Last weekend I remembered why I sometimes struggle to watch Championship football. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a Birmingham City fan, but watching the Second City derby brought back tearful memories of dire Championship football. Perhaps it’s because Birmingham lost the game, extending Blues’ winless run against Villa to over 7 years, or perhaps it was just terrible game of football. Whoever coined the phrase “the beautiful game” can’t have been watching a West Midland’s derby.
The stats tell no lies; 5 shots on target all game, 3 from Villa and 2 from Birmingham, didn’t make for an engaging encounter. Not least because Blues committed 8 times more fouls than they had shots on target, culminating in the single most pointless sending-off of all time. Much of Birmingham’s season so far was summed up in a rare moment of excitement: Sam Gallagher, running through on goal, struck the post with his initial effort, before scuffing the rebound over the bar with the goal at his mercy. Credit to Gallagher, the lad was probably just reminding everyone that there’s only two places you can end up after a stint at Southampton – Liverpool, or the depths of the Championship. Or both, in the rare case of Rickie Lambert.
There has, however, been one shining light from the West Midlands this season; a flare beaming optimistically from a floating raft amidst the vast ocean of the Championship, sending a distress call to the HMS Premier League. The form of Wolverhampton Wanderers has been electric. Helped of course by healthy investment, they are doing to the Championship what City are doing to the Premier League – they are on another level.
Wolves resemble the fortunate protagonist in a zombie apocalypse movie, lifted from gaping jaws by the swooping arm of Jorge Mendez. Looking back at Birmingham and Villa with a look of apologetic empathy, Wolves turn away to safety, leaving the two rivals to scavenge for loose points in the graveyard of former greats. Later that night, Blues and Villa stumble across a carcass in the wasteland. At first glance they believe it to be Wigan, or perhaps Portsmouth – no surprises there, both clubs waved goodbye to top flight football years ago – however as they draw nearer the pair begin to make out distinct red and white stripes.
“Sunderland?” The pair approach cautiously. Sure enough, they had stumbled upon the remains of the once great Northern club.
“I never thought it would come to this”, whispered Villa.
But then Villa remembered that Sunderland still played John O’Shea at centre-back, and decided that in hindsight, they deserved to be exactly where they are.