Date: 29th October 2005 at 4:07pm
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Well, it seems that the mooning, gurning and badinage has run its course and just like the cavalry and the injuns in some matinee Western, the hatchet has been buried and the pipe of peace has been mutually puffed, as the imminence of mutual peril has concentrated the minds of both the Bluenoses and the Villans.

Suddenly both sets of fans have become aware that due to the likes of Wigan refusing the role of push-overs this season, it is beginning to look like a decent bet that at least one Birmingham club will be relegated by the time the sun is once again high in sky, if not two. Blues are a single defeat away from the event horizon and Villa are perhaps two but anyone fancying a punt might not be throwing their money away if they bet on the two sets of fans taking a header off lovers leap, hand in hand, with the jam-tomorrow promises of their boards echoing in their ears. At least one set of fans
will watch the wonders of the World Cup, with the knowledge that they have a season in the Championship to look forward to.

Put simply, the billionaires of St Andrews and the tightwads of Villa Park have allowed their respective clubs to start the season under-resourced and
possibly even wrongly managed. Even the most sanguine fan of either club would find it hard to pick a decent side from the players available to both clubs and a judicious inclusion of the Albion players doesn’t actually make it much easier.

Blues have a decent goalkeeper and a team so slow that their attacks can be timed with a sun-dial. Villa have a questionable defence, an absent midfield and an attack entirely dependent on the doubtful fitness of a player who is likely to play less than 50% of the games this season. Both clubs have managers who were given money: one bought Djemba-Djemba and the other bought
Pandiani – two players the fans might have bought as a cruel joke for their rivals but not for themselves. Both clubs have managers who seem to have lost any spark we assumed they had and while Bruce gives a fair impression
of a man preparing to tough it out, O’Leary looks like a man attending an interview at an undertakers.

Where’s the strength? Where’s the inspiration? And, where’s the leadership?

And what about the two boards?

Villa are living on the pipe dreams of a fresh start under new ownership but, as is likely, Ellis insists that the main beneficiaries of the deal are the shareholders (which is his duty), the consortium could end up with ten bob and a sucked and spat-out smarty, as a transfer fund, or even debts which only Man United would be envious of. The fate of Hearts and George
Burley is something else to dread, as Doug’s train-set becomes someone else’s train-set.

Blues are in a seemingly worse situation, as the only solution to their long-term ambitions of breaking into the big time, is an entirely self-financing scheme of building a casino with a stadium attached to it,
while the budget these multi-millionaires (they have a billion between them) have allocated for players, ensures that the crowds are falling to levels not likely to test St Andrew’s capacity let alone one built to hold 65 000 on waste ground in Saltley. One Bluenose complained that he had spent £120 this season, to see one goal – and it wasn’t Phillips’ either, he added when
he saw me smile.

It is no coincidence that the two clubs are both teetering on the edge and it has been my view for a while, that all this is the result of a non-aggression pact between the two clubs and the agreement that ‘we won’t spend too much if you don’t’ has sewn the seeds of impending disaster for one or even both Birmingham clubs. All that remains to hope for by the respective fans, is that they can scrape together enough points to make it to the transfer window, without having to repeat the feat of the Albion last year.

Certainly all the signs are there that Villa have entered an all too familiar decline again: every team in the league now looks like a good team and every fixture is accompanied by a sense of dread.

But if the two clubs fall, there will be consolation aplenty – even if it turns out to be as hollow as a St Andrews’ trophy cabinet.


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