Tribal rivalries just fantastic for Solano - 22/08/2004
Nolberto Solano says life in the West Midlands is considerably more interesting than Newcastle because there are so many clubs within close proximity to each other here.
Solano spent five years at Newcastle - the city where everything revolves around the football team - before joining Villa in January for £1.5 million.
And while Solano loved his time at St James' Park, he is enjoying the different tribal rivalries in and around Birmingham.
"It is amazing," said Solano, who resides in Sutton Coldfield. "Where I live there are supporters of West Brom, Wolverhampton, Birmingham City and Villa.
"It is good; here there are so many teams around the city. In Newcastle there is only one team and everyone supports them.
"Newcastle is a small city but here it is different. If you go out in Newcastle everyone just wants to talk about the team there but Birmingham is a big, big city with many teams.
"I like that. I haven't seen many Villa fans where I live but it is not a problem. The most important thing is the fans make you feel good on the pitch."
Because of the diversity of teams in the region, there are no shortage of derby matches and Solano will get his first taste of Villa's rivalry with Albion tomorrow at The Hawthorns.
Solano, who was suspended for Villa's opener against Southampton, is desperate to win for the club's supporters and because David O'Leary's side are anxious to get off to a better start this season.
Villa came sixth in the Premiership last term but Solano is aware that they could have bettered that feat had they had not got off to such a slow start. They were still in the relegation zone last November.
Solano said: "When you play derbies everyone wants to be involved. I used to play derbies with Newcastle and it is special for the fans.
"It is a local derby and West Brom will try to win the game but we have to be calm and see what happens.
"We had a good result so far and now we have to keep it going during a long season. We have to try to win the game and look to stay in the top six - that's the challenge for us this season.
"We have a small, young squad but we believe we can do it. The thing is, it is difficult to do well if you start badly.
"Fortunately we did well from January until the end of the season but it will be hard to repeat that because other teams like Tottenham will do much better and want to finish in the top six. That's the reason the manager has told us to be ready for the start of the season. I don't think we will be able to come from behind and finish in the top six again."
Villa's 2-0 victory against Southampton has got O'Leary's team off to a promising start and Solano says the side must maintain their standards.
He said: "It was an excellent result with some great goals against Southampton and I think the whole team played very well.
"We have another important game this week and we are looking to win. But with West Brom and then Charlton away before Newcastle at home, this month will be very, very tough."
Solano will start against the Baggies because Lee Hendrie is out with a shoulder injury and the right winger, who had a 85-minute run out for the reserves on Tuesday night, is itching to play.
"The last week has been a little bit of disappointing start to the season for me because I wanted to play against Southampton but I'm happy to be back," said Solano.
"We started with a win and we are looking to keep winning.
"We don't think too much about the opposition and are ready to play with a very high tempo. That's important and everyone is fit and looking forward to the match."
A victory will delight Solano and the Villa faithful - but it may not help his popularity with some of his neighbours.
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