As I look back to my feelings before last night’s game with West Brom, for the first time properly this season, I felt somewhat nervous. This is mainly due to the baggies having newly appointed Sam Allardyce at the helm. Although ‘Big Sam’s’ notorious style doesn’t strike fear into an opponent, his stubborn style of defending and our inability to see off Burnley last time out, did worry me.
However, when I look back at the history of fixtures against the baggies in my lifetime, there’s very little to be concerned about. This was the 149th league meeting between the West Midlands rivals and Dean Smith’s side got back to winning ways after a disappointing draw at Villa Park on Thursday night.
An early goal from Anwar El Ghazi set the tone for the remainder of the game and when West Brom’s captain Jake Livermore received a straight red card for a lunge on Grealish, the three points seemed a certainty. Two late goals sealed the victory, goals coming from Bertrand Traoré and another for El Ghazi, his third in three games.
3-0 was representative of the game, Villa dominated and possibly could have scored more. ‘Super Jack’ was at his usual best, driving at West Brom’s defence and making things happen. Traoré was also impressive, cutting in from the right-hand-side with his wand of a left foot.
The last time we played West Brom, we lost the game 1-0, however being the second-leg of the play-off semi-final, Jed Steer’s heroics made sure we were victorious on penalties and secured our place in the final at Wembley. We all know how that played out.
The first encounter I can remember going to is the 2-1 victory at Villa Park in the 2008/09 season, where Curtis Davies scored against his former club. Two seasons later the score at Villa Park was the same, with Stewart Downing and Emile Heskey getting on the scoresheet. As a young Villa fan my experience of playing the Baggies was a positive one and it remains today, however a season later a Chris Herd red card in front of the Holte End left a bitter taste in my mouth and so the start of a personal rivalry emerged.
The Villans lost that game 2-1 and I have vivid memories of both Jonas Olsson and Paul Scharner’s goals that day. This game was part of Alex McLeish’s only season at B6, so the dreary performance and result was one of many that season.
However, this was a mere blip in our successful record against West Brom in my lifetime. My first visit to The Hawthorns was in Paul Lambert’s first season in charge, where Baggies managed to grab a point after being 2-0 down at half-time. Big Christian Benteke scored one of his finest goals in a Villa shirt that evening, swivelling left and right before slamming a thunderbolt past Ben Foster. Although this game ended in disappointment, it was my first taste of an away derby and I loved it.
The following season the score at The Hawthorns was the same, but this time we came back from 2-0 down to secure a point. A rocket from Ashley Westwood made sure we left with something that night. Another night Villa gave us something to remember came in that same season but this time at Villa Park.
After just nine minutes of the reverse fixture, Villa found themselves 2-0 down after a screamer from Chris Brunt. This game is one of my favourites at B6, Fabian Delph’s goal to put us 3-2 ahead doesn’t get the credit it deserves. The control on the outside of the defender and the left footed strike that nearly ripped the back of the net made me roar louder than I had ever roared before in the Trinity Road Stand. I had a disliking for the Baggies, maybe because one of my best mates is a West Brom, but I had the bragging rights after this 4-3 victory.
How can you talk about this West Midlands derby without mentioning the week in which we beat the Baggies twice. I mention this regularly to my mate and maybe this is why I was strangely nervous for last night’s match.
The first game came in the league and a dramatic encounter was summed up by a late penalty in front of the Holte End, which Benteke stroked home to win the game 2-1. Later that week the Villans were victorious again over Tony Pulis’ side and Villa fans’ love towards Tim Sherwood was sky-high. A Scott Sinclair goal clinched a 2-0 win and sent Villa to Wembley for the FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool.
Looking back at last night’s game, a returning Matty Cash and Douglas Luiz brought a needed boost to the team. Smith’s men diminished any first-game ‘boing’ from the Baggies and allowed Villa fans to have the bragging rights in the West Midlands until April next year.
Next up for the Villans is Crystal Palace on Boxing Day, Roy Hodgson’s men will be looking to bounce back after a thrashing at the hands of Liverpool last time out. Dean Smith will be hoping to have midfield ace Ross Barkley back fit for the crucial festive game.