Clarke Hoping For Villa Survival
This might ruffle a few feathers, Steve Clarke has said he believes it's in Albion's best interests to have a real battle with Aston Villa to determine the Midlands' Top Dogs.
I know this will be caught by our colleagues over on Vital Villa and there's been a fair bit of banter, even going back to the McLeish banner, with how their recent seasons have gone, but if I refuse to gloat about the last few years, their league finishes - well battles against relegation - and our league finishes, I have to concur with Steve Clarke.
Here's what our head coach told wba.co.uk.
'I would like to see the Midlands stronger. It's important that you have good competition from the clubs around you. It's healthy around the area, and it's better for the Midlands that they have more successful teams.'
The following comments may make some shudder.
'I would miss Villa. It's important that they finish the season strongly. It's important to have your rivals breathing down your neck. You see how much it means to the supporters, they want to be the top dogs.'
The following comment won't make some shudder - it might make them giggle though.
'But you want to be the top dogs because you've beaten your nearest rivals or you've finished higher than them in the same league - that's important.'
Which could translate to Steve Clarke trying to be professional and not saying 'as opposed to seeing your nearest rival flounder around at the bottom of the league, conceding more goals than ConcedyMcSpeedy and being unable for a large part of the season to secure back to back draws, let alone wins.'
But joking aside I agree with him. The local rivalry can be a huge motivator for the team because whilst league place finish is important, being the best local side in a season carries the bragging rights, not only for fans, but also for the players themselves.
It's a badge of honour they can wear know exactly how annoying it is for your rivals, it helps lift players, and can also out psyche the opposition rival when the pressure mounts on them.
Having Villa actually challenging for a midtable finish again would have amplified our achievements this campaign and that counts in our Top Four coated status quo of a Premier League.
Making the jump to the top six can be done, making the jump to the top four is nigh on impossible now for the majority of clubs in this league unless they put their financial futures at risk - I think Villa serve as a perfect example there of what can happen when it doesn't work.
So you build and grow for top six, you build and grow and hope for a challenge on top four. But all you need to do, is turn up, work hard, battle and earn the Top Dog tag and that goes for every area in the country.
Let's face it our other rivals aren't going to be much of a problem for a while. Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry, we need Villa to try their best to give us something to smile about :-)
A solid rivalry can only help improve our club, and that alone is enough of a reason to welcome it.
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