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McNaught: Albion top dogs - for now; ...but Villa should be aiming for top six again.

Byline: Mat Kendrick Our man with Villa

Ken: Baggies still best in the Midlands hand and until recent years - 1978-70, in the old Division One, was the last time the Baggies finished above the claret and blues.

But Albion have been the highest-placed club in 2011-12 and 2012-13 and, having gone 26 years to win against their neighbours, beat Villa home and away in the 2011 calendar year.

"They won't thank me for saying this at The Hawthorns but, of course, Villa should be finishing above Albion every season - without a doubt," said McNaught.

"Like I said, the teams are quite closely matched but in terms of the club, Villa have so much more potential.

"When I was at Albion the ambition there was simply to try and stay in the top division, whereas Villa had aims of doing better than that.

"Paul Lambert has done a good job managing expectations at Villa, where the fans don't expect too much right FROM BACK PAGE now during a steady period of transition.

''But Villa should be aiming to be a top-six club again on the level of someone like another of my old clubs, Everton."

McNaught, whose six-year stay at Villa peaked with the Division One title and European Cup triumph in 1981 and 1982, has tried to erase his Albion debut on August 27, 1983, from his memory.

"I think I signed for them on the Monday and on the following Saturday I was back at Villa Park for a derby on the first day of the season," he recalled.

"We lost 4-3 and I think Allan Evans, Mark Walters, Gary Shaw and Brendan Ormsby scored the goals for Villa and Romeo Zondervan, Garry Thompson and Cyrille Regis scored for Albion.

"It must have been a great game for the neutral but any game where we conceded four I've tried to forget because chances are I will have made a mistake or two."

McNaught is expecting a much cagier match at The Hawthorns on Monday.

"I don't think there will be another 4-3," he said.

"I think the teams will cancel each other out in most areas of the game and one goal will win it."

KEN McNaught reckons Villa should be finishing above Albion every season - but has backed Steve Clarke's Baggies to pip Paul Lambert's Lions again this term.

McNaught, who played for both clubs, has kicked off the countdown to Monday night's derby at The Hawthorns, a match he expects to be a tight encounter.

Asked who he thinks will be the West Midlands' top dogs in the Premier League this season, he replied: "I'll go for Albion - that will light the blue touch paper.

"There's not much to choose between the two teams at the moment, they're both very similar sides, and I can see what Steve Clarke and Paul Lambert are trying to do at both clubs.

"I don't think either of them will challenge for Europe but I think Albion might just have enough to edge in front of Villa. I think Villa are still struggling to shake off that tag of relegation-battlers from the past few seasons, whereas Albion have seemed more established, even though they haven't been in the Premier League anywhere near as long."

The rivals are locked on 14 points in the middle of the table ahead of Monday's showdown, with slightly superior goal difference putting Albion tenth, one place above Villa.

Villa have traditionally had the upper ? TURN TOPAGE52
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Nov 20, 2013
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