Donal Fitzmaurice Neligan is another Villan I’ve never met in person. But when you find yourself running into someone on Facebook, sometimes it’s almost as if you can forget that you haven’t really met. And when I read this premier piece of punditry, I thought it was high time to make him Villan of the Week. (It doesn’t hurt that he’s vice chairman, soon to be chairman, of the New York City Lions Club.)
The Starting Eleven
Where were you born, where do you live now, and what do you do for a living?
I was born in Dublin, Ireland, and moved to New York City nearly eleven years ago. I manage software engineers when I’m not running the New York Villans.
How and when did you choose Villa?
It was my seventh birthday and I had recently become consumed by the game following the Mexican World Cup. One of my brothers cornered me and asked me to pick a team. Back then I could only name a handful due to Match of the Day being past my bedtime. My first two choices, Liverpool and Arsenal, were shot down, with the threat of a beating, by my Man United–loving brother. But he couldn’t find anything bad to say about my third choice, Aston Villa, so he accepted it under one condition: that if I was to ever change my mind, he’d kick the crap out of me. In retrospect, a beating might have been worth it, given the years of misery that were to follow.
What was your happiest moment as a Villa supporter?
Surviving relegation in 1995 at the expense of Crystal Palace. When I saw the scores come in on the BBC, I dashed outside and for the first and last time in my life I attempted a somersault. Landed on my arse and laughed like a maniac. To think we enjoyed the magical penalty shootout win against Inter earlier that season before complete collapse and the sacking of Big Ron . . . .
Other magnificent moments included Savo opening the scoring in the 1996 League Cup final, the 1994 final win over United, and the more recent game against Everton where Lescott equalized in the 92nd minute only for Ashley Young to snag the winner. Half the lads in the pub that day trotted off to the toilet dejected and missed the actual goal.
What was your most painful moment?
Waking up in a resort in Hawaii and suddenly getting a flood of messages on my phone informing me of Alex McLeish’s appointment. Also as I was typing this Shane Long just scored the opener in the Villa Brom match. Fuck my life.
Which team would you most like to see Villa beat this year?
Usually Man United but, with Fergie gone, that scalp has lost a lot of its appeal. So I’ll take Chelsea since we were robbed against them at the start of the season.
Who is your favorite player on the current squad?
Brad Guzan. I wrote him off a couple of seasons back and by god has he proven me wrong, taking his weaknesses and turning them into strengths. Fantastic keeper.
Who is your favorite player of all time?
Paul McGrath for both Ireland and Villa. The term “different class” gets overused a lot but in God’s case it’s an understatement.
What are your favorite sources for Villa news?
It used to be message boards but these days Twitter is king. In terms of websites, I generally go with the BBC and The Guardian and try to avoid the utter drivel that is The Bleacher Report. Follow me @NewYorkVillans.
Rate yourself as a fan. What are your best and worst qualities?
My best quality is patience. I always give players and manager the benefit of the doubt and a chance to impress before I slate them (yes, even McLeish). My worst quality is naiveté. I keep thinking it’s going to get better and this is our season to get back in the reckoning, only to repeatedly have my still-beating heart torn from my chest and flushed.
Where do you usually watch games?
With the rest of the New York Villans in The Football Factory downstairs at Legends Bar and Grill (33rd Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues), directly opposite the Empire State Building. If you ever come to NYC or know any Villa fans living in or visiting our town, send them down to us. Always a lively group of Villa-loving ex-pats and natives moaning and drinking.
What are you usually drinking?
Guinness or cider. Vodka-and-soda if I’m already hungover.
What is the best book you have read, or film you have seen, about the sport?
The best book was The Miracle of Castel di Sangro, by Joe McGinniss, an American journalist who traveled to Italy and embedded himself with a small team who, through a set of bizarre circumstances, had found themselves in Serie B. Paul McGrath’s autobiography, Back from the Brink (otherwise known as The Newer Testament) comes in a close second.
Best film is easy: I.D., loosely based upon James Bannon, a policeman who infiltrated Millwall’s firms during some of the roughest days of football hooliganism. Unlike the football-violence flick staring Frodo Baggins and the other rubbish, I.D. is quite good. Closely following it is The Damned United [Editor’s note: damned good film!] but after that there’s really bugger all in the way of quality football films beyond that. Although I do have a good one in mind—I just need to write the script some fine day . . . .