Aston Villa Focus - Villa under threat from Midlands affliction
Aston Villa travel to London once more this weekend, as a game against out-of-form Arsenal awaits them in the Premier League. It will be their sixth visit to the capital in just the league competition alone, and follows on from a victory achieved against another London team, West Ham United.
With the league now dominated by teams from the north and south of the country, as well as the rise of teams from Wales in recent years, it begs the question: what has happened to the teams from the second city?
With the exception of West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City, who are both enjoying one of the better spells of their football history, the teams from the Midlands have endured a tough time of it as of late.
When the Premier League was introduced at the start of the 1992-1993 season, Coventry City were a respectable top tier English side, finishing 15th that season and going onto finish 11th in 1998, their highest ever Premier League position. In 2001, they were relegated down to the Championship and with financial troubles and a string of very unsuccessful managers, their fortunes have not improved. Currently they sit 6 points from a play-off place in League 1, a million miles away from where they once were.
Next is the story of Wolverhampton Wanderers. Never a strong Premier League team, but always a team many thought to be too good for the second tier of English football. Following a disappointing start to their season last time out under Mick McCarthy, his sacking and the promotion of Terry Connor to a full time role made no change, plunging Wolves back down to the Championship.
Norwegian manager Stale Solbakken was brought in at the start of this campaign to bring fresh optimism to the club, but a very poor start meant that his stay in English football lasted until just after Christmas. Dean Saunders was appointed, but so far he has failed to inspire his side who are now currently facing a relegation battle.
Another relegation threatened Midlands team in that same division is Birmingham City. Their fall has come much sharper than many other teams around them, with a League Cup victory and a highest ever position of ninth in the top league still fresh in most of the fans memories. With their huge financial troubles, and their two previous managers leaving for pastures new, Lee Clark has had to make do with what he has left. The team sit just above the relegation zone, and could yet be dragged into it as the season draws to a close.
Leicester City are another team that were once competing for the highest honours, before slipping through the Premier League trap door. A new financial backer has given the club a mini revival in recent years, but their comeback is still far from sight.
Finally we come to Aston Villa, arguably the greatest ever team to represent the Midlands. A European Cup victory, competing for titles, and more recently competing for a top four finish, they have been the benchmark for several Midlands teams to try and reach.
With 12 games to go, they sit a point above relegation and face a tough run until the end of their campaign. Only time will tell whether Villa will be another Midlands team that fail to keep their elite status in English football.
Paul Lambert has declared they have 12 cup finals to save their season. If that’s the case then it may be the last cup finals they ever see.
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