Two local rivals with pre-season ambitions of promotion to the Premier League meet this weekend, as Wolverhampton Wanderers host Birmingham City.
Instead of flying high in the division, the two sides come into the match sitting in the bottom half of the npower Championship table. Here, we preview the encounter with the help of a fan from each club.
MEET THE FANS
Name: Rod Ireland.
Club: Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Number of years as a supporter: 50 and counting.
Favourite moment as a fan: Probably winning the Sherpa Van Trophy in 1988. For me, it was symbolic of the renaissance of Wolves after being so close to extinction. To be in the old Fourth Division and have more than 50,000 folk in gold and black in full and triumphant voice, plus a messiah in the form of Steve Bull, made anything possible. Little did we know that the road ahead would still be rocky, and I wonder where some of those 50,000 got to along the way?
How many games a season do you attend? I'm a season ticket holder, and a member of the Daventry Wolves Supporters Club, ably led by my dear friend Chris Cox since 1975. I also happen to own the first giant flag ever to appear over the heads of Wolves supporters back in the early 90s, although it's enjoying a well-earned sabbatical in my garage right now. I will also try to get to five or six away games each year.
Where do you sit? I still think of it (and fans still sing of it) as the North Bank, though it's now in its second incarnation as the Stan Cullis Stand.
Name: Michael Squires.
Club: Birmingham City.
Number of years as a supporter: 50-plus years.
Favourite moment as a fan: Deservedly beating Arsenal 2-1 at Wembley in the 2011 League Cup Final. It was just meant to be a fun day out as we had no serious expectations of winning, which made the final whistle all the more special. I confess that my son and I ended up crying in each other arms at what we had achieved. I also enjoyed seeing the Arsenal end at Wembley being empty of fans within five minutes of the final whistle.
How many games a season do you attend? If you mean Birmingham City, then I attend all the home matches and a small number of away games. However, as a committed groundhopper (particularly non-league), I will generally be found at some football ground or another throughout the season.
Where do you sit? In the Spion Kop
LOOKING AHEAD TO THE GAME
What happened in your last match?
RI: Something we may not have expected - we played a very attacking formation away to Bristol City, and were 4-0 up by half-time, including a box-to-box goal by man-of-the-match Kevin Doyle. So we ended a run of nine games without a win, and earned our manager Stale Solbakken a little more breathing space in his mission to covert us to fluid football.
MS: A 3-2 victory against an excellent Middlesbrough side after going behind twice. A draw would probably have been a fairer result on the balance of play, but our fighting spirit and commitment were excellent.
Why is this game important?
RI: At home to local rivals who like us are lower in the npower Championship than they might have anticipated, but most importantly to capitalise on last Saturday and restore a winning confidence to the squad.
MS: Birmingham City are very inconsistent this season and they are as near to the relegation zone as they are to the Play-Offs. We need to get some points on the board and stop the current malaise that is setting in over St Andrews. Having won our last game, we need to get something from this one and go on a reasonable run of form.
How do you see this game going?
RI: Tough. Previous encounters with Birmingham have frequently been dominated by physical, attritional football, and I'm expecting the margin of victory to be down to a single goal.
MS: Based on our recent form, we will start poorly and go behind. We will then slowly get our act together (hopefully, not too slowly) and start to play some good football. As we seem to be shipping goals at the moment, I see Wolves scoring at least a couple of goals but I go for the draw at full-time - maybe 2-2.
Who should we keep our eye on?
RI: For Blues, Marlon King has been hitting the net and in Jack Butland they have probably the best goalkeeper in this division. But Bjorn Sigurdarson's performance on Saturday suggested we are starting to see what he's capable of, and in Bakary Sako we have a lethal weapon at free-kicks. If Henry and Doumbia play together for the first time in five games we should hold the middle of the park, but the key will be in breaking down what's sure to be a determined Blues defence, and for me, Sigurdarson may hold the key.
at the moment. If he plays, also keep an eye on Ravel Morrison. Someone else with an interesting history but an amazing talent.npower Championship Marlon King. He still gets flack from opposition fans but he works like a trojan for the team and is a proven goalscorer (13 goals so far). He is probably the most in-form goalscorer in the MS:
Any memories of previous encounters?
RI: Probably best not to mention the carnage the likes of Lee Carsley and Lee Bowyer have inflicted on us, so I'll pick the 2-0 away win in the cup back in January 2009 at St Andrews. Andy Keogh and Sam Vokes earned us a rare away win. I do have fond memories of coming back from a goal down to win 3-1 when Carl Robinson scored a couple back in the late 90s, and I seem to remember playing the Blues in the Anglo-Italian Cup a few years before that. And for Wolves fans seeking the warmth of nostalgia, we could go back to November 1981. Wolves went to St Andrews on a torrid run, without a goal in the previous five games and near the bottom. In the boardroom, politics were tearing the club apart. Birmingham were unbeaten at home, and among the division's highest scorers thanks to the flair of Frank Worthington. They were also bolstered by the grit of defenders like Colin Todd and Mark Dennis. But John Richards and Andy Gray tore them apart, with a goal apiece, a series of near misses, and a late third from Colin Brazier. Joe Gallagher was in Wolves' defence against his old club. On Saturday, we've got the ever-improving Roger Johnson. I wonder...
with the Wolves having stayed in the Premier League at our expense. We were favourites to lose but a young and inexperienced side played well and won.npower Championship Although relatively local teams, these matches are not remotely as heated as Birmingham versus Villa or Wolves versus WBA. Last year's two FA Cup matches, where we won the replay 1-0, stick in the mind as we were newly relegated to the MS:
RI: Low score. I'll go hopeful and wish a 2-1 win for Wolves.