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Football: ROB'S PLEA TO MOVE DERBY CLASH; 8pm kick-off could 'invite' trouble says Blues star.

Byline: GRAHAM HILL

ROBBIE Savage wants the Football Association to change next week's Birmingham derby against Villa to a Saturday or Sunday lunchtime kick-off.

The Second City rivals are facing an 8pm start a week tomorrow and after the sides' controversial clash at St Andrew's in September, the outspoken midfielder is worried about the timing of the game.

'After what happened last time when we had a crowd invasion and a fine, I have fears about the kick-off time,' said Savage.

'This match is as passionate as any other in the country, and I would include Rangers and Celtic in that.

'To kick it off at 8pm when the pubs have been open all day may be inviting unnecessary trouble,' he added.

Savage fears a recurrence of the sort of trouble that marred the first meeting between the two clubs, and he believes that could have disastrous results.

'If anything was to go off involving our fans then it's possible we could face a points deduction and that would be a disaster, given our situation,' said the Wales midfielder.

'You can't expect the fans not to have a drink or two on the way to the match. It's part of their right.

'But we all know there are dangers in that situation and I think the FA should take another look at the kickoff time.

'If they decide to keep it where it is, I appeal to all our fans to be on their very best behaviour.'

Blues banned a fan after he ran on to the pitch and confronted Villa goalkeeper Peter Enckelman after he made a terrible mistake for the second goal during the first clash. The supporter was later jailed for four months and the incident resulted in a club fine.

Blues face Liverpool at St Andrew's today with Savage declaring: 'I think the safety barrier is 35 points this season. 'That means we need to win three more games because that will leave those below us needing to win six.'

Meanwhile, Blues' Australian winger, Stan Lazaridis, is only likely get a new contract if the club remain in the Premiership.

The St Andrew's board are determined to keep the wage bill under control and should the club slide to relegation then Lazaridis will be among those allowed to leave.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Feb 23, 2003
Words:383
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