Some city’s do have rivalry between their best football teams, and in most places they accept each other for what they are, but between Birmingham City and Aston Villa there are still difficult to do that, it’s like a clan dispute.
The two clubs represent communities inside the Birmingham area and they are easily separated and you are either one or the other, not much of a mix of, so to see players and even managers move over the border is a bit of taboo, but it happens.
Those who have been in both camps are quite a few and we have strolled down to find the interesting stories about a number of them, starting with Ron Saunders, who turned Aston Villa into a league winning side, but months later moved on and took charge of rival Birmingham City.
He stayed 8 years at Villa Park and was 4 years in charge at St. Andrews, doing a grand job in both clubs, but due to financial restrictions at Birmingham City moved on to yet another area district club West Bromwich Albion. Before moving to Aston Villa, Saunders had been in charge at Norwich and Man City and did not have any relations in this area at all, being brought up in Birkenhead outside Liverpool and during most of playing career been down south with Portsmouth.
Steve Bruce and Alex McLeish are two others that have been in charge at both clubs, and especially McLeish getting unpopular by the Birmingham City fans jumping ship to take over the rival at Villa Park. Steve Bruce was a different story and probably a softer accept as he took charge of the clubs with a number of years in between.
A number of players have been in both camps and from the 60’s and 70’s, players such as Trevor Hockey, Geoff Vowden and Ron Wylie must be mentioned as they played in Aston Villa and Birmingham City, Hockey with a few years and clubs in between, Vowden and Wylie making straight moves between the two.
Going into the late 70’s and early 80’s, Dennis Mortimer, Des Bremner, David Geddis and David Hopkin are names that made the trip between clubs. All of them being surplus at Villa Park and turning up at Birmingham City either in a straight move or with a club in between.
Looking into the club books of later years Emile Heskey and Liam Ridgewell are to mention, so is Kevin Phillips, and not to forget the two Gardner’s, Gary and Craig. Would also put up the name Curtis Davies who is one defender to rank. The recent move of Jota who joined Aston Villa from Birmingham City last summer, is also of course one to notice.
But to find the greatest players to have represented both The Villa and The Blues you have to go back loads of years, seeing the likes of Stan Lynn, Harry Hampton, Charlie Athersmith and Bobby Thompson as heroes of the two clubs in the past.
Despite that long term rivalry between the two, the players looks welcomed as they tend to get the respect from fans as long as they play well, contribute to wins on the field and pulls on the right jersey.
But we believe that in a way it is the Second Town Taboo and that it lives on, and as you can see most players do have a life in each camp and not in both.