Memory Lane: Villa v Blues

BIRMINGHAM v VILLA, 2002

With Villa heading for Blues on Sunday, GRAHAM HILL looks back at some of the more memorable Second City derbies of recent years – and a warning, Villa fans may want to look away at some of them

IT was the game that lifted the roof off St Andrew’s – and where Villa goalkeeper Peter Enckleman made his name for all the wrong reasons.

The year was 2002 and Blues were back in the Premier League for the first top flght meeting in 16 years.

It was a Monday night, live on Sky Sports and an atmosphere the likes of which this fixture has rarely seen.

The late Graham Taylor was Villa manager and his team contained a number of foreign players who, even now, you get the feeling did not understand the stature of this game.

Ex-Blues forward Paul Devlin said the players were like ‘caged animals’ before the game.

Remember, this was a Blues side containing players such as Robbie Savage and Geoff Horsfield, hardly shrinking violets.

But Birmingham felt the game had already been won – thanks to Sweden defender Olof Mellberg’s now infamous remark that he had never heard of Blues’ players.

In truth, Mellberg was no real fan of the game away from playing for his club. He did not record Match of the Day every Saturday and have an encyclopedic knowledge of his opponents.

But the remarks were all then-Blues boss Steve Bruce needed to wind up his team.

They were fired up for the clash, Villa were not. Looking back it was clear that Taylor’s players were stunned by Birmingham’s attude. A 3-0 defeat for Villa came as a little surprise. But the biggest controversy was still to come.

Blues went a goal up after half an hour through Clinton Morrison. The ball ricocheted off Robbie Savage bounced into Morrison’s path and he scored from four yards out.

Then, with 14 minutes left, came a goal that is still talked about whenever the Blues-Villa derby is mentioned. Mellberg takes a throw and propels it backwards towards his own keeper, the Finn, Peter Enckleman.

Enckleman takes his eye off the ball for a split second and it bounces under his foot and rolls into the net.

In hindsight, he should have waved his arms indicate he did not touch the ball – you cannot score from a throw-in. And not even VAR would have been able to prove him wrong. But instead he put his head in his hands and reacted as though he had made contact, meaning it was a goal.

The incident sparked an unwanted pitch invasion from Blues fans – and Villa’s embarrassment was complete.

Any hopes Villa had of getting back into the game ended in the 83rd minute when Alpay was caught trying to be clever in defence and Horsfield made it three.

Blues followed it up with a 2-0 win at Villa Park later in the season – but Birmingham have never had quite such as euphoric campaign against their bitter rivals since then.

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