Alex McLeish has been in intense derby encounters on many occasions – both at Ibrox and Parkhead. The way he was able to celebrate the second anniversary of his succeeding Steve Bruce was kindergarten stuff by comparison. Birmingham City heading towards the Champions League is fanciful fare, Wolves heading towards the Championship most certainly is not.
In May, Wolves beat McLeish to the Championship title, but the development of the clubs since could not be more different. Birmingham have established a foothold at 11th place in the table and Lee Bowyer's fifth goal of the season was enough to extend an undefeated run to five games, the best McLeish has managed at this level. Wolves, without a win in eight games, remain in the bottom three and McCarthy faces the prospect of a humiliating third Premier League relegation.
Bowyer is enjoying an Indian summer in his career at the age of 32, as he mellows with age and fatherhood. But he will be hard put to score a better goal than the one he clipped over Marcus Hahnemann from 20 yards, courtesy of Sebastian Larsson's astute pass, before three minutes had gone.
"There were more than a few people telling me that his legs had gone and there was some criticism for signing him," said McLeish.
McCarthy's acknowledgement in the build-up that his side are embroiled in a relegation struggle was a questionable motivational tactic. His players appeared gripped by fear. "Birmingham deserved to win," he said. "It is hugely disappointing. Getting beaten by Arsenal and Chelsea is not worrying. Losing at home to Birmingham is worrying, because we were expected to win."
Birmingham's victory was easy enough, and it took Wolves and Jarvis 75 minutes before they even forced Joe Hart to make a save. Little wonder the natives were so restless in the absence of any intensity.
The sight of a former primary school headmistress leaning over a barrier at half-time suggesting in an impassioned voice that it is "time to go, McCarthy" was poignant. How long he can keep the job is an issue for debate. The sacking season has begun with the departure of Paul Hart. Whether anyone could do better with the tools at Wolves' disposal is doubtful.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Mancienne (Ward 46,), Craddock, Berra, Stearman ; Halford (Kightly 31; Milijas 66), Henry, Edwards, Jarvis; Ebanks-Blake, Doyle. Substitutes not used: Hennessey (gk), Keogh, Maierhofer, Castillo.
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Hart, Carr, Dann, Johnson, Ridgewell; Larsson, Bowyer, Ferguson, McFadden; Benitez (Fahey 87), Jerome. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), McSheffrey, Queudrue, O'Shea, Carsley, Vignal.
Man of the match: Ferguson
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