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Dave Woodhall's Villa Blog

THE SMELL OF NAPALM IN THE MORNING

Napalm

17-11-2007

West Midlands Police Federation boss Paul Tonks is advocating 10am kick-offs to solve the problems at Blues/Villa derbies. In this provocative article, Dave Woodhall predicts it wouldn't the slightest difference.

Well, we won and claimed the bragging rights (what an idiotic phrase that is). It's still only three points though, which is one of the reasons why we shouldn't be making too much fuss of playing the Blues.

Another major reason is that it's all too heated now.

Last week I mentioned how the rivalry between Villa and Blues had intensified over the years. The last few meetings had been comparatively quiet affairs, but all hopes that this might continue had evaporated within minutes of Sunday's final whistle.

Villa supporters were held inside the ground for over an hour as Blues supporters threw missiles and attacked the police, with the trouble later spreading into the markets area and close to the Bullring.

Now I'll hold my hand up here; all this is second-hand evidence. I wasn't there, but it's been reported to me by eyewitnesses whose opinions I respect. "Worse than ever" was the general agreement, while someone who had been involved in crowd control blamed the problems squarely on "ordinary Blues supporters who wanted blood."

In the aftermath of the game there have been calls for further restrictions on the match. Away supporters should be bussed into the ground or banned altogether, while Paul Tonks of the West Midlands Police Federation has stated the match should be played at 10 am.

None of these would do anything to stop the problems that took place last Sunday. All would inconvenience the majority who want to watch the match and behave themselves.

I'm sure there are some of the troublemakers who came out of the ground annoyed at what had happened in the match, got caught up in the atmosphere of mayhem and decided to take their anger out on the first available figure, whether that be a police officer or a fence.

Many of them will have woken up on Monday morning embarrassed at what they did and it won't happen again. But there were plenty of them who enjoyed it and would happily do the same again.

It's a problem Blues have had for years and it has to be said that the club's owners don't seem particularly keen to address. Every time there's a problem outside the ground they claim nothing happened. When violence breaks out inside St Andrews, it's invariably the fault of the other team's supporters.

As a Villa supporter I'm hardly the best placed to pass comment on what happens at Blues, but I do talk to a lot of ordinary football followers from around the country and a common theme is that St Andrews isn't a pleasant place to visit.

Serious problems took place last Sunday, and contrary to what hardcore hooligans might claim, they weren't only 'fighting their own.' Innocent Blues supporters got caught up in the problems on Coventry Rd. Villa supporters were the subject of repeated attacks. I'm sure many people out shopping in the city centre were at least inconvenienced and at worst frightened by what they witnessed.

The cost to both clubs and the reputation of the city will be immense. A spokesman for Birmingham City Football Club said, "The game went off without any major incidents inside the stadium. We heard of no major incidents after the game either so, as an event, it was successful from the club's point of view."

That's all right then.

Are 10 am kick-offs the answer to footy violence?

Does Blues have a hardcore problem which the club is unwilling to address?

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