Aston Villa’s recent record belies Midlands majesty before Birmingham derby
Aston Villa made it two Midlands derby defeats on the trot as they fell 1-0 to fellow Premier League bottom half battlers West Bromwich Albion, just one matchweek after shockingly surrendering a 2-0 lead to a spirited Leicester City.
Tim Sherwood has done much to steady the Villa Park ship since taking over last season, but his relegation-escaping Villans seem to come up with a curious case of travel sickness and stage fright when facing fellow Midlands foes.
While Championship club Nottingham Forest can showcase one more dusty European Cup in their trophy cabinet, it is Villa (6/5 with Coral to be relegated) that are currently classed as the big-guns in their region. Should they not have a recent derby record to match it?
Of course the Midlands is a vast region, providing plenty of rivals, but the Villans have not dueled regularly with second-tier or below teams such as Coventry City, Birmingham City, Derby County, Forest, Notts County and Wolverhampton Wanderers for some time.
Based in the Second City, the big one is always going to be against Birmingham, but the West Midlands Blues have not had the chance to battle their bitter enemies since 2010/11, when three clashes across all competitions saw Villa claim not a single victory.
Now Sherwood has the opportunity to fashion himself as a cult hero and banish some of those bad memories against the Blues, as Aston Villa are set to take on their inter-city rivals in an upcoming Capital One Cup dust-up. Villa are odds-on at 8/11 to win at home, or 5/2 to draw, but a third derby loss in as many chances this term could cause a kerfuffle.
The Villans’ recent record in the Premier League against local cross-county competitors is nothing to boast about but, aside from a recent Villa Park loss to the Baggies, it seems their lacklustre record takes on the form of home sickness.
Leicester have triumphed against visiting Villa in both of their past two league scuffles at the King Power Stadium, scoring four in two as their guests struggled on the road.
Yet, the Birmingham-based club are a different team at Villa Park, as they racked-up two 2-1 wins, one in the league and another in the cup, against the Foxes last campaign. Already this season, Sherwood’s side have also smashed League Two team Notts County 5-3 on home turf while on Capital Cup One duty.
A similar recent trend emerges when squaring up against West Brom at The Hawthorns, with the Baggies claiming a 1-0 triumph in the previous term, while Villa again took the spoils from their scraps in league and cup at Villa Park.
Both Leicester and Albion away defeats may be cases of west meets east, but the journeys are short, meaning there is plenty of home support mobilised to cheer on the Birmingham claret and blue.
Staffordshire side Stoke City probably just about count as local competitors, but although Villa notched a rare away win the the Britannia last time, their record of two wins from the past 10 against the Potters leaves a lot to be desired.
As the ‘glamour club’ of their region, attracting the likes of Hollywood actor Tom Hanks to join the ranks of Villans fans, it may be Aston Villa’s approach to the matches that rankles most.
The past two derby defeats have both been bitter blows due to the way they were inflicted. Playing on the counter before collapsing to that tactic themselves versus Leicester, letting slip a 2-0 lead with around half an hour to go, does not bode well.
As many teams know, derby victories can be the platforms which instill the confidence to propel rampant runs and, for many fans, are the results which the season’s success can hinge upon. It is not simply enough to avoid losing, though Aston Villa (12/1 for a top 10 finish) could not even manage that as they struggled to create last time out against the Baggies, instead lumping long balls.
With a visit to The Hawthorns and the hosting of Leicester at Villa Park still to come, as well as the eagerly anticipated Birmingham derby, Sherwood must show his new recruits that Villa must play in local frays like the historically big club they are.