Birmingham City vs. Aston V*lla is, if you’ll hear me out, the strangest game of the football calendar here in England.
On its surface the game is just another bitter rivalry played our for 90 minutes to see which team will take home the city’s bragging rights until the next time they meet – it’s just like the Steel city derby, the Dockers derby (West Ham vs. Millwall) or the Merseyside derby, right? Wrong.
I call the ‘Second City’ derby strange because I truly believe that it’s the most unique fixture in the eyes of the English footballing world (yes I’m not saying the whole of the UK because the Old Firm is an entirely different beast). It’s a game where not only is a city split in two for a day but a game where the watchful eyes of the footballing world are forced to be cast upon the said city.
Football is ever-changing and it’s no secret that we’ve seen the beautiful game fall prey to a corporate monopoly in the technological age, with advertisements being plastered all over the sport as if this was the NFL (my personal favourite being Blues’ very own “Corner sponsored by Pukka Pies” announcement). With this has come a geographical focus, particularly for clubs in Manchester and London.
Granted, there’s naturally going to be more focus on these as they’re home to the 5 of the 6 ‘big ones’, but for me the favouritism runs a little deeper than that.
Midlands football as a whole hasn’t been majorly successful since the ’80s (apologies if I sound like one of them); only now are we seeing an impressive Wolves side challenge for a Europa spot. Accompanying this all-around lack of success is a lack of coverage within the media world of football. Since I’ve been following Blues I’ve always noticed the lack of love the media will show for this city and its inhabitants that aren’t wearing claret and blue and it’s always bugged me somewhat. Now, with V*lla looking like they’re in the Championship for the long run, it seems their ‘legacy ‘ can’t hold up this love affair by itself.
Birmingham as a city is often cast aside like some forgotten son who was pitifully awarded the title of ‘The Second City’ because they felt sorry for us – but take one deeper look at this place and you’ll find budding talent in all walks of life (including some fantastic football to boot this season).
Yet two times a year the world of football snobbery is forced to rear its ugly head and admit that this city is home to the best fixture of the game that this country can offer.
That’s why I feel like this is the strangest fixture in all of English football – because all eyes are on us. The build up, the trash-talking, the wondering of what formations each team will put out, the newspaper talk, the walk-out and then then finally the kick off. Everything up to that point is rare time in this city’s existence where people stand up and take notice of the passion we have as a collective football fan base (I call it passion, you call it hate).
All across the country football fans who claim they couldn’t care less about our club tune in and avidly watch as the best battle in football is waged in the theatre where hate-filled songs are hurled around more than the ball itself. It’s a battle where the city of Birmingham gets to show what it’s made of – that we’re not second-rate because it’s in our name (and that we’re actually the fastest growing city in the UK) and that just because we haven’t got players with price tags worth more than the city’s entire housing market; we don’t deserve to be ignored every other 363 days.
Blues vs. V*lla is a game built on pure, deep-rooted passion embedded in a love of football that’s sadly ignored for much of the year, but when we get our chance to shine it’s a beautiful spectacle that fills us with both nerves and elation.
It’s a game where players become clubs legends, where memories are made that will be the talk of the pubs for years to come and where one side of the city can walk with their heads held high.
I just hope and pray this time those heads will have noses of blue.