The international break is will and truly underway and club football has been put on hold. This gives me a great opportunity to write something a bit different than a standard preview or an opinion on the current outgoings at St.Andrews. Instead I’m going to be looking at the top five moments of my lifetime from one of the fiercest derby in English Football – The Second City derby.
During my time supporting the Blues I’ve already seen the ups and downs that come with the derby as well as some rather comical moments to go with it, so let’s jump straight into it and remind ourselves of the good times!
5|Robbie Savage gets the last laugh:
I’m going to cast your minds back to our first full season in the Premier League and the return fixture of our bitter rivals on March 3, 2003. The Blues were struggling towards the lower remits of the league and desperately needed a win to pull away from the relegation places and what more of an incentive did they need then a chance to do the double over B6 for the first time in 20+ years. This game had it all; goals, drama, a goalkeeping howler and even a headbutt for good measure.
The game was on a even keel and both sides had good chances to take the lead, but it took a turn for the worse for Villa when Dion Dublin put in a very rash and late challenge on Robbie Savage, which sparked a reaction from the Welshman and a handful of other Blues players.
There was no doubt that Mark Halsey was going to book Dublin for his challenge, but that decision soon changed when Savage and the guilty party had an exchange of words which led to the latter headbutting Savage literally inches away from the referee – cue a pile up of players from both sides and a referee with no other choice but to take action for the events that had took place. When the officials finally managed to calm things down Mr Halsey brandished the red card and gave Dublin his marching orders to the delight of the travelling Blues fans and the disgust of those in the home end.
Birmingham then had a man advantage and soon not long after were a goal to the good thanks to Stan Lazaridis heading home at the back stick from a Jeff Kenna cross.
Savage was on the recieving end of a lot of abuse from the home crowd for the remainder of the game, but he got the last laugh thanks to another calamitous error from Peter Enckleman dropping the ball to the feet of Geoff Horsfield, allowing him to almost walk the ball into an open net. Glorious. So I guess we could say Robbie Savage got the last laugh on this occasion and not for the first time.
Now it’s time for number four and it just so happens to be from the same season, but this time it comes from the home fixture.
Olof Mellberg and Peter Enckleman providing comedy gold:
This one isn’t that actual game itself, that comes later in my top five – instead it’s probably the most comical bit of goalkeeping you will ever seen in football.
The Blues were 1-0 up and dominated the first half, but were made to defend a Villa onslaught valiantly through out the second – no one could have imagined what would happen after Martin Grainger scuffed a pass out for a throw in. In what seemed to be a standard throw in from Olof Mellberg back to his keeper Peter Enckleman it suddenly became a moment to forget for the Nordic comedy duo.
Mellberg decided to build from the back and throw the ball to his keeper, but instead of him taking a touch and passing it to either of his full-backs (like a normal keeper would) the ball ended up going underneath his boot and trickled over the line to the delight of everyone in Blue.
Some fans even managed to get onto the pitch and tell the distraught keeper what they actually thought of him. To this day over 15 years on you simply cannot talk about the derby without mentioning that moment – truly comical stuff.
3|Turns out to be that very night of the Enckleman howler. Oh what a night, mid-September on a Monday night…well you know the rest!
It was the return of the Second City derby and it was being played in the top flight for the first time in 16 years. The build up to this one was like no other and it really was the most anticipated game of the season. I was only four years old at the time and my Dad told me “You’ll never forget your first derby” – how right was he?
We went into that game complete underdogs, Villa thought they could just turn up and return back to B6 with all 3 points in the bag. Unfortunately for them, this Blues team were made of sterner stuff.
The whole night you could just feel the sense of intimidation that the home crowd were creating and it was the first time I’d seen anything like it. A chorus of ‘Keep Right On’ being belted out from everyone in the ground, followed up by a reminder of what we think of those in claret and blue – I’m not lying when I say the ground actually felt like it was moving.
Straight from the off we got into them and the fans made it as hostile as I’ve seen St Andrews be and why so many people fear coming here when its packed out.
On the pitch we just seemed to want it more, it seemed like the players knew exactly how much this meant to everyone connected to the City and on the 30 minute-mark we got what we rightfully deserved – A ball into the box and a fluffed clearance from Mr Mellburg meant the ball could kindly ricochet of Savage and land to Clinton Morrison…who made no mistake. I swear the noise that followed could have caused an earthquake – it was absolute pandemonium in the home end, with bodies flying everywhere. Villa shell-shocked.
The first half continued to be all Blues who were unlucky not to add to the score sheet before half time.
The second half was a different story, they came out and pressed hard to find an equaliser and Birmingham stood up and made sure they were counted for. Against the run of play came that calamitous error already mentioned meant that the Blues found themselves 2-0 up with only 15 minutes to go – could it get any better?
Well, yes…it could. Thank you Alpay. Another terrible mistake from the Villa defence this time who tried to be clever and dribble round the horse, wrong move. Geoff managed to nick the ball of him and probably have time to thank him before slamming the ball home at the near post. 3-0, 3 points and the pride of the Second City went to the Blue part of the City. It was that night that made me realised, I was born to be Blues.
Coming in at number two is possibly of the greatest late goals you could ever score in your career and it came from the king of the last minute goal… Stern John.
A year later from doing the double over our arch rivals we found ourselves almost on equal terms, with a well established squad and aiming towards the top six of the table rather than the bottom six. Both teams found themselves in good stead and were trying to build on their unbeaten runs. It had all the billing to be a very competitive and tasty encounter.
Unfortunately for the first hour of the game it was the exact opposite for the Blues as villa found themselves 2-0 up thanks to a Darius Vassell goal and a Hitzlsperger humzinger. It looked like they were finally going to get one over us, but the last 30 minutes proved to be a different story.
Birmingham looked hungrier and more determined to put things right and Villa? They just seemed to want the final whistle blew 35 minutes early. A lovely move which ended with Mikael Forssell steering the ball past the onlooking Sørensen to set up a nervy last 30 minutes for everyone involved.
It seemed like it was never going to come, The Blues pushed and pressed to no avail and when the clocked ticked down into the 90th minute it didn’t look likely.
Whistles from the home end echoed around the ground with a minute to go as the ball was just being lumped into one area and then another as both teams seemed to be fighting with everything they had left. Darren Purse lofted a ball up high into the Villa box and found the head of Forssell who’s flick on landed down off the back of Clinton Morrison who managed to somehow readjust and have his goal bound effort tipped to one side.
Fortunately for everyone in blue concerned it landed right at the feet of Stern John who made no mistake and hammered home from four yards. You know when you think “I’d have done anything to be in that crowd”, it really was one of those moments. I think the celebrations that followed went past the definition of limbs, the subs were on the pitch, so was Brucie and even those who managed to get into the home end couldn’t help but celebrate the late equaliser and subsequently get themselves removed from the ground in the process, worth it I’m sure.
The whole moment was summed up by Savage perfectly at the end of the game “To come back from 2-0 down felt so much better than beating them 3-0 and 0-2 last season”, you’re not wrong Robbie, you’re no wrong.
So here it is, my number one moment of my lifetime when it comes to the Second City derby. This one may not fall in number one for everybody, but for me what happened as a result of this match means it takes the top spot.
Step forward; The Carling Cup Quater-Final and Nikola Zigic’s late winner.
Birmingham and Villa both found themselves in the Quarter-Final of the Carling Cup and it was a real opportunity for both teams to have a chance of adding some silverware to their club, so when the draw was made and the Blues managed to pull Aston Villa at home it added a different spice and insentive to what was already a hostile game – it was also the first time the two sides were allowed to clash since the first meeting in the Premier League.
Going into the game they were certainly the favorites and really fancied themselves to be in the hat for the Semi-Final the next day, but this one had shades of the 2002 Monday night meeting between both sides and it would head the same way. I was now much older and could understand what this game really meant, compared to my first one. This was a massive opportunity for both teams and if it meant that either went onto cup glory the other wouldn’t be able to live it down.
The ground was booming and the atmosphere as hostile as ever, the cold weather and snow just added to the occasion beautifully.
City started the game the slower out of the two but were rewarded 12 minutes in thanks to a clumsy, mistimed challenge from Richard Dunne on Lee Bowyer. Up stepped Seb Larsson, who made no mistake and sent Friedel the wrong way.
The game was then very even and both sides created numerous chances, the Blues having one chalked off when it clearly should have counted. Just like the cruel game it is, Villa went up the other end moments later and the ball fell fortunately to Agbonlahor who managed to turn and shoot past Foster – This cued a flurry of snowballs being hurled towards the goalscorer.
The second half was more of the same with both sides creating chances, but neither really having the cutting edge to create a golden one.
The last 10 minutes of the game came by and it seemed if anyone was going to score it would be them, as Birmingham looked to be happy to go into extra-time to settle it. That wouldn’t be the case though thanks to a ball down the line for the galloping Cameron Jerome to deal with and try and carve open an opportunity. He managed to put the ball across the box with no real power and it went towards the towering Zigic who was being closely marked by Luke Young – the latter deciding to go to ground to deal with cross which proved to be a pivotal moment for him.
Zigic’s shot looked to be one that would be comfortably dealt with by the keeper, instead it deflected off the backside of Young and looped up and over Friedel into the back of the net in what seemed like slow motion. The whole ground shook. The noise generated was beyond belief and there was no coming back from the 84th minute winner. City were on their way to the Semi-Final of the League Cup for the first time in 10 years.
This game of course will go on long in the memory for everyone involved at Birmingham because that year we went on to win the whole thing, which we’ll never let them across the expressway forget.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my top five moments of the Second City derby and that you’re not too bored without the Blues this weekend, but it’s almost upon us and only a week to go until the big one!
Enjoy your week folks and Keep Right On!
Picture Credit: BBC Sport