Lee Hendrie has called the Birmingham City-Aston Villa derby 'the best match to play in and the worst one to miss' but even he is becoming bored of the pain they can cause.
The Aston Villa midfield player has suffered one defeat, two draws, one booking, one injury, one suspension, and an abundance of disillusionment. It is time, he says, to make it a happier experience for Villa.
As one of the few Birmingham-born players likely to be on show when the teams meet at St Andrew?s on Sunday, Hendrie feels the match in much the same way as the supporters feel it.
That is why the frustration of missing the derby at Villa Park three months ago was almost as overwhelming as Birmingham?s 2-1 victory.
Hendrie is not good at watching football. He has to play.
?I missed the last derby through suspension and that makes me more eager for this one,? Hendrie said. ? Hopefully I will be involved. You hate to miss this match because of what it means in the city. Being from the area, I know the importance of it. And our record against Birmingham certainly needs improving.?
Indeed. Since Birmingham secured a place in the Premiership in 2002, Villa have lost three and drawn two of the five matches.
In that two-year spell, Villa seemed to lack a player geared towards the pandemonium of derbies. A Robbie Savage, perhaps. Significantly, Savage will not be there ? he has left Birmingham for Blackburn Rovers ? and the match is waiting for a new wind-up merchant to emerge.
Hendrie could be that man. His passion, work-rate, and capricious temperament are just what Villa need against a Birmingham team that exudes spirit and enthusiasm.
Villa go into the match on the back of a 2-0 victory at home to Middlesbrough, but that was ten days ago and seems to have been forgotten. A week without a match was the last thing that Villa needed.
?We have got this little break and we will get the big build-up to the game,? Hendrie said. ?We did not really want the break but it has come around and we have just got to deal with it. After a good result, you want another match quickly.
?But winning against Middlesbrough gave us confidence after some poor results. Confidence is massive and this has given us quite a bit of a boost for the derby.
?We needed that win, to be honest. It was not very pretty at times but obviously getting the result was the main thing.?
Hendrie?s performance against Middlesbrough was helped by the 4-5-1 formation. Such tactics are essential because Villa have a shortage of strikers. Juan Pablo Angel will be missing through injury, Darius Vassell seems short of match practice, and Luke Moore might be deemed too inexperienced to make the starting line-up.
?I prefer playing in a formation with five in midfield because I do not really have to get back as such,? Hendrie said. ?I was just told to push on their defensive midfielder and we matched up in there and it was just a matter of who was going to come out on top.
?In the second half against Middlesbrough we were excellent and could have maybe scored a couple more. I am just pleased with the result that we needed.?
For Luke Moore, the match will provide memories of his previous derby, the one at Villa Park in February 2004 that ended with a 2-2 draw. Moore has since scored his first goal for Villa ? a sliced shot against Middlesbrough ? and will be itching to provide an encore.
?I was well pleased for Luke Moore to score against Middlesbrough because he has worked so hard to get a goal and he miss-hit his shot and it has gone into the goal,? Hendrie said. ?That is what he has needed and, as far as I am concerned, deserved.
?With strikers you just need that little bit of luck and Luke has done well over the previous weeks. I?m thrilled to bits for him. I think he will go on a little run now.
?And there was also a return to action for Martin Laursen in defence.
?He has had a long stint in the treatment room and he came out on top against Middlesbrough and scored a goal for us, which is an excellent confidence-lifter for him as well.?