Ged Scott looks back at the last time the big three all faced relegation and finds it all rather familiar...
Midland football has not looked so bleak for 20 years.
Whether you?re a fan of Aston Villa, Birmingham City or West Bromwich Albion, the Premiership table really does not make for happy reading.
The season of 1985-86 was when we last saw Villa, Blues and the Baggies occupying the bottom reaches of the top-flight table. Nothing much has changed.
With all three West Midland clubs lodged in the bottom four, this so-far gloomy season threatens to match the misery of 20 years ago when Blues and Albion went down and Villa only just stayed up.
And, come the return of Premiership football next weekend ? after the international commitments ? it could get even worse.
Sunderland are the only side keeping the three Midlands clubs off the foot of the table but they are due to return to action with successive home games against Villa and Blues. If Sunderland win both games and Albion fail to halt their losing run, the Premiership?s relegation zone will be a Midland enclave.
The rotten state of top-flight football in England?s second city is all part of a general malaise in Midlands football.
Coventry City and Leicester City languish in the Championship, Walsall are 16th in League One, bettered only just by Nottingham Forest, a team with an even greater European pedigree than Villa.
Kidderminster Harriers are no longer in the league and only Wolverhampton Wanderers show any sign of upward mobility.
But memories of that 1985-86 season are simply proof that everything goes in cycles in football.
Graham Taylor, the former England, Villa and Wolves manager, blames the players . . . ?an awful lot of average players.?
He said: ?The region?s problem is that there are no great players here. The biggest difficulty for managers today is preventing young men who are earning an awful lot of money from slipping into a comfort zone.
?It takes a special sort of person to avoid the temptation but great players generally belong in that bracket. It?s the average ones who tend to fall into the comfort zone ? and there are an awful lot of average players in the Midlands.
?Doug Ellis has done some fantastic things,? said the man who was twice manager under Ellis?s chairmanship at Villa Park. ?But while he?ll always find the money to make Villa good, he?s never found the funds to make them excellent.
?Villa have suffered from spending too much on average players and they?ve reached the point where no top star wants to join them.?
While Villa?s fans perhaps have most cause to feel frustrated by the current failure to match their illustrious past (astonishingly, it will be 25 years next May since the league title came to Villa Park), Taylor also suggests that Blues and Albion fans have shorter memories.
? They are sometimes guilty of living in the past. Some Birmingham and West Brom fans are forgetting that their clubs have not been in the Premiership very long after lengthy periods out of it.?
It is easy to forget just how much the balance of power does change in the Midlands.
Wolves, Villa and Albion were the main force in the Fifties and when Blues joined them in the top flight in 1955, that launched a decade when, barring one Villa relegation, all four clubs were up there.
But, while Albion and Wolves stayed in the first division for most of the Sixties and Seventies, there was one five-year void when neither Villa nor Blues were topflight clubs.
And it got even worse in the Eighties. Wolves? relegation in 1984 has since seen them enjoy just one season at the top level.
The 1985-86 season is significant for all the wrong reasons.
Having set Blues on the way to relegation before he resigned in January 1986, Ron Saunders arrived at Albion the following month, too late to prevent the Baggies dropping too.
Villa?s near miss under Graham Turner that season was only a stay of execution.
When thye were battered 6-0 at Nottingham Forest the following September to go bottom of the league after five defeats in six games, they were already on a
nosedive out of which Turner?s successor, Billy McNeill, was unable to pull them.
Admittedly, Taylor?s first stint at Villa Park the following summer saw him win promotion at the first attempt and Villa have held on to their place in the elite ever since.
Albion finally joined them again in April 2002 with the first of their two promotions in three seasons under Gary Megson.
If Blues? arrival in the Premiership a month later threatened their status as the Midlands? top club, Villa now have a far bigger worry . . . the possibility of being the Midlands? top club in the Coca-Cola Championship when the 2006-7 season opens.
Thanks to Coventry?s long tenure in the top league between 1967 and 2001, there has not been a season since the Second World War without a West Midland club gracing the top flight of English football.
But the way this season is shaping up and assuming that Wolves do not wake up and elevate themselves, the odds on it staying that way are starting to shorten alarmingly.