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Villa v West Brom match preview: This derby is "most competitive"
Paul Brown looks ahead to the Baggies clash.
30th Sep 2012
Villa v West Brom match preview: This derby is "most competitive"


By Paul Brown

Villa have Birmingham. Albion have Wolves.

In terms of derbies, those are the big rivalries for the current generation of supporters.

But we may all need to change our outlook and go 'Back to the Future'.

Yes Wolves are flying high in the Championship. And Birmingham are back believing again after an unlikely win at Brighton. But there are no guarantees of promotion for anyone in the competitive Championship.

For the time being - and what could conceivably be the foreseeable future - Villa and Albion look set to be the main contenders in the battle for ultimate regional supremacy.

That current generation of supporters I referred to earlier - those who know tablets as mini computers rather than headache suppressors - may find it difficult to accept Villa and Albion as a game worthy of acclaim.

But if you rewind little more than 30 years, it was "the" derby to win.

Just ask some of the main men of that era.

"I've been involved in derbies in Manchester, Madrid and the West Midlands," said Big Ron Atkinson. "Villa v Albion was the most competitive.

"There's some definite history there - I think it started in the 1950s when Ronnie Allen scored a late goal to relegate Villa. Then there was a series of incidents and there was always a bit of bite around that game."

"Villa against Birmingham was seen as the big derby but Villa against West Brom was always the most competitive in my opinion," continued Ken McNaught.

"It always seemed more in the balance. We were always fairly confident we'd beat Birmingham in that era. They were on a low ebb at the time.

"West Brom were always very potent offensively. We always knew we were tight as a football team and we could certainly defend. But we were always a bit wary against the Albion. We had some great battles with Albion."

"The West Brom derby was the biggest derby game in the region during my time because they were a better side than the Blues, added Gordon Cowans. "Albion had the likes of Bryan Robson, Derek Statham, Ally Brown, Cyrille Regis, Brendon Batson and Laurie Cunningham. It was a top footballing side.

"That was a real challenge at the time. Blues were still the biggest rivals but the Albion side were the harder team to play against."

The sentiment of Villa v Albion being the hardest of Midland derby games was a view shared by those from the blue and white arena of the Hawthorns.

"Back in the 70s and 80s, the Villa derby was the big one," said Cyrille Regis.

"They had won the League Championship and the European Cup. They were big boys in the Midlands. It was the one to win as far as I'm concerned.

"From a Black Country point of view, people say the Wolves but from the perspective of who's the top dog in the area it was always Villa v Albion. We were both playing well. It was always a big, big game.

"In those days that match was hell and thunder for a good 30-35 minutes plus until it settled down a bit. You could tackle from behind, it was a physical game back then, it was mean out there."

"For me personally, Villa v Albion is the biggest of the lot," said Tony 'Bomber' Brown, record-goalscorer and appearance-maker at West Brom.

"I joined Albion at a time when both teams were in the top-flight. Wolves and Blues weren't in those early years when I started so the big game for me was Villa v Albion. Villa are the big rivals! They will always be for me. That's the big derby.

"Players from my era looked forward to that game more than any other. I think it's changed in recent times because our younger supporters probably see the Wolves match as bigger and the same with Villa and Blues.

"But for me it will always be Villa and Albion. Villa v Albion was always ultra competitive. Both teams were top-class with world-class players - and I mean that - world-class players!

"Look at Laurie Cunningham, Cyrille Regis, Bryan Robson, Derek Statham, Gordon Cowans, Gary Shaw, Peter Withe and Dennis Mortimer.

"They were superb players - terrific. That is why they were so competitive and everyone looked forward to them because you knew you'd be entertained with real quality football and the result in the balance.

"I really looked forward to them and I am sure the supporters relished them too."

They say that football works in cycles and you get the feeling that's the case with this particular fixture.

Out of the spotlight over the past few years due to ferocious battles with Blues and Wolves, this game could see a return to the glamour of those heady glory days.

Manager Paul Lambert is certainly taking the encounter seriously this afternoon, revealing his passion for derbies in his pre-match press conference.

He was also praying for a common-sense approach from his players, asking them to be inspired by the occasion but not to the point where it spills over into overexuberance.

"You have to win. You will do things you never thought were humanly possible in that 90 minutes," said Lambert.

"You will go in for challenge and think 'why did you go for it' when you've got no right to go for it but the atmosphere and adrenalin gets you there.

"The big thing for me is that is that everyone plays with their head. You can't play the occasion. You've got to play what is in front of you and if you keep your head and do the right things, then you will be fine as long as you don't get caught up in the whole thing.

"You have a better chance of winning with 11 players on the pitch."

Let's hope the game ends with a full complement of stars on both teams and we can toast a return of the mesmerising, captivating and competitive derby of years gone by.

Click here to access the match console and follow the live audio/text commentary.

MATCH INFO

Match: Villa v West Brom
Competition: Barclays Premier League
Venue: Villa Park
Date: Sunday September 30 - KO 4pm
Referee: Anthony Taylor

AVTV DON'T MISS

Lambert Press Conference - click here
Pre-Match Show - click here
Memory Match - click here

TEAM NEWS

Brett Holman [knee], who missed the 4-2 win at Manchester City, has recovered in time for the Baggies derby.

Joe Bennett [leg] came off at the Etihad Stadium but should also be fit for the game.

Stephen Ireland [wrist], Gary Gardner [knee] and Richard Dunne [groin] miss out.

Liam Ridgewell [thigh] and Goran Popov [groin] should both be fit for Albion.

Peter Odemwingie [suspension] completes the final game of his three-match ban following his dismissal at Fulham.

TICKETS

Areas are selling quickly. All lower tiers are now virtually sold out.

There is still availability in the upper tiers of the stadium - including Holte End Upper and the Family Stand.

Tickets can still be bought by visiting the City Centre Store or Villa Village Ticket Office.

The call centre on 0800 612 0970 is open today from 10am.

Villa's online ticket office is also the perfect place to purchase 24/7. Click here to buy Baggies tickets.

Tickets purchased prior to Sunday lunchtime will be made available for collection immediately from the Villa Village Ticket Office.

Tickets not collected before 2pm on Sunday will be available to collect from the Trinity Road Collection Kiosk on matchday.

GENTING BETTING GUIDE

Villa win - 11/8
Draw - 11/5
Villa win 3-1 - 9/1
Draw half-time/Villa full-time - 9/2
Time of first goal 21mins-30mins - 9/2
Bent score first Villa win 3-0 - 66/1

Click here for FAQs on betting.

Don't forget, if you win your bet, cash payment is available after the game from the North Stand payout office, which is open an hour after the game finishes.

However you are also able collect your winnings online via www.gentingcasino.com/villaclaim.

Good luck and let's hope for a great result!

COLOURS

Villa will be wearing their home kit of claret and blue.

LAST TIME OUT

Villa 1-2 West Brom
October 22, 2011
Bent [23], Olsson [45], Scharner [57]

MATCH STATS

Darren Bent ended a run of seven Barclays Premier League matches without a goal at Southampton. He is now one short of netting his 150th career top-flight goal.

Though fourth-placed West Brom have the best home record in the Barclays Premier League at present, their away record is the fifteenth worst.

Villa have failed to beat West Brom in their past three meetings.

Match Centre

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