West Midlands football legend Dennis Mortimer is surprised to see Birmingham City go into Sunday's Second City derby on the edge of the Premiership's relegation zone.
Blues might be only six points worse off than Aston Villa in the top-flight table. But at this stage of the season, in so tight a league, it is a classic illustration of the thin divide between being a club worried about Premiership survival and one having European ambitions.
Former Villa skipper Mortimer, who began his career with Coventry City and went on to play for Blues in the late Eighties, acknowledges that the blue half of the city is not yet safe.
He said: ?It?s all getting a little bit close for comfort at the bottom. Blues are desperate for a win, and doing it on Sunday would give them such a boost.
?Then again, when they got that great result at Villa Park in December, I thought that would get them going. And I?ve been surprised not to see them a lot further up the league. There?s no doubt both Villa and Blues have under-performed this season. But I have to admit that is particularly so in Blues? case. I expected to see them up in the top six, far more so than Villa.
?Steve Bruce has had a lot of support from his board and he?s got a big squad. And when I saw the players they?d acquired, and who Villa hadn?t bought perhaps more to the point, I thought Blues were going to finish way ahead. But, until now, that hasn?t been the case.
?And now it?s all just about staying up and making sure they?re around next season.?
After witnessing a depressing 0-0 stalemate at St Andrew?s 18 months ago, despite the fact that the two Villa Park encounters in between have been intensely dramatic, Mortimer is worried about another goalless bore being ground out - on account of both sides? sheer ?fear of losing?. ?It does depend on how both managers approach it,? he said. ?But I can see it being 0-0 again.
?It needs an early goal to get the game going. But I just wonder how much players will be going out there thinking ?we can?t afford to lose this game?.
It?s a problem with derby games but then it?s a problem with football as a whole.
?Too many teams are far too cautious but that?s the nature of what football has become.
?Not losing is the uppermost thing in players? minds. It?s what comes from so many teams playing this formation of 4-5-1. Occasionally, they?re given the freedom but too often it?s too rigid and leads to a nonentity of a game. We used to say ?It?s hard to create but easy to destroy?, especially with 11 players back behind the ball.
?And that?s all right for the fans as long as it?s their side that ends up winning. All they want is to see their team successful so they don?t seem to worry much how their team are playing.
?I?d rather see my team going out there trying to win because, even if you end up losing two then winning two, that?s got to be better than four draws.
?It?s a scenario West Brom are in right now because they know they?ve got to go and win games. But there?s no doubt that the standard in the Premiership is lower this year. And it comes from too much caution because of there being too much at stake.
?Players are not feeling relaxed enough. There?s too much riding on games. But they should be looking to go out there to give the fans something to scream about.?
Mortimer also admits, though, that when it comes to handling the added pressure of maintaining pride in a derby there has always been a needle there that he didn?t always appreciate as far as Villa-Blues games are concerned, way back to his own heyday almost a quarter of a century ago.
?I never liked this game when I was a player,? he said. ?There was always too much at stake.
?I used to look forward far more to playing in the West Brom derby. Now that was a real football game because you knew you?d have to play good football to beat them. The Blues game was always a battle in which football came second.?