It would be great for West Midlands’ football if Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion are all plying their trade in the Premier League next season. And there is certainly a good chance of that happening.
Not since the 1983-84 season have all four clubs been present in the top-flight of English football. But with Albion still chasing hard for a quick return under Roberto Di Matteo, currently lying in the second automatic promotion place in The Championship, and Wolves keeping their heads just above the Premier League relegation zone there is the prospect of this 26-year record being curtailed.
During that time Villa are the only club from the quartet not to have spent some time in the third tier of English football, with the Wanderers having dropped down to the fourth tier in the late ‘80s. That kind of decline is not acceptable for any of these clubs and even Villa have endured under-achievement in recent times. But that could be about to change with Martin O’Neill set to lead the Villans out at Wembley at the end of this month to contest for the League Cup in the club’s first domestic final in 10 years.
They have improved each season under the Northern Irishman, finishing sixth in their past two campaigns. It is a far cry from the 2005-06 season when Villa finished with just 42 points in 16th place, two positions above the relegation zone. If they can win silverware this season it will be seen as a massive step forward for this footballing giant. The next priority will be breaking into one of the coveted Champions League positions, something they are well set-up to achieve within the next couple of years.
And what about their City neighbours, Birmingham? What a season they are having. They sit in 8th place in the top-flight and just six points behind Villa. If they can hold onto a top-half position it will have been a great achievement for Alex McLeish’s men. With Premier League experience in abundance and a settled side they have made it look easy when essentially survival was the only aim at the start of the campaign. Along with Albion and the Old Gold, the Blues didn’t make their first Premier League appearance until the Noughties and will be looking to establish themselves after a couple of years yo-yoing.
The Hawthorns and Molineux is where the biggest battles will be witnessed though. Both clubs are well run but don’t quite have the financial footing to really exert themselves. Albion continue to play good attacking football, despite changing mangers in the summer and will need to finish the season strongly if they are to hold off a resurgent Nottingham Forest. And Mick McCarthy’s men will have to dig deep if they are to hang on to their current position of 17th in the Premier League. It must be remembered though, that their current positions are a damn sight better than they have often been throughout the past 25 years. This region’s sides are all on an upward curve.
If Villa can win at Wembley this month to lead the West Midlands’ cause, it will then be down to Wolves and West Brom to ensure that all four clubs are fighting it out with English football’s elite next season. It would be great to see the 26-year wait come to an end.