Almost. It might be the epitaph for our season, for the club’s recent history but we’ll be happy to tag yesterday as ‘almost’. We didn’t play and for a while, were a place or two higher in the table. If only we could get promotion that way!
That would rob us of the fun of the day, of today. Birmingham City, we’ve missed you. OK, our reduced circumstances have brought this about but there’s more of a frisson to this derby than the meetings with Albion. It’s a small perk to the season. A bigger perk today is dragging ourselves closer to them with victory; three or more goals takes us into the top half of the table for the first time since August.
A win today also means that in four games Steve Bruce will have acquired as many points as we had in the previous eleven. Times they are a-changin’.
Which is where today gets interesting. Will Bruce retain faith with 4-3-3 or is he going with its more defensive cousin, 4-5-1? The win at Reading is the template for today’s performance. It’s going to be vital that the players remain focussed and not drawn into the emotion of the occasion. They need to get the aggression and in that sense, the redemption of Gabby Agbonlahor may be welcomed.
He won’t start, probably not even make the bench which I have no issue with. But he does understand what this game means, how to win them and that’s what Villa need. Bruce has the inside knowledge from the other side of the fence and understands this as well but the pair of them are in the minority. Sure, they’ve all played in local derbies but we all like to think of ours as meaning more, of being more important.
So this one is. A shame Jack Grealish isn’t fit for this one. Probably just as well; knowing his passion for the club, he’d be the first name in the ref’s book and the first to see red.
Birmingham, it has to be said, have done well so far and it’s sticks in the throat to say that. Their home form has been good recently although they have obligingly lost their only other home derby to Wolves. They’ve lost two of the last three as well, most recently at Burton.
We’re both in roughly the same form; we’ve taken ten points from the last seven, they’ve taken eleven. Given how poor our start was, it’s an interesting measure of the team’s progress that Bruce’s reign has brought us into comparable form. Curiously during his at St Andrews, Bruce didn’t lose the first six of the eight derbies he was in charge. Different times, I know.
And if you want some hope, something more than not having lost since 2010’s League Cup meeting, some historical pointer to the outcome this lunchtime. We’ve played them once on this day, in 1926. Ninety years ago, Villa won 2 – 1 at St Andrews.
A repeat of that today would do me nicely. I fancy us to do so as well, 2 – 1. Jonathan Kodjia at the double, I think.