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JohnCresswell
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Paul Barnes takes a look at our neighbours across the road.

Its the morning of the Black Country Derby, and even though I am sure both of these teams would rather have promotion (and both of them have a reasonable chance), an FA cup victory will go along way to keeping them happy. So what has this got to do with the Villa? Well not very much and then again a hell of a lot. Our ‘favourite’ celebrity Baggies fan, Adrian Chiles, wrote about it in yesterdays Guardian, and of course the name Villa comes up. Chiles hates the Villa almost as much as he hates Wolves, which is fair enough. The problem is that he lives a few minutes away from me and he knows I am a Villa fan. And whilst he hates Villa, I just can’t bring myself to hate the Baggies or Wolves, I even have a gentle affection for them. I am not sure I can hate any football team; I hate mad dictators, murderers and there ilk. I can bring about a strong dislike though of Birmingham City, and I don’t even come from Birmingham! What is it that cheers me up when I hear they lose? Is it that I am just fitting into the stereotypical Villa fan, infact all football fans. All teams need a rival; whether it be to sing about, to drive them on to greater glory, or just what we love most, to gloat over. Some places the rivalry digs much deeper; just look at the old firm. I remember watching the bizarre spectacle on the playing fields of New Jersey of 22 Americans fighting each other; one team was called something or other Rangers and the other something or other Celtic. Normally bright and intelligent people are allowed to become Neanderthals when they talk about there rivals team. Its no different on an international level. Holland and Germany have a deep animosity, that on the field leads to such scenes as Italia 90s Voeller/Rijikard clash, and off it to rival hooligan groups meeting on the border to carry on where the countries left off. Now the Dutch are the ultimate nation of liberals; look at how relaxed there laws are on prostitution and drug taking. But a Dutch girl could pretty much bring home anyone to meet the parents, bar someone from the fatherland. And the Villa equivalent of the Dutchman, Pete Bland has harsh word on the Blues describing them as a ‘rancid rotting corpse ’

Anyway back to the Midlands. Why is it we dislike the team from Small Heath? Well any good healthy rivalry relies on the other team disliking you. And when it comes to disliking Aston Villa, even Adrian Chiles at his most vindictive will come a distant second to a Blues fan. So why do they hate (and now I use the hate word, because they really do hate us) us? More than any other reason is pure jealousy. Villa were here first, and ever since only the most blinkered (and quite a few of them are that) would say that they have been anything other than the second best; if you include Wolves and West Brom, they are right at the back of the cue. Even Coventry City seem to have won more. So its obvious if someone hates you, you are more than likely to hate them back. The fact that we haven’t spent that much time together has only made that wound more festering for them. Their joy was unbridled when they beat us, and they carried on thinking they had some kind of voodoo on us. If Graham Taylor had managed to win those two games the whole course of history would be different. Whilst I was more than happy to beat them twice last season; if only to break the pain of the previous three years, I will be much happier when we beat Manchester United home and away. But for the Blues fan its the stuff of legend. The stuff that keeps them warm on dark nights.

But just that doesn’t make it enough does it? Well the owners the Gold Brothers and David Sullivan are a real conundrum. On the one hand the rags to riches tale of the Golds (yes David’s autobiography is called Pure Gold) is the stuff that warms the hearts. Accept most of the fortune of the Golds and Sullivan has been made in the adult industry. All the money in the world can’t buy them what they want; acceptance. They found to there bitter cost when they couldn’t buy there beloved West Ham. So they ended up with Birmingham City. As Birmingham City failed again to win the FA cup they can at least go and look at the old FA cup they bought at auction. Now Simon Jordan, chairman of Crystal Palace, is not one of my favourite chairman, he’s a south London wide boy who has done good, but his feud with the board of SHA is always bound to raise a chuckle; ‘What do I think of David Sullivan and David Gold?" mused Jordan. "Well, what do you expect me to think of two people who sell sex objects for a living? I see other clubs' chairmen as the enemy. I want to go in there and beat them up, some of them like David Sullivan’. Sullivan doesn’t like Jordan very much. Why? Because he didn’t wear a tie in the Blues boardroom. So Jordan as my enemies enemy suddenly doesn’t seem quite so bad. Its the way that over the last few years they have become unbearably arrogant; first it was that no one knew where Aston Villa were from unlike the mighty Birmingham City. Then it was how they were top dogs. Then it was how they wanted to build a 60000 seat stadium and a super casino. Of course the reality was these were all pipe dreams.

But more than anything its those fans we can’t abide. I am not going to lie. I have met some normal, intelligent, pleasant Blues fans. I might say they were pleasant and likable, but I can’t quite fathom how with all this knowledge they could bring themselves to support them, but football is often an affliction not a choice. But these people are in the minority. Few sets of fans have a worse reputation than they do, and all over the country the local constabularies fear the visit, especially when they are playing those other teams with a ‘reputation’. If you thought that hooliganism had disappeared, this set of fans still have other ideas. Now every team still attract an element of trouble. It goes with the territory, predominately male with plenty of drinking going on. But this lot seem to attract more than a little trouble, a quick trawl of the internet will turn up more than a few horrors. When you watch an international and see the flag of St George and anything that mentions Birmingham City and Zulu warriors its hard not to get annoyed.

Of course you dislike their players, because they play for them. But the dislike is temporary; I have no problem with Chris Sutton playing for them, and I wouldn’t in the future if someone decent played for them then played for us. But sometimes its more personal. Robbie Savage is of course that man (he was just the same at Leicester). We can’t abide him. He just winds us up and up. He’s an irritant, constantly being niggly. Bending the rules at every chance. A man in love with his own image. But he played up to his pantomime villain; he riled and annoyed us at every chance. It was mutual loathing. Yet he must have a sense of humour and some intelligence. Like a soothsayer he must have been able to see that the ship was going to sink. He announced that where he lived was too far from Birmingham and he wanted to go to Blackburn, managed by his friend, Mark Hughes. Suddenly the Blues hero had betrayed them. Whilst if this happened to most teams, you would feel sympathy. Not with this lot, a broad grin was more the reaction. And lets not forget the short and brief cameo by the man they call The Rifle. Not learning from the Villa players who always spoke out before a derby he announced ‘Aston Villa are an inferior team to us and we’ll clearly show that this weekend. Personally, I don’t only like to win these games. I like to score goals against Villa — so they can remember well who the best team in the city is.’ He lasted half a game and was sold three months later for a third of the amount they had paid for them.

The Pandiani saga illustrates perfectly the element of humour in all of this; we like to laugh at our rivals and the bitterer the better. Sure I thought it was funny when Wolves made Glenn Hoddle there manager, or when Leicester were going to call there stadium the Walkers bowl. But somehow the stories with SHA last that much longer. We all enjoyed the famous curse that Barry Fry supposedly cured or in 1921 when they forgot to enter the FA Cup. Or how Lee Hendrie was rumoured to being going out with Steve Bruce’s daughter. Personally I always get a little laugh from the badge designed by a fan (take note Villa). And recently they gave us a new classic; the Blues diary fiasco. No matter how hard they try, things just go wrong.

The problem with rivalry is the obsession we have with them. Its nice to make fun of them, its really good to beat them, but as far as I am concerned, I couldn’t care less when we aren’t playing them to hear about them. Maybe not being born in Birmingham I don’t feel the rivalry intensely; I just don’t join in when we sing about them. I just don’t see the reason; its not helping us, and it will only bemuse the opposition and there fans.

Following a team is often an irrational behaviour. Its a love that never dims, yet there is no guarantee of any happiness. Its the only place where we can truly stop being rational, and rivalry is the ultimate in that. Its going back to the old system of tribes and survival, its them or us. Victory will take us to a high, and defeat is unthinkable. And the strange thing is that whilst we love to see them fail, we can’t live without them. And we wouldn’t want it any other way.

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Good article.

I think the reason I dislike the Blues as much as I do is the one you mention - "they hate us". It seems to me that there is a huge part of that club which defines itself by "hatred of the Villa"rather than by any particular pride in their own entity.

You see it in Manchester too, with City fans and the emnity for United, though at least with Man City they have had periods where they've actually been successful. Generally though the long overshadowing of one club by a near neighbour is going to create resentment which turns to dislike and then to hatred. It makes them bitter and jealous and distorts their perspective.

With Wolves and Albion they have alternated and both have the tradition and trophies. With Blues and Villa only one club has the successful record.

Blues are at their best when they forget about trying to get one over on the Villa and just concentrate on their own club and plans and games. If they did that more often, I'd stop hating them* and settle instead for severely disliking them.

*maybe.

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I think the reason I dislike the Blues as much as I do is the one you mention - "they hate us". It seems to me that there is a huge part of that club which defines itself by "hatred of the Villa"rather than by any particular pride in their own entity.

Interesting - because Coventry fans REALLY hate us, and yet we don't care one iota about them....

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A very interesting article there. My dislike of SHA is borne out of the arrogance of their fans and their inability to acknowledge our acheivements.

Alot of my mates are fans of them and if they see us play really well they cannot acknowledge it. They keep accusing me of living in the past and that I don't know anything about football which is ridiculous. My girlfriends dad has a season ticket at the sty and he is the worst of the lot of them. Every time Villa don't win I get a load of stupid comments about how we will be relegated, O'Neill is rubbish, Lerner isn't backing us etc... I wouldn't mind but he genuinely seems to believe what he says.

I can acknowledge when they have done well like against Newcastle the other week. I don't hate SHA as much as they generally hate us but that is because we clearly are the superior club and there is nothing to suggest this superiority won't continue.

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