Aston Villa's goalscoring-hero Gabriel Agbonlahor fears he may not be top of former team-mate Liam Ridgewell's Christmas card list this year after getting the upper hand in their tussle for superiority in the Birmingham derby showdown yesterday.
Agbonlahor and Ridgewell are close friends from the new Birmingham City captain's former days on the claret-and-blue side of the city.
But it was the Villa striker who was all smiles at the final whistle yesterday after helping Martin O'Neill's side to a 2-1 victory over their deadliest rivals.
Agbonlahor, who has also played England Under-21 football with Ridgewell, threw a consoling arm around the shoulders of his former team-mate after the match. He said he felt for the player, one of the few to move across the city in a bid to find regular first-team football.
Ridgewell gifted Villa an own goal in the tenth minute and twice found his old pal getting the better of him in his first derby in blue-and-white.
In the dying minutes, as the Blues captain marshalled his troops, Agbonlahor cleared Ridgewell's own attempt to score off the line, before scoring the winner.
Agbonlahor said: "It was a great perform-ance from the lads because, though it looked as though it was going to be a draw, we fought on and got the points. My job on the line is just to clear it and I thought I did that well.
"That was definitely my sweetest goal for Villa as it is nice to score against your arch-rivals. We went on to win the game, too, which makes it even sweeter."
Agbonlahor said the victory was very much a team effort and he was delighted with all his team-mates, who were so delighted with their win that they tore off their shirts to throw in the Villa end.
He said: "We fought on till the end and that is our first away win of the season. I put my arm round Liam at the end because I felt for him after he scored the own goal. He is the one I cleared off the line from and I also outjumped him for the goal, so I felt a bit sorry for him. I thought he actally had a good game, but I think he might take me off his Christmas card list now!"
Erdington-born Agbonlahor, the first Birmingham-born player to score the winner in a Second City derby since Garry Thompson 20 years ago, added: "I will find out if he is still talking to me later this week, but I'll leave him to text me first!
"When you are 1-0 up away from home and the home team equalises, your head can go down, but credit to the lads because we kept fighting and got the winner."
Agbonlahor said he had been aware of the abuse levelled at him from sections of the crowd. He said: "You always know you are going to get some stick but it was the way the Villa fans got behind us that really mattered. It was great warming up in front of them and then celebrating with them at the end."
Villa manager Martin O'Neill had little sympathy for Ridgewell. Asked if he felt sorry for Ridgewell for his part in the own goal, O'Neill said: "No, I wish he'd stuck another four in. I have to say it wasn't the uppermost thought in my mind. Do you think anyone would have felt sorry for me?"
Instead, O'Neill preferred to concentrate on the role played by Agbonlahor.
"I was delighted with him," he said. "It was a great goal to win the game and he's such a handful with a wonderful attitude.
"He's prepared to work, he's prepared to try to get better and there's been a vast improve-ment in the last 18 months. He's come on in leaps and bounds and it's all down to him."
O'Neill said, however, that it was not until the final whistle that he took any pleasure from winning his first derby as Villa manager.
"I didn't enjoy much of it," he said. "But I enjoyed the result. These games are more than just about the three points and I'm relieved to have won a game that could have gone either way. Birmingham were excellent early on but then, once we got the first goal, we settled and just about merited being in front at half-time.
"Then, they roared back at us, the game opened up and, when they scored, that's as loud as I've heard. And who's to say they didn't deserve it at that time?
"We were on the back foot and it was going to be a case of 'next goal wins it' and thankfully we got it."