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The Black Country Derby: One of the oldest rivalries in English football

The first Black Country Derby in front of fans in 12 years left a sour taste in the mouths of football fans up and down the country. Not because of the football on display, but because of the trouble between the two fanbases. It turned the focus away from the pitch, and towards the stands as carnage unfolded. It showed glimpses of the 80's when football hooliganism was at its height and police's primary purpose was crowd control. Derbies and rivalries that have transpired over time usually result in heated battles, and this Wolves vs West Brom matchup was no different. It reignited an old-style West Midlands rivalry between two sides with a long history.



Everything seemed to be relatively under control, nothing occurred between fans before the game, with what seemed like every single West Midlands police officer in and around the ground. Just under 4,000 Wolves fans were in the Smethwick End on Sunday, with the FA Cup allowing for an expanded away attendance. Yet it was Matheus Cunha's goal to put the visitors 2-0 up that caused it all to spill over at The Hawthorns. But the Smethwick End wasn't the epicentre of the chaos, it was in fact at the other end of the ground, in amongst the home fans, where it all unfolded. Although it was unclear at first, it turned out that there was a Wolves fan in the home end, who outwardly celebrated his team's second goal in the 78th minute. This obviously sparked uproar in amongst the home fans who were outraged at an away fan somehow sneaking into the home end. What followed was a huge scuffle in and around where the fan was as Baggies fans reacted to the celebration and stewards rushed to the area to try and resolve the issue. Not that any of the behaviour can be excused, but, at the end of the day, it has been a long awaited matchup since Wanderers beat Brentford in their 3rd round replay and the fans have an inherent hatred towards each other that seemingly boiled over.



The first ever meeting between Wolves and West Brom dates back to 1883, before even the Football League was founded in 1888. The two clubs battled for the First Division Title in 1954, with Wanderers edging out Albion by four points after a pivotal 1-0 win at The Hawthorns a month before the end of the season. West Brom had the consolation of the FA Cup that year, but to lose out to their biggest rivals in the league was a massive blow, and only added fuel to their ongoing rivalry.



But the last three decades or so have belonged to the Albion, who have mostly got the better of the men in black and gold. Except Wolves have enjoyed recent domestic success, being in the top flight since 2018, and they finished 7th in the 18/19 season. The Baggies, on the other hand, got relegated in the COVID season in 20/21, and have been struggling in the Championship since, despite a resurgence under current manager Carlos Corberan.



But if Sunday told us anything, it was that Corberan's Albion are clearly a step below the quality of Gary O'Neil's Premier League outfit. Wanderers didn't appear to get out of second gear, and whilst West Brom were wasting chances in the final third, Wolves took their chances with a clinical nature the Baggies are longing for. It gives the Blue and White side of the Black Country a chance to focus on league action, as they look to secure their playoff spot come May. At this point in time, Wolves are clear of their fierce rivals, and they demonstrated it on Sunday in the most recent Black Country derby; with one thing being certain, the rivalry is still rife.




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