Date: 9th November 2007 at 6:59pm
Written by:

Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill appears to be panicking that his players will lack the discipline they need to compete with the Blues in the Birmingham derby on Sunday.

The former Northern Ireland international, who incurred the wrath of sections of the Villa support by signing the likes of Marlon Harewood, saw his team finish with nine-men when they were demolished by Manchester United earlier in the season.

O’Neill has, of course, experience the Old Firm derby while manager of Celtic – but this will be his first second city derby and he is expecting a tough encounter. He must also be aware that a loss on Sunday would increase the volume of the currently quiet murmurs about his managerial ability.

O’Neill told Sky Sports News: “I’ve never been involved in a Birmingham derby before, but it’s a game I’m looking forward to in an odd sort of way. It should be a decent occasion. In the past I’ve seen them on television and they’re pretty tough encounters.

“What you’d be hoping for is the game would be a good game and that everybody behaves in a reasonable manner. It’ll be hard, it’ll be very tough for us. We would need strong discipline and we would have a better chance of winning the game if we remain with 11 players rather than nine as we did against Manchester United.”

The chances of a flurry of cards, including those of the red variety, are always higher in the inter-city match than any other clash. And, with the likes of Nigel Reo-Coker in their team, it can only be hoped that Birmingham players don’t rise to their baiting.

Reo-Coker, who moved from West Ham in the summer but has yet to show the sort of ability Villa fans claim he has, is easily their most indisciplined players this season – picking up five yellow cards and one red.

Hopefully, Steve Bruce will encourage the players to let Villa’s superiority complex get the better of them and send them away from St Andrews with their tails firmly between their legs.