Football; Midlands in higher lands

Norman Fox speaks to a region's managers about the impact of a Cup run

IN 30 YEARS the Midlands have provided just two FA Cup final winners, Coventry City and West Bromwich Albion. This season a quarter of the teams left in next weekend's fourth round come from that area of historic under- achievement. And with Aston Villa playing West Bromwich Albion there will even be a local final several months before the real thing. But does all of this point to something stirring in the area where William McGregor formulated league football in the last century?

Pure coincidence, luck of the draw and the chance of one weekend in the limelight seem to be the more likely answers, but the attention is welcome none the less, especially in the city of Birmingham where all three of the big sides have survived the famously perilous third round.Then there is Walsall, across the other side of the M6, who have not only survived but who have also been rewarded the most envied and lucrative tie of the round, against Manchester United at Old Trafford. The heartland has rarely had it so good.

There is an irony, though, inthat although the majority of Midlands clubs are safely or promisingly placed in their various divisions (only Coventry and Port Vale are already in serious relegation difficulties), several of them confess to having been flattered by their progress through the third round.

Wolves seem the notable example - their 4-0 win over Darlington looked fine on paper. In reality, though, they struggled against a team near the bottom of the Third Division, but Mark McGhee is taking his satisfaction from the club's move closer to the promotion zone. His positive attitude to talk of a Midlands surge has less to do with the Cup than the First Division, in which his team plus West Bromwich and Birmingham City are so close together that "we could all be fighting each other come the end of the season".

Elsewhere, Aston Villa were booed off the pitch after their anxious victory against Portsmouth. Walsall found Peterborough difficult to crack, and West Bromwich had to fight hard to overcome Stoke, who only a few days before had lost 7-0 to Birmingham City.

Albion's reward, that mini- final at Villa Park, comes at a time when their early season aspirations have dimmed. The new manager, Denis Smith, was relieved to see Richard Sneekes score two fine goals from midfield against Stoke because they secured the first win since he took over. Albion's shining promise of the autumn weeks has been dulled by a string of less impressive performances.

Leicester City's manager, Martin O'Neill, says it is far too early to talk about some common Midlands resurgence and is far from happy about his own club's recent achievements. "Our results are simply not reflecting the quality of our performances", he said. Last season they could count on sheer effort and persistence to get victories; less so this term.

Villa's manager, Brian Little, says that because of the club's European success in the early 1980s he realises that huge numbers of fans will look to them to lead the way in any Midlands uprising and consequently could become even more impatient if they fail to beat their old rivals, West Bromwich. He says that while the Midlands as a whole can be pleased to be so well represented next weekend, he would have preferred a tie holding less pressure.

"Cup ties at this stage are always tough", he said. "But coming up against a local team means that the atmosphere will be that much stronger. There was some criticism after we beat Portsmouth by only 1-0, but I'd be happy to win next weekend's game by the same score."

That should be made a little more likely by the fact that Dwight Yorke will be available, having managed to get out of playing for Trinidad and Tobago in the Gold Cup tournament in the United States.

With four sides drawn against each other in the fourth round, the impact of the Midlands in the later stages is inevitably going to be diminished, but at least for one weekend no other part of the country will be so up for the Cup.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power