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.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Senior SAP MM Consultant, £50,000 - £60,000, Birmingham

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP MM C...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried