The plight of Midlands football
A few weeks ago we published a story about Aston Villa which made some comparisons with West Bromwich Albion. A Villa fan took exception, pointing out that Villa still draw bigger crowds, even if they have declined.
From the point of view of the neutral, however, there is an interesting contrast between the increasingly cautious path taken by Randy Lerner at Villa and the prudent building up at the Baggies. West Bromwich Albion have consolidated themselves as a competitive top flight club, while arguably Villa are not realising their potential - or matching up to their achievements in the past.
There is also a wider question about the state of Midlands football. This article on the subject contains extensive quotes from me and my colleague Sue Bridgewater, but is an interesting overview.
My hunch is that there is some relationship between local/regional economic performance and the state of local football clubs. This can be seen most starkly in the case of Coventry City, even if it has been compounded by serious mismanagement there.
I also think that a successful club can boost a city, the contrast between the two Manchester clubs and those in Birmingham being a case in point. The West Midlands region (albeit divided into areas with very distinct identities) needs a confidence boost and it's no good waiting for the High Speed Train which may never arrive.
I think that Birmingham missed a trick in not having an elected mayor, but that's another story.