In getting to know last Friday’s Villan of the Week, Brian Hanna, I learned that his wife, Nicole Ferguson, has an extremely interesting Villa story of her own. (And no, I’m not taking sides as to which side of this team of two is the “better half”!) Villa supporters haven’t had anything to applaud this holiday week, so let’s give a cheer to those who really deserve it: the fans!
The Starting Eleven
Where were you born, where do you live now, and what do you do for a living?
I hail from Joliet, Illinois. I now live in New Lenox, Illinois, returning after six years in Brum following my marriage to last week’s Villan of the Week, Brian Hanna. I’m senior editor for a very small publishing company in the south suburbs.
How and when did you choose Villa?
Villa chose me. In 2006, I married into a family of dedicated Villa fans, including my husband, father-in-law, brother- and sisters-in-law. Bri and I met in Dublin Airport two weeks before Christmas in 2004. We’re both huge U2 fans and that was the major connection for us. We married in 2006 after a very long-distance courtship and I moved to the UK a week later. I attended my first match on New Year’s Eve 2005, at home against Arsenal, while I was visiting Brian over Christmas break. I was hooked immediately. The energy and atmosphere in the Holte End, where we stood, is like no other place on earth. The intensity is palpable.
One day after fleeing a job in a publishing firm outside Birmingham that had driven me to the edges of misery, I interviewed for a temporary maternity cover position as sales coordinator in the Hospitality & Events department at AVFC. I got the job straight away (and found out two weeks later that I was pregnant myself—oops). But it was such an awesome fit that temporary turned into permanent, and I absolutely loved it there.
I miss those folks dearly; my Villa colleagues are some of my best mates now, and a couple have even made the journey all the way over to see us.
I also copyedited/proofread the matchday programmes for Rob Bishop in Mar/Comms (before they outsourced it; it’s now a subpar publication, in my opinion, because it doesn’t have the personal touch that it used to have), as well as the marketing publications for H&E. In addition, I worked matchday hospitality in the Holte Pub and the Directors Suite. Doug Ellis used to comment on how short I am every time he’d walk in. That was a sweet gig because we’d get to see the high and mighty of the celebrity circuit prance about!
I am terribly proud to have worked for Villa and will always feel like I’m still part of that family. One of the greatest perks was the free season ticket—two, actually. Bri had one and his dad had the other, and every once in a while, I got to go, too!
What was your happiest moment as a Villa supporter?
Taking my eldest daughter to her first match in 2011 when she was three years old. She had a blast—met Hercules, had chips and curry sauce with her daddy and grandad, the works. She made it through the whole first half, which we didn’t expect, and then went up to my office to color at my desk for the second half. It felt like an initiation, a rite of passage. Villa has always been such a large part of our family life that it was important for Bri and I to take her there to show her firsthand what a matchday is like.
What was your most painful moment?
My last day at work before moving back to the States. It was the same day that the news of Stan’s illness was announced, and it broke my heart. The atmosphere within the whole club was very somber that day. Second to that would be the day Martin O’Neill left us in the lurch. I had such indefatigable faith in him as a leader and he truly let me down that August day.
Which team would you most like to see Villa beat this year?
The same as every year: Man United. Although, admittedly, Ferguson’s departure and their subsequent suckitude has taken some of the shine off a potential victory over them.
Who is your favorite player on the current squad?
I’d have to go with Benteke. How many times has the guy saved our bacon?!
Who is your favorite player of all time?
I’ve always had a soft spot for Petrov. He is such a stand-up guy and his heart and soul were always in the game, even when the productivity might have been lacking. He was a solid leader and I’ll always miss his presence on the pitch.
What are your favorite sources for Villa news?
Once upon a time, it was the office! But these days, I have to settle for avfc.co.uk and Facebook.
Rate yourself as a fan. What are your best and worst qualities?
I grew up a die-hard Cubs fan. Failure is a way of life that you learn to embrace. As a result, you never expect greatness—although you live in perpetual hope. I still reflect with glee on the glory days of finishing sixth in the table under O’Neill. However, life as a Cubs fan has also embedded a fierce loyalty in me; no matter how crap they are, Villa is still my team and I still love them despite the poor performances and threats of falling into the abyss that is the lower leagues. I’ve often noted that football fans can be a fickle lot; they could do with some Cubfandommery.
Where do you usually watch games?
Matches are generally on in the background at home when they’re televised, but our kids are 5 and 3—there’s no chance in hell that both of us are going to get the chance to watch an entire match uninterrupted. And I do try to stay awake for MoTD on Saturday nights, but that’s generally an exercise in futility. I’ve been to the Globe a couple of times and would love to get up there more, but it’s tricky with the kids—we have to leave quite early in the morning to get to the pub, and it involves having to drop the kids with family the night before.
What are you usually drinking?
At the Globe, coffee typically morphs into cider sometime around the second half.
If Villa were a band, which one would they be?
UB40. Birmingham staple. People either love ’em or hate ’em. Line-ups change, but they’re always around.