Today’s Villan You Should Know is David Simpson, a Brit who has been living in Richmond, Virginia—and spreading the gospel of the claret and blue there—since 2001. He is also a devoted father, as you’ll see below, who has taken all necessary measures to ensure his children won’t have their heads turned by some sheikh- or oligarch-owned glamour club! David is also chairman of the Richmond Lions.
The Starting Eleven
Where were you born, where do you live now, and what do you do for a living?
I was born in Pontypool, Wales, while my mum was visiting her aunt. I grew up an Army brat living in Dorset, Hampshire, West Germany, and then eventually Chepstow in South Wales. After getting out of college and trying my hand at a variety of careers I ended up with a job promotion and moved to Richmond, Virginia in 2001 with my wife and three-year-old son. I worked with Merrill Lynch until two years ago, when I made the switch over the street to Morgan Stanley. I manage investments and provide financial advice to clients up and down the East Coast. As far as I am aware, I am the only Brit in my region doing this type of work.
How and when did you choose Villa?
Growing up in Chepstow, we had very little access to any quality football—it was mainly rugby. I went to Birmingham Polytechnic in 1985 and lived in Perry Common above a Spar shop with five other students, one of whom was a good mate from school. One Saturday, a bunch of us went to see Villa play Everton. Drinking in the Wellhead Tavern (I think that was the name back in the day) at the Poly, then walking down to the ground with the rest of the Claret and Blue Army, then standing up in the Holte End, singing songs and flowing with the crowd when we scored, was an experience like no other. I was hooked. After graduating and moving around the UK with my career I would still find myself drawn back to Villa. I have travelled from many a point wide and far to see them play, multiple times coming back from the U.S. for long weekends. It just gets into your blood!
What was your happiest moment as a Villa supporter?
Taking my kids [to Villa Park] when they were little (Cameron is now 15 and Olivia is 11) and seeing the joy on their faces when they got into the atmosphere is just something you cannot buy. I was worried about them following the so-called “big teams,” so I took both kids at an early age. Ironically Cameron’s first game was also against Everton, when he was three years old!
Two moments from games though: beating Manchester United on Boxing Day at Villa Park in the early 1990s—I think it was 3-0—and then being at Sheffield Wednesday to witness the great second-half comeback during Ron Atkinson’s first game in charge (again back in the early 1990s). Two down at halftime and we won 3-2. That was the game where the “Big Fat Ron’s Claret and Blue Army” was first sung.
What was your most painful moment?
It has to be the Carling Cup defeat to Man United. It was my birthday and Cameron and I had flown in from the U.S., and my mate from college and his son had flown in from Switzerland. I had on a Villa shirt with Milner on the back and Cameron had Young on his. We should have had a penalty for the foul on Gabby early on and I think we would then have been 2 up, but instead the ref did the usual and gave the decisions Man United’s way. I guess the Milner and Young shirt were bad omens as they both moved on soon after!
What team would you most like to see Villa beat this year?
It was nice seeing us beat Arsenal on the first day of the season, but I always look to games like Man United and Liverpool. We were there last December when we beat Liverpool at Anfield 3-1, that’s always a sweet victory.
Who is your favorite player on the current squad?
Has to be Gabby for being Villa through and through, but I really like the way Guzan has fought for and secured his place at the Villa and seems to be committed to the club. He should be the U.S.A. number 1 ahead of Tim Howard—it’s a shame he’s not English!
Who is your favorite player of all time?
At the Villa it has to been Paul McGrath. Considering Big Ron took him from Man United and he was supposed to be done at that stage, he barely trained during the week, yet on a Saturday he was immense. Also the “Ew Ah Paul McGrath” song is a classic! Favorite player ever from anywhere—I spent four years living in West Germany in the 1970s, and would have loved to have seen Beckenbauer and Cruyff at a live game but never had the chance. The best, probably Cruyff.
What are your favorite sources for Villa news?
I check the Villa web site every day and Facebook from the Villa groups. It’s sad but I read the BBC website and the Daily Mail online at lunchtime to get all the gossip from around the league and I normally then follow links to the Birmingham Evening Mail.
Rate yourself as a fan. What are your best and worst qualities?
There are two types of fan in my book. Fans that can go to games and will go and fans that for whatever reason cannot go yet will do whatever they can to know how we are doing. At kickoff time, usually on a Saturday at 3 p.m. in the UK, it doesn’t matter where I am or what I am doing, somehow I will know who’s in the team and how we are doing. For the next 90 minutes all I will think about is that game going on at Villa Park or wherever we may be playing. I am completely on edge until I get the result.
Best quality is my dedication to all things Villa. Many of my American friends and colleagues have never heard of Aston Villa and I am constantly asked about my car’s license plate: A V F C 7. I am then able to articulate why Villa and why they should also follow the Villa and stop following the herd and find a real club to support. Worst quality as a fan is my after game moments following a defeat. If we play badly and lose I can take that, but when we play well and just can’t seem to win, then I am a pain to live with for a few days after.
Where do you usually watch games?
I get almost every game on the new NBC sports channel on TV, so I will watch at home with my kids, or I watch them in the local pub Keagan’s with some other footy fans. There are very few Villa fans in Richmond, but I am spreading the gospel.
What are you usually drinking?
Growing up in the West Country in the UK I got a taste for Cider. There are now multiple ciders available to me in Richmond and my favorite is Bold Rock, brewed in Virginia, it’s better than Strongbow!
Rewriting the past: if you could go back and change one thing, anything, in Aston Villa’s history, what would if be?
We should never have sold David Platt. At the time he was one of the best midfielders in the country. Also I wish Paul McGrath had spent his whole career at Villa and that we would have had him for far longer than we did.
Finally, I have to say I have travelled greatly across Europe and the USA and met many football fans. When you are in some far-off, distant place and you run into someone in a bar and they turn out to be a Villa fan also, you know you have a friend for life. There is a bonding that we all have, we all run deep claret and blue.