God forbid I should be obsessed by the Villa.
Let’s be frank, our record against them has not always been the best, but our relationship with our claret brethren has thrown up a few memorable moments down the years. I think my first real encounter with them was back in November 1978, a 1-1 draw played out in sleet and snow, precursor to the winterthatstoppeduswinningtheleagueTM and bitterly, shiveringly cold. The game was nothing much, but I do recall going home to the Queen album that I’d newly bought that morning featuring the infamous “Bicycle Race” poster, which warmed me up no end. We’ll draw a veil there dear reader…
Much of the years since then have been flecked with tragedy, such as the night at Villa Park in April 1981 when, having thumped Ipswich four days earlier, we stumbled to a single goal defeat and presented them with the title as a consequence.
It’s part of the neighbourliness that we’ve extended to them all too often in recent times, helping them out of numerous relegation struggles with a string of warm hearted failures to stub out their Premier League existence. We’re generous that way round these parts.
There was that horrific day in 1990 when the crack of Gary Robson’s shinbone echoed all the way down to the Sandwell Valley or the time that Thomas Hitzlsperger’s deflected shot flashed into the top corner in the final seconds of our first Premier League visit to the Second City.
But there have been laughs aplenty too, as long as you don’t count Chris Brunt’s sliced penalty that nearly took out the corner flag, the great man atoning by playing his full part in our win that day, Paul Scharner exposing his DIY t-shirt after knocking in the winner and creating a nice little earner for himself into the bargain.
Or there was the time when, with the home fans celebrating our impending relegation, Paul Robinson popped up at the far post to head in in the dying moments, win a point and send us on our way to the great escape.
The highs have been few and far between, especially in recent times, but in one particular, we can claim a spotless record compared with the Villans. When we win the FA Cup, we always give it back after a year. Not like some who let it get pinched…