FanZoner Luke Jerromes is delighted that West Brom are finally top dogs in the Midlands.
Childhood anguish finally banished
Last week, we beat Wolves in what was a pretty average match, other than the satisfaction of a victory. This week, we beat Villa in what was probably the most satisfying victory I've felt in literally years. It shouldn't seem to be so, that in October a match can offer you such bliss, but the fact is, as a West Brom fan growing up just outside Birmingham, Villa have always been the club with the biggest support around here, as well as being the most successful.
Whilst I was trying to justify Alan Buckley's existence at a tender age, and later realising people can sometimes be bad at their job as I watched Denis Smith almost crash the club into Division 2, Villa were winning League Cups and possessing stars like Dwight Yorke. I had to settle for the banana kicking goalkeeper Paul Crichton, and Fabian De Freitas, a player whose name alone convinced me we had a star, but whose performances were of such a low standard that as an 11 year old I was convinced he could only have been playing for us because he had asked really nicely, or the manager had also been taken in by his 'great name for a striker' ruse...
So, having to go into school, or down the park as people mocked me, the Baggies and it's players as if I myself had done such things as signing Andy McDermott, or I had told the lads that losing 5-0 to Ipswich was a great idea. As we've grown as a team and gained promotion, it's always been under that impression that we were 'the little club that could', not spending buckets of money, and trying to do things perhaps how things used to be done.
It meant that facing up to Villa teams with expensively assembled stars still left me with that feeling that we weren't on fair ground, as we plugged away. Of course, as I and my friends grew up, it was less about results being a personal reflection of yourself, and more about some enjoyable banter, but still West Brom were on the wrong side of it.
So, until Roberto Di Matteo, and then Roy Hodgson came to the Hawthorns, it's never felt that my team has finally arrived as the equal to Villa. Of course, some might argue that is still the case, with them able to spend £25million on a striker, but in terms of results and overall team ability, this game at Villa Park I really felt had the opportunity to be quite cathartic.
I understand this is an incredibly childish feeling to have, for a sport, but such was the amount of Villa fans in my youth, and their infallible assumption of dominance and refusal to accept any conversation about the positives of West Bromwich Albion, that the need to be better than Aston Villa has had time to settle and become quite a hardened part of my footballing sub-conscious, which I really wasn't aware was there until Alan Hutton decided to 'tackle' Shane Long.
Suddenly, those feelings of indignation fizzed inside, as Villa took out a player I've really been impressed with this season. It was essentially cheating, to my eyes as Hutton got away with it, and then I was stunned as he then decided to further hack away at Shane Long, forcing him to be substituted. We've subsequently found he could be out for 6 weeks with a chip to his kneecap, as well as ligament damage, and yet he still remained on the pitch.
Unfortunately for Villa, they enabled us to unleash the cult hero in waiting, Somen Tchyoi. Tchyoi for the rest of the game continued his role as the man with a footballing ability of Messi and Ronaldo, combined with the decision making of an Automatic Vacuum cleaner.
You can give it all the instruction you can, and then you leave it to do it's thing. One day you might walk in to find your floor spotless, crumb free and be delighted, moved to tears at your house being in such a hygienic condition. The next day you might come back to find that the vacuum accidentally bumped into the table leg, and 7 hours later, it's still trying to drive its way through it for absolutely no logical reason.
Back to the game though, his introduction did not stop Villa being able to fall into an undeserved penalty, conceded through bad luck which was converted. Falling behind made me consider viewing the game with my usual apathy I develop against teams with an unfair advantage, such unfairness not worth causing me to be irritated by a game, but then that was definitely not to happen as Chris Herd was sent off.
Although Herd's sending off has since been rescinded, I think it was the absolute right decision at the time. I hate play-acting in football, although it seems some referees refuse to make some decisions without it, or change the rules when the possibility of a penalty is involved, but the linesman was completely correct to call for what looked like a mule kick on Jonas Olsson.
It was a shame that Chris Brunt decided to try to bounce the penalty in with an assist from the corner flag, and an even bigger shame that it didn't work, but from then, knowing we had the man advantage over Villa I knew it was worth my emotional investment in this match, the opportunity to get the victory I craved against a Villa team which had clearly crafted themselves as the enemy today.
It was vindication of my decision then, that the next major thing to occur was Hutton's injury. I wasn't pleased to see him injured, but I was pleased to see the morally right thing to happen, which was for Hutton to leave the pitch, even though it was about about 20 minutes later than it should have been.
The equaliser was sweet, Olsson smashing the ball in with his head, rising above Richard Dunne to give me further hope this was going to be our day. It should probably have been another, when Odemwingie was ruled offside on a very dubious decision, but I was pleased with his finish, last season's Odemwingie is showing definite signs of arriving for the season!
The half ended and the second begun again with us in the accession, our corners clearly causing Villa a lot of trouble, much to my delight, and it finally paid off when Paul Scharner hit a sublime volley off the crossbar to push us ahead. I couldn't help but roar when I saw it go in, such was the delight with which we seemed to be dominating Villa and then finally the rewards for it.
In case the game was in risk of getting too intense though, Alex McLeish kindly decided to inject a little bit of comedy in it, when he decided that Emile Heskey would come off the bench to play the rest of the game in central midfield.
The man is a Premier League manager. He's paid on the understanding he has quite a sophisticated understanding of football. Not only did he decide to play Heskey in central midfield, he also organised Villa so they managed a whopping zero shots on target, and if that wasn't enough to enjoy as an Albion fan, but he also decided after the game that Alan Hutton got the ball and so his tackle was to be condoned?
Clearly, it is Aston Villa's turn to suffer through a season of tactical ineptitude, and dare I say it, how it feels to be teasing with relegation. So the rest of the game carried on with us in total control, and we should have added several goals to it. I wasn't able to single out any players in particular but that isn't to say none of them excelled, rather that they all did.
So the final whistle went, and it really was satisfying. We had been the team to outplay the other, we had the players in form and the depth of squad which allowed us to assert our dominance over a team which for so long were out of our grasp.
After the last couple of games we seemed to have improved immeasurably from performances earlier in the season, I might even suggest we've got the chance to finish considerably higher than Villa, and for the first time in a long while be the undisputed Kings of the Midlands...
If you want to talk to me about my childish hatred of Villa, or if you'd like to explain to me how I'm wrong and that it's only a matter of time before McLeish turns Villa into free-scoring title contenders, then come say hi over on my Twitter, @Jerromes.