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FOOTBALL: Villa's tactics delight Gold.

Byline: Hyder Jawad

David Gold did not know whether to laugh or cry. 'What a compliment it was to Birmingham City Football Club when Aston Villa come here and play one up front,' the Birmingham chairman said.

'I just love to think that Manchester United would come here and play one up front. Or Bayern Munich in the European Cup [sic] next year.' The goalless draw between Birmingham and Villa on Sunday was shrouded in anticlimax but, beneath the tedium, Gold saw much to please him and much to suggest that, in his opinion, the balance of power in the West Midlands is changing.

David O'Leary, the Villa manager, will claim that his formation was 4-3-3 and not, as Gold suggests, 45-1. Nevertheless, the Birmingham chairman believes that Villa came for a draw and acquired it.

'Whatever has happened in the match, who can believe it? One up front? That was very satisfying,' Gold said.

'Actually, the four centre backs dominated the match and we got a 0-0 draw. You could see 0-0 written all over it from the start but I take that as a positive.

'But we have come a long way and now we're playing the mighty Aston Villa, as they have been for a number of years. They have been the kings of the Midlands and they have come on our patch with one up front.

'They were thrilled with the draw. I go to my dressing room and see Steve Bruce and the players looking glum and I go in and say 'well done, fantastic result, boys'.

'We all know local derbies are tough to guess the result. It is true the Villa fans will be happier than the Birmingham fans, but I say 'where are we in the league?' We are fourth.

'This is one of the great derbies. Last year, if we just take the football, it was a stunning event to see Birmingham City defeat Aston Villa 5-0 on aggregate. Villa came here and said 'we daren't lose here again'.

'They played 14 across the back . . . which obviously you cannot do, but you get the point. It is going to be tough to win the game under those circumstances.'

Gold was pleased that, for once, a derby took place with barely a reference to crowd trouble. The derbies of the previous season --which Birmingham won 3-0 at home and 2-0 away --were overshadowed by bad blood, bad behaviour and bad omens.

'I am pleased that we talked about football and not other issues,' Gold said. 'It was not a classic. Birmingham entering the Premiership and playing their arch-rivals of 100 years made the matches last season perhaps the biggest in all that time.

'The passion of the fans was more comfortable than last season and I am pleased for that.

'Last season, 100 years of fan passion boiled over. This time, we can get back to talking football. However, it was relatively dull.

'Still, both teams have got a point and it was good for the city. The only thing is, I have got some glum players and a glum manager.'

Gold was seen talking politely to Doug Ellis, the Villa chairman, before the match and repeated the friendliness afterwards. Whatever might have happened between a hard core of Birmingham and Villa fans on the streets, the two chairman were content with the result.

'Doug is great,' Gold said. 'We are great rivals. Doug is a great fan of Aston Villa. All the fans who are unhappy . . . they are unhappy because expectations are high, but so are ours.

'The fans are not happy [with the derby result] and we are fourth. There was a time when I would have been delighted with fourth-frombottom, because it meant survival.'

Frederic Kanoute has suffered ligament damage rather than a broken ankle, but Tottenham face a nervous wait before discovering exactly how long their top scorer will be sidelined.

Spurs' pounds 4million summer signing was stretchered off after a bad tackle by Muzzy Izzet in Sunday's 2-1 victory at Leicester in which the French forward hit a late winner.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 22, 2003
Words:683
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