Okay, so they had their chances…
16 goal attempts, 14 on target, for an away team is an impressive feat and would generally suggest that the home side dropped all 3 points. But guess what… it means nothing. Because as surely as we “deserved” to beat Sunderland 6 games ago, Brummie may have “deserved” to receive at least a point from the weekend’s heated Second City Derby – but in sport: you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you take.
And as Villa ruthlessly put their rivals to the sword, in the same fashion as the “bigger” teams punish those who don’t capitalise every week, I make no apologies for the Claret side of Birmingham having enough backbone, enough resilience and enough fight to withstand the considerable Blues pressure and having enough sack to ante-up again to keep our Champions League scrap alive.
On the 29th March, in the aftermath of that Stamford Bridge result, I called on the players to “Never Die Easy”. If an opponent was to overcome you, then they should earn your death. And as we refused to be rolled over this time round, as we refused to go down without a fight, Birmingham refused to go to that extra mile, they refused to go to the edge with us. Consequently, they did not earn, they did not “deserve” our blood.
This is why I haven’t stopped cringing at the embarrassing outbursts of Alex McLeish and Roger Johnson in the aftermath of their defeat. Having failed to turn chances into goals, the Brummies wanted 3 points handed on a plate for them and after being punished for a clumsy, clumsy challenge on Agbonlahor in the box, Birmingham left without a point and without dignity as Alex McLeish winced, “It’s not fair…”
“The decision regarding the penalty was a disgrace…” cried RJ, the guilty defendant. It may seem hypocritical of a Villa fan to slam other penalty pleas so soon after our Cup bemusements; but then, we had 100% assurance of both our claims and now, we’re still in the right. Because as the Brummie back targeted the experienced Atkinson and said that “the game was too big for him”, he unashamedly covered up his own frailties by incorrectly and unfairly slamming the game changing decision ‘a disgrace’. Despite the centre back getting a nick on the ball with the side of his foot (a very, very lucky nick because he had clearly mistimed his tackle), Agbonlahor was still en route to goal before being swiped to the ground by the clueless Johnson. The ball takes a faint deflection after the defender’s fortunate contact, but even so, Gabby is still in for a goalscoring opportunity but for the ridiculously late challenge to follow. So instead of arguing over was it or was it not a penalty, why aren’t we disputing the fact that Johnson stayed on the field of play after denying Agbonlahor a fourth goal in as many Birmingham derbies?
What was also disappointing was some of the crunching challenges from our former Villains (Gardner and Ridgewell), but I suppose they have firmly switched allegiances so why expect any loyalties? Another baffling occurence was how Gregory Vignal managed to stay on the pitch for 75 minutes before being subbed off instead of sent off for any of his 4 yellow card-worthy fouls. And lest we forget about my country man’s (Stephen Carr) thuggish, provocative taunts to the victorious home fans; demonstrating a complete disregard to not only the laws of the game, but to any self respect he had left in him. But the most pleasing aspect of this was, instead of worrying about the referee’s performance, instead of lowering ourselves to the guttering levels of the Brum-scum, we went about creating our own luck and shaping our own destiny to secure all 3 points.
When your backs are against the wall, when you’re on the ropes, it’s always a divine saving grace when you have a trustworthy number 1 as your last line of defence. Paul Tomkins, a Liverpool blogger, researched how the goalkeeper may have the key position on a football pitch (http://tomkinstimes.com/2010/04/the-key-position/). And analyzing Sunday’s match, who could argue? Because not only did Friedel prevent us losing to our fiercest enemies, but he kept us in the game and created the platform from which we climbed to victory and to possible 4th place stardom. His clean sheet was only his 15th of the league campaign – one behind Reina’s impressive 16 – and with an uninspiring ‘goals for’ tally, Villa’s fantastic league form may well and truly be indebted to the immovable experience of Brad Friedel.
What is most alarming about Birmingham’s undignified and unfounded yelps of desperation is that their ambition is clearly limited. With wealthy owners and a fantastic league record as a newly-promoted outfit, their only aim still seems to be a desire to get one over their local rivals. I can confidently maintain that a successful season for The Clowns would be to take 4 points from their Second City matches, whereas we are thankfully concerned with bigger and more important matters.
Because as we realize that there are more than 2 fixtures in a season, the inferiority complex across the city is unfortunately hindering their development and their short-sided, unimaginative objectives mean that Birmingham Football Club will always be living in the shadow of Aston Villa. As every season passes, Aston Villa look more and more likely to break the mould of the elitest Premier League – but judging from Alex McLeish and Roger Johnson’s extensive and controversial take on Sunday’s game, Birmingham have no hope (and no expectation) of breaking into the exceptionally strong Premier League top 8 (which consists of the current top 8). What is more is that in 23 meetings, McLeish has only got the better of O’Neill 3 times compared to the Northern Ireland man’s 15 victories and after recording a record 5th successive Birmingham derby win, the Blue-noses look doomed to failure in even their smallest dreams.
They could have walked proudly out of Villa Park with their heads held high. After outplaying their rivals, they could have put it down to a bit of bad luck, but instead they decided to kick and scream like a petulant child who won’t leave the toy shop until he gets what he wants. Instead, they showed us their hand, they showed us their only desire all along was to knock Villa off their perch and having failed to do so, what was once labelled a highly impressive season is now immaterial and all the 2 whingers have served to do is remind Villains that we have once again put them in their place.