The much-hyped double header last March proved to be a massive disappointment for Albion as Aston Villa won both games to kick off a renaissance in their season that resulted in Premier League safety and a 4-0 hammering in the FA Cup Final. While the Baggies fans will be eager to get three points at Villa Park as some sort of revenge, I’m not sure that Tony Pulis will be going all out attack.
The match against Southampton last week showed the worst of a Tony Pulis side as Albion played out a turgid 0-0 draw. In fairness, the visitors had the better chances and Albion’s lack of pace and creativity in midfield was exposed as they failed to penetrate a well-organised Southampton defence. Without the energy of James Morrison in midfield, Callum McManaman was the only midfield who had pace and creativity and it was easy for the Saints to crowd him out of the game.
With Mozza back on Saturday, I expect a massive improvement on that front, but I don’t expect an adventurous line-up. Sherwood will set his team up to attack so Albion will need to be well organised, Yacob will need to keep his discipline, and Albion will need some pace up front to provide an outlet on the break.
The history of this fixture was covered in my preview to the double header back in March, so this piece will look at those players who have played for both clubs. Despite the rivalry, there have been plenty of players who have pulled on the stripes and the claret of the Villains over the years, so I will concentrate on a few of the more recent members of that particular group, plus a few legends of yesteryear.
Of the current squads, there are two that immediately jump out. Jolean Lescott, of course, made the switch over the border a few weeks ago and has made just one appearance for the Villains in their last match against Leicester having made 39 appearances for Albion include two games at the strat of this season. Scott Sinclair made Aston Villa his third permanent club in the summa following his successful loan agreement last season. Albion are one of twelve clubs that Sinclair has played for when you include loan spells whilst at Chelsea and Manchester City. He was arguably not given much of a chance at the Hawthorns as he made just six starts during his spell, plus five appearances from the bench, and failed to make a mark. Tim Sherwood, however, has taken to Sinclair and he has repaid his manager with eight goals in seventeen appearances in just over half a season.
Craig Gardner, of course, started his career at Villa Park and made 80 appearances for the men from Witton before moving across the city to St Andrews, while current Villa man, Keiran Richardson, got into the England side on the back of his half season on loan at the Hawthorns in 2005.
There have been a number of goalkeepers who have been with both clubs including current Baggies stopper, Boaz Myhill, who started his career at Villa Park but was loaned out to a number of clubs and never made a first team appearance for Villa before he signed for Hull in 2003. Scott Carson made one appearance for Villa in the FA Cup when on loan from Liverpool before he moved to the Hawthorns to make 118 appearances for the Baggies while Paul Crichton spent a spell on loan at Villa from Albion in 1997 although he never made an appearance. Going back a few years, Villa legend, Nigel Spink, put the years of abuse from Baggies fans behind him when he moved from Villa Park to the Hawthorns in 1996 at the age of 37. He made more than 400 appearances for Villa over 15 years, but just 24 for the Baggies.
Curtis Davies remains one of Jeremy Peace’s finest deals when he became Albion’s record sale on transfer deadline day in August 2007 when he moved to Villa in a deal worth up to £10 million. Having made 73 appearances for Albion, he barely featured for Villa after that first season and moved to Blues in January 2011.
Another player who had a big financial impact on the Baggies was Ugo Ehiogu. Bobby Gould allowed him to leave for Villa for just £40,000 in 1991, but the deal included a 50% sell-on clause which almost put paid to his move to Middlesbrough in 2000. Albion and Villa came to an arrangement but that deal certainly helped Gary Megson build the squad that eventually got the Baggies back in the top flight. Ehiogu almost moved back to Albion in January 2006 but the deal was cancelled after Boro suffered an injury crisis.
Portland Timbers legend, Liam Ridgewell, started his career at Villa Park making almost 100 appearances for them before moving to St Andrews in 2007, and on to the Hawthorns in 2012.
Riccy Scimeca made his name in the Premier League with Aston Villa in the late nineties but I will always remember him as the man who crossed for Paul Robinson to score that vital equaliser at Villa Park in the Great Escape season, while another ex-Villa man who became a legend in a local derby was Darren Bradley who moved from Villa to Albion as a 20 year-old in March 1986. He went on to make in excess of 250 appearances for the Baggies but is most remembered for the 25-yarder against the Wolves in the 3-2 win in September 1993. Kevin Phillips also loved scoring against Wolves and he moved from Villa to Albion in 2006.
Younger readers may not realise that TV pundit, Andy Gray, who was a legend at both Villa and Wolves, also spent a season or so at the Hawthorns towards the end of his career scoring 11 goals for the Baggies in 37 games in the late eighties after Ron Atkinson signed him from Villa where he had returned following his time with Wolves and Everton. They also may be unaware that Albion legend, Cyrille Regis (111 goals in 300 appearances), played for Villa in the early nineties and even had a season at Wolves after that!
Lloyd Dyer, most famous at the Hawthorns for setting up Jason Koumas for the winner at the Stadium of Light in 2004, was in the Villa youth squad before he moved to Albion.
A few other players that may be recognisable include Franz Carr, Jim Cumbes, John Deehan, Jimmy Dugdale, Graham Fenton, Robert Hopkins, Mark Kinsella, Ken McNaught, Luke Moore, Tony Morley, Nicky Shorey, Kenny Swain, Garry Thompson, Andy Townsend and Steve Watson.
The hosts have injury douvts over Carles Gil, Idrissa Gueye, Adama Traoré and José Ángel Crespo while Gary Gardner and Jores Okore will definitely miss out. Sherwood has indicated that he is likely to rotate his squad over the next few games so the starting line-up may differ from the one that capitulated at Leicester last Sunday.
Albion remain relatively injury-free with Jonny Evans the only slight doubt other than Ben Foster who is due back in October. The main talking point will once again be Saido Berahino. Having come off the bench last weekend, it will be interesting to see whether he makes the starting line-up at Villa Park. Pulis is likely to go with Rondón as a lone striker, but Berahino could be picked as one of the wide players to provide a bit more pace on the break than we saw against Southampton.
As with all local derbies, this is a tough one to call. Sherwood’s positive approach could leave some gaps at the back if Pulis puts the players out there to exploit them, and I would love it if we could make the former Spurs manager feel even worse than he did last Sunday. If Evans is recovered, I think Albion will be very tough to break down, but I would worry about relying on Jonas Olsson.
My heart is saying that Albion will win with a late goal on the break, but my head is saying that it will finish all square.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
7 Mar 2015 – FA Cup 6th Round
Aston Villa 2 (Delph, Sinclair)
West Brom 0
13 Dec 2014 – Premier League
West Brom 1 (Gardner)
Aston Villa 0
Last win at Aston Villa
22 Oct 2011 – Premier League
Aston Villa 1 (Bent (pen))
West Brom 2 (Olsson, Scharner)
Albion’s Record against Aston Villa
|Premier League Record|