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American Born Villan

Aston Villa, From Chicago to the Holte End of the World

Month

January 2014

Villan of the Week: Glen Goodwin

Glen Goodwin (left) with Detroit Villans at the Hamlin Pub
Glen Goodwin (left) with Detroit Villans at the Hamlin Pub

Glen Goodwin, a loyal reader of this blog—at least, that’s what I choose to believe, and I don’t want Glen or anyone else setting me straight—volunteered to be this week’s Villan of the Week. That in itself tells you something about Villa supporters: they are selfless and fearless individuals, brave men and women who would no doubt offer themselves up as guinea pigs for even the most radical experimental treatments if they thought there was the slightest chance of saving even one person’s life. (Unless that person supports Small Heath, in which case, they’re on their own.) Anyway, a lot of the people profiled here tend to be . . .  in the middle of life, so it’s high time we heard from a student!

The Starting Eleven

Where were you born, where do you live now, and what do you do for a living?

I was born in Sutton Coldfield, United Kingdom, but I am currently living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States. I am 22 years old and a student at the University of Kent, currently completing a 12-month finance internship.

How and when did you choose Villa?

At Wigan for the final game of the 2012-13 season
At Wigan for the final game of the 2012-13 season

I have been a Villa fan all my life, becoming a season ticket holder at the age of 4. Entirely my dad’s influence of course, but me, my dad, uncle, and granddad would all go down every week. I’m just as mad for Villa now as I was back then, being a member of my hometown Lions Club (Sutton Coldfield Lions), the Lions Club near my university (Kent Lions), and now the Detriot Lions in the United States.

What was your happiest moment as a Villa supporter?

This would have to be the 5-1 thrashing against Birmingham City in 2008, when John Carew and Ashley Young got two goals each. This dropped Birmingham City right in trouble for relegation and was a win in the “real” Birmingham derby. The West Brom derby just isn’t the same—just another game to me.

What was your most painful moment?

When David James dropped the ball at Wembley in May 2000 in the FA Cup Final. I was only 9 years old but I remember it to this day. And to top it off, some bloke urinated all over my Villa flag, not the nicest thing to happen to you as a 9-year-old. The picture below is me and my dad on Wembley Way.

Young Glen and his dad at Wembley on a disappointing day in 2000
Young Glen and his dad at Wembley on a disappointing day in 2000

Which team would you most like to see Villa beat (or beat again) this year?

Manchester United. I have a real hate for them. The “Plastic Reds” as I refer to them down at University, where none of them are from Manchester. I’d love to hear them all moan after we beat them. That is one of my biggest regrets—not being at Old Trafford when we beat them 1-0 back in December 2009. I think I’ve been there every year apart from that.

Who is your favorite player on the current squad?

Brad Guzan. He is one of our only players who has consistency week in and week out. A great shot stopper, and he is not scared to come off his line and catch crosses. Unlike most goalkeepers these days, he rarely punches. It makes a huge difference for a team to trust their goalkeeper behind them.

Who is your favorite player of all time?

Ian TaylorI am going to have to go with two here: Ian Taylor and Olof Melberg. Two Villa legends, neither of them afraid to make a tackle, and they played with real pride, giving 100% week in and week out. I wish we had the passion they showed in our squad today. Ian Taylor was my idol at the Villa while I was a kid, and as I moved into my teenage years, Olof Mellberg took that spot. Both fantastic players.Olof Mellberg

What are your favorite sources for Villa news?

Well I am going to have to go with my Dad for this one. He runs the Sutton Coldfield Lions and he must email me every day while I’m at work to give me the latest news updates and transfer rumours. Apart from that, I use newsnow.co.uk, as it gathers live feeds from all different websites.

Rate yourself as a fan. What are your best and worst qualities?

Sunderland programmeI will give myself a solid 7/10. Last season I managed to do about 28 games all in all, travelling from University most weekends, and often midweek, all over the country. This year, I managed to get five in while I was back for Christmas, but I’m always taking half days at work if a game is on. I just can’t face not watching it.

My worst quality is missing goals and the start of games. I’m usually last out the pub, miss the first ten minutes, then get 3 pints in at half time and surface into the stands at about the 65th minute . . . well, you do need a good drink to watch us these days! When I was a kid, I’d be dragging my dad out the pub to get to the game, and he did always say, “In ten years’ time I’ll be dragging you out!!” . . . and it’s so true.

Where do you usually watch games?

If I’m in the UK, I try to be at as many as I can, but over here in the States there is a group of about six of us that watch the games together at each other’s houses every weekend. My boss is an Englishman and a big Villa fan. He’s managed to brainwash his son and his American mates to all be Villa fans, so I’ve always got someone to talk to about the Villa!

What are you usually drinking?

Carling - Made with 100% British Barley!Carling, Carling, and more Carling. I might make a tactical change to the dark rum and Coke if I’m getting a bit bloated, but that isn’t often. Over here in the states it’s Coors Light.

Extra Time

Which Villa players would do well at different sports, and which sports would those be?

Alan Hutton with tossing the caber!!

Barry Bannan at golf. Those crosses he used to put in were like a golf chip out the bunker . . . get some pace on the ball FFS!!!

Finally, Gabby Agbonlahor with “the running of the bulls,” a sporting event in Spain. He is basically a headless chicken, after all.

Aston Villa 4 – West Bromwich Albion 3: What If I’d Actually Seen It?

We all feel this way, right?
We all feel this way, right?

Villans are a die-hard bunch and will go to almost any lengths to watch a game. Usually, that just means the length of the bar, as most games are shown on Saturdays and Sundays. Granted, North American Villans do have to get up early before they drink their beer.

Purely hypothetically, I found myself wondering whether I’d be able to watch the live stream from my desk.

But for weekday, workday games, when the need to cash a paycheck conflicts with the desire to watch the game as it happens, fans will resort to a variety of measures. Recording the game and watching it later is one option, of course, although that requires the fan to “go dark,” avoiding his phone, screen, and anyone wearing a team shirt and an expression that could betray the result.

This is not always feasible.

There is one Villan—who will remain anonymous—who will open his laptop at the Globe so his employer can see that he is online and working. This is the same guy who streams games from his phone while he’s driving. Actually, a lot of guys do that, defending themselves against claims of distracted driving by saying, “I’m only listening!” We can only pray they’re not merging on the expressway when our team gives away a penalty.

In the olden days—that is, before NBC bought the rights to the Premier League broadcasts—I followed games via live-text update on the Aston Villa team site. I’ve also followed them on Twitter, which works, but is not at all satisfying. For this week’s home derby against West Brom, I thought I’d be able to watch it live with my kids on Tuesday, school and work being closed for cold—but Live Soccer TV, my usually reliable source, got the date wrong. The game was Wednesday. The kids would be back at school, and I would be at work.

Purely hypothetically, I found myself wondering whether I’d be able to watch the live stream from my desk. And, shortly before game time, as a thought experiment, I wondered whether I’d be able to remember my account information for RCN—my third cable provider in the last year.

I could not. However, in my mind, I imagined calling RCN to get that information, and having a conversation with the guy who answered the phone. You may think I have an active imagination, but he was actually amazingly helpful. Because, even though I couldn’t remember my account number or my password, and could provide only my address and phone number, this guy actually told me my password because I had come so close to getting it right!

Of course, by the time I emerged from my daydream of logging on to NBC Sports Live Extra, it was already the 12th minute of the game. I awoke from my reverie to find that THREE GOALS HAD ALREADY BEEN SCORED.

Seriously, you couldn’t make this up.

Bacuna bundles one inAt any rate, as the afternoon continued and I toiled at my desk, I imagined how hard it might have been to concentrate, if I had had the game open in one tab of my browser. I mean, coming into the game with Villa down 1-2 to West Brom, I could only imagine how ugly the goal was that Bacuna bundled in in the 25th minute. And, had I been able to see and hear Delph’s STUNNING STRIKE in the 37th minute, I might have completely forgotten that I was listening on headphones and yelled out loud.

Oh, you fucking beauty!

It definitely would have been hard to concentrate on the steady trickle of emails in my in-box, and, when a colleague came into my office to ask a question, I would have had to move quickly to minimize the window. It would have been sheer agony making small talk with her, meanwhile wondering whether I’d missed another goal in this unbelievably exciting derby between the Midlands rivals—a fixture that’s been played many, many times over a 129-year rivalry.

I’m sure I would have gotten a little bit of work done during the 90-odd minutes it took for the game to play out, and I probably would have rationalized my lack of productivity by thinking about all the work I do on my own time. After all, I’d just spent four days away from my loving family while attending a conference in another city. Mulling that over, I might even have become self-righteous and said that my employer owed me the right to watch a game at work!

Purely hypothetically...Not that I would ever think, say, or do that, of course.

Anyway, I sure wish I would have seen it. As I found out later, it was an amazing game!

Reasons for Optimism

I’m feeling optimistic about everything this morning. Weimann is looking better and better, Benteke was winning the aerial battles, Delph is playing tough, Bertrand is showing us how little Luna does for us, and we showed such character and creativity that I’m willing to overlook our defensive lapses. I’m not even going to beat up on KEA for being subpar. And I’m not going to obsess about the fact that the Baggies aren’t much of a team. Games against them are always tough, and a win is a win.

Villan of the Week: Mark Altherr

Mark Altherr at Villa ParkLike a lot of American fans, Mark Altherr became interested in the team during the Martin O’Neill era, when a fine run of form alerted him to the team’s many other fine qualities. And, like the rest of us, since he chose, his loyalty has been unwavering. Even last year’s relegation scare didn’t put him off—but, when you learn about the other teams he supports, you’ll see why this sports fan needs a LOT of patience.

The Starting Eleven

Where were you born, where do you live now, and what do you do for a living?

I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. However, I’ve been living in Denver, Colorado for the last seven years, teaching elementary school. Currently I teach fourth grade, but hope to get into what my degree is for, which is physical education.

How and when did you choose Villa?

I chose Villa during the 2006-07 season. I had followed the Premier League for a year or two and decided I wanted to start following a team. Villa has a great history, couldn’t just buy a championship (much like my hometown teams in Cincinnati) like others that will remain nameless at this time, and gave me no reason to believe they would be relegated anytime soon (almost got fooled on that one). All in all, Villa was a competitive team and has a had good fan base.h

What was your happiest moment as a Villa supporter?

Mark prepares to hold his first press conference as chairman of the Denver Villans
Mark prepares to hold his first press conference as chairman of the Denver Villans

My happiest moment came just recently, when I made my first trip to Villa Park over Thanksgiving. It was just a great experience to be able to take the tour and see a match from the Holte End. Since I took the tour the day before a home game, I was able to see the jerseys hanging in the lockers, and got some pictures with a few. My tour guide, Mick, was fantastic, and even gave me his number to call him after the game since he wanted to know about my experience. I will certainly not forget the feeling of walking into Villa Park and seeing the field in person for the first time. Just amazing!

I met some great people who allowed me to have a few pints with them at the Aston Hotel before the game, who I’ve staying in contact with and will continue to keep in touch with. Unfortunately it was the 0-0 draw against Sunderland, so I didn’t get a chance to hear the roar of the crowd after a goal. The only thing that would have made it better is a Villa win. Maybe next time.

What was your most painful moment?

It’s more than just a moment, but the relegation battle two years ago. We barely made it out alive in that one. Two points above the drop zone is too close for comfort. Thankfully, a couple other teams did worse than us, and Stoke put in a late goal or we would have been gone.

Which team would you most like to see Villa beat (or beat again) this year?

I’m going to have to go with the United game in March. They always bring a massive amount of fans to the pub I go to here in Denver, so to have our three voices outnumber the masses in victory would make my day! Of course, victories against Chelsea after, well, we all know what’s happened in recent matches, and a sweep of City would be welcomed as well.

Gabby Agbonlahor

Who is your favorite player on the current squad?

I’m divided, but Gabby seems to be the one I’ve always enjoyed watching play. He’s been with the club since I started following them, and even though he may not have always been the top guy on the pitch, he always seems to come ready to play each week. His hard work and competitiveness each match is what each player should strive for whenever they put on the shirt.

Who is your favorite player of all time?

Stiliyan PetrovI haven’t been following Villa as long as others, but I do want to choose one from the time I started following the club. I think I’m going to have to go with Petrov. Maybe it’s more of a sympathetic pick, but he played the game with class, had a wonderful reputation with the fans, and just seemed to always represent himself and the club well. I follow sports and this is definitely something that not every athlete possesses. A shame he left the game early due to his illness.

What are your favorite sources for Villa news?

I mostly use AVFC, Sky Sports, the Premier League site, and a couple Facebook pages.

Rate yourself as a fan. What are your best and worst qualities?

I’m definitely a dedicated fan and will support my teams through good and bad. Let’s remember I’m a Bengals and Reds fan as well, so it’s been a while since we’ve won anything! Still I wear the jersey, and much like being a Villa fan, there usually aren’t too many around me here in Denver. I think my worst quality is that I can get a little too opinionated. One day there will be a TV that will allow my voice to go through it so those on the other side can hear me. Until then, if necessary I will criticize when needed. Besides, they’ve been known to make a good play or even score when I’m pushed to that level. So maybe they can hear me?

Where do you usually watch games?

Denver Villans with a Cardiff fan (name and face withheld) at Three Lions Pub after a 2-0 win!
Denver Villans with a Cardiff fan (name and face withheld) at Three Lions Pub after a 2-0 win!

With our small Aston Villa Supporters Denver group, I watch most of the matches at Three Lions Pub. They will record the games if we can’t make it for the live airing (typically a weekday match). Sometimes, for the early matches at 5:45 a.m., I have stayed home to watch, but that doesn’t happen often if at least one other will get out of bed to meet me there. Yes, the pub is open! John Zeise, Greg Boynton, and I are consistently there, along with any others that make the trek from outside the Denver area or are passing through.

What are you usually drinking?

It can depend on the game time, since they can’t serve alcohol until 7 a.m. If we’re the early game, or if it’s been a long night before, 8 a.m. can come early, so it’s just coffee and breakfast. Typically I start with a coffee, then move on to a beer that sounds good at the time. Depends on my mood, but a Fuller’s ESB seems to creep up quite often. But hey, it’s Saturday morning happy hour so it’s all good!

Extra Time

What’s the best reaction you’ve ever gotten when someone has learned you support Villa?

Most of the time, it’s “How did that happen?” To which I have responded sarcastically many times before telling them the real reason. Especially if they are fans of certain clubs who just don’t see why I wouldn’t choose their team. I’m sure you can guess those names.

When Saturday Comes to Chicago

When Saturday Comes - February 2014It was my pleasure to be interviewed by Pete Hausler for When Saturday Comes, England’s “Half Decent Football Magazine,” for an article called “States of Excitement.” Basically, it’s about the random ways in which we Yanks choose our EPL teams. It’s a nice piece, even if Pete is a Man City fan (and even if WSC butchered his byline and called him “Paul”). You might also want to check out a piece he wrote back in 2008, “All Hail Hull City.” (Yes, he’s changed his tiger stripes for baby blue!)"States of Excitement," by Pete Hausler

Click the image to enlarge. I couldn’t find a link to the article, but the magazine, which publishes in print, is on newsstands now, and you can order your own copy from their online shop.

Liverpool 2 – Aston Villa 2: Diving into the Kop End

With my older son at the Globe
With my older son at the Globe

Saturday marked the first visit of my older son, Felix, to the Globe Pub. He is a soccer player (7 goals in 9 games this fall), and a soccer fan, but, I’ll be honest: I think the biggest draw was breakfast. (He is 9 years old.) When I described everything that came with the “full English,” his eyes lit up, even if he wasn’t necessarily going to take my word on the white and black puddings.

(Click here if you want to skip my recap and get straight to the diving.)

It was a good crew of Villans: Mike Reed, Simon Leach, Cat Stewart, Greg Asad, Saul Ebrima, Mark Ward. And Felix and me, of course. Plus some guy not in a Villa shirt who stood near our table but obviously had our team’s interests at heart.

One of the great things about supporting a mid-table team: in a bar, you’re much more likely to all sit together than if you support one of the better-marketed top teams. There were more Liverpool supporters than Villans at the Globe, but there was little sign of recognition between their scattered tables. The Villans are in it TOGETHER.

Much like the Arsenal game last week, I’d gone into this not expecting much of anything. Even if we HAD demolished them 3-1 at Anfield last season, even though we ARE much better away from home, it was just hard to imagine we’d come away with a point or three, not when “SAS” (Suarez and Sturridge) are in such a rich vein of form, with 32 goals between them this season coming into the game.

Then again, Suarez hasn’t been exactly been prolific against Villa. If I’m not very much mistaken, he only has one goal against us in a half-dozen previous games….

We started brightly, with a great one-on-one chance by Gabby in the first minute going just wide of the post. And then, in the 24th minute, Clark thumped a header onto the post. Villa looked great and were attacking with panache—but, we wondered, were those the missed chances we would rue? Would Liverpool get one against the run of play and cause Villa to retreat into their all-too-familiar defensive shell?

Aston-Villas-Christian-Benteke-left-celebrates-scoring-their-second-goal-of-the-game-6526661A minute later we had our answer. Gabby made a brilliant run and timed a ball perfectly across the face of the goal, where it met Weimann, who’d made a lung-bursting run up the wing to tap it home. I know he doesn’t score that often, but we need a song for Weimann—he deserves something for the shift he puts in. And then, in the 36th minute, it was Gabby with another assist, the ball finding Benteke’s big head for the Belgian’s second goal in two games. To be fair, Mignolet (which, I believe, is French for a “small, delicate cut of meat”) made a hash of the cross, but still. TWO NIL. AT ANFIELD.

Which meant it was only a matter of time before we gave one back. It looked very much as though we might make it to the half without conceding but, two minutes into injury time, Sturridge gave the Scousers something to cheer about, deftly taking a through ball from Henderson and putting into the top left corner of our net. I feared that Villa would come out looking defensive in the second half but, aside for one debatable substitution (Holt for a limping Agbonlahor; I would have preferred Albrighton’s speed to keep the pressure on Liverpool’s back line), Villa continued to attack and to play well. Yes, they didn’t have quite the same intensity. But they didn’t fold. Loanee left back Betrand looked terrific, and even Holt showed both grit and guile. Villa looked every bit the equal of the hosts. And, when Liverpool finally found the equalizer, it wasn’t because Villa were lacking.

It was because Luis Suarez dived.

(GIF via 7500 to Holte)
(GIF via 7500 to Holte)

Yes, you can argue, as some pundits have, that Guzan made it easy for him by coming out too hard at first. Or that Guzan shouldn’t have come out at all. And there may have been a whisper of contact. But touching a player isn’t in itself a foul, even in the penalty area. What did happen is that, running at speed, and seeing a goalkeeper’s speedy approach, Suarez left a leg behind and went over as if he’d been clattered into with full force. Replays showed that contact, if there was any, was light.

 . . . the fact remains: in American football, a player going down without contact is almost unheard of. While in top-level European soccer, it happens every week.

Diving symbolizes the gap between English football and American football. It’s the kind of act that American jocks like to point to when they make their tired arguments about how wimpy our sport is. We, in turn, can point to all sorts of things, from continuous action, to lack of body armor, to players’ mind-boggling fitness to make our rebuttal, but the fact remains: in American football, a player going down without contact is almost unheard of. While in top-level European soccer, it happens every week.

Not that it’s accepted by all the fans, of course. English fans, and fans of English soccer (many of whom happen to be American), in particular, tend to greet diving with outrage. It’s unsportsmanlike! It’s unmanly! It’s exactly what you’d expect of players who come from countries where the sun shines too much! I know that last point sounds like stereotypical stereotyping, but but that attitude still exists.

And maybe there’s some truth to it, too. In continental Europe and South America, diving seems to be treated with much less shock. (Professional managers still use terms such as “a Spanish penalty.”) I don’t know if it’s admired, exactly, but maybe it’s viewed as a player doing whatever it takes to get his team a win. (Could I be saying that Suarez falling down is like Pete Rose running over a catcher? Well, maybe somewhere . . . .) And if a player helps his team win, fans of his team have a lot harder time condemning him than everyone else. Suarez clearly helps his teams to win, whether it’s a handball on the line for Uruguay or a dive in the box for Liverpool or a well-timed bite on the biceps of . . . . hmm.

One of the thoughts flitting through my mind during the second half was: I’m glad I’m not a Liverpool fan. And it wasn’t simply because I was thinking that I’d have this Saturday-morning-serial villain twirling his mustache on my team. It was also because, in addition to having to defend his antics week in and week out, I would have to reconcile with that my pleasure at the rewards reaped by those despicable antics. Yes, we all tell ourselves we hate divers and dirty players, and we may well do, but do we REALLY hate the dive that salvages a point in the game at home? Would we REALLY rather be a bottom-half team that plays “good, honest football” (if that can actually be defined) or would we rather be chasing a place in Europe, hitched to a player whose play makes us wince almost as often as we can admire it?

It would be a harder question to answer if we actually had any choice in the matter, wouldn’t it?

No one can deny Suarez’s immense talent. He’s a prolific goalscorer with a good work rate (no Bent or Berbatov he), he can pass and create, and he’s really not as selfish as he could be. And he doesn’t even personally profit from his diving, at least at Liverpool, where Gerrard is the designated penalty taker. So one view would be that Suarez is the consummate team player who will do ANYTHING to get his team—not just himself—an advantage.

Another, equally compelling view could be that, due to some flaw in his upbringing (maybe his mother didn’t hold him enough? he was taunted about his teeth?), he lacks some crucial components—empathy chief among them—which, combined with poor impulse control, leads him to do whatever he feels is right in the moment. Whether it’s bite someone (which he has done twice), make a racist remark, or dive, dive, dive (which, let’s be fair, he’s quite skilled at).

A brief digression as I’m running out of time: we tend to revere “hard-nosed” players who like to “get a tackle in.” Naturally, this can cross a line, and a player who we like for being rugged can take it too far, break someone’s leg, and then become a villain in their own right. But, as a rule, we cut a lot more slack to tough players, who hurt people, than to divers, who hurt no one. Of course, dives lead to goals, which hurt whole teams’ fortunes, and the hopes of the fans, whereas the consequences of a single bad tackle are often a bit harder to sum up.

Anyway, as I said: I’m glad Luis Suarez isn’t on my team. Because, even when they’re woeful, Villa don’t require complicated moral footwork to defend—just patience. And, on Saturday, Villa were anything but woeful. Add that to the second half against Arsenal and they’re actually looking like a team we can be proud of.

After the game, Lambert was diplomatic. Guzan was diplomatic. Rodgers defended his man. And what kind of manager would he be if he didn’t? The cinematic kind, played by Jimmy Stewart or Spencer Tracy.

Villan of the Week: Simon Hodister

Simon and daughter Tallulah, the latest addition to the Hodister Villans
Simon and daughter Tallulah, the latest addition to the Hodister Villans

I once had a drink with today’s Villan of the Week, but, more importantly, he comes vouched for by his mate, Detroit-by-way-of-Nuneaton Villan Mike Pearson—still one of the all-time most popular VOTWs so far. (No pressure, Simon!) As you read about Simon’s long history as a true claret-and-blue supporter of the Villa, you’ll see that most of this family man’s pics feature his very cute kids. Not only does he have four of them, he’s bringing them up absolutely right!

The Starting Eleven

Where were you born, where do you live now, and what do you do for a living?

I was born in Wolverhampton and grew up in Bilston. I now live in Rochester Hills, which is north of Detroit, with my wife Julie and our four beautiful children: Harrison, Alfie, Finley, and Tallulah. I work for GM as a car designer.

The Hodister starting six: Simon, wife Julie, and, from left to right, Finley (age 3), Harrison (9), Alfie (7), and Tallulah (1)
The Hodister starting six: Simon, wife Julie, and, from left to right, Finley (age 3), Harrison (9), Alfie (7), and Tallulah (1)

How and when did you choose Villa?

With Harrison and Alfie at Villa Park
With Harrison and Alfie at Villa Park

I’m not sure exactly when it started. My cousin Steve was a Villa fan, my school friends supported Wolves, and my dad had a soft spot for the Baggies. I hated gold and black, plus they were crap, the Baggies’ stripes looked terrible . . . and they were crap. So it had to be the Villans! I loved the banter with school mates about who we supported and loved the fact that the Villans grew to be the best local team, so I could give as good as I got amongst the kids who weren’t armchair supporters of the bigger clubs and thought Liverpool and Manchester were near Scotland. The first game I went to was with my dad (I converted both him and my mom into Villa fans!); we played Derby and lost but I was hooked. At Villa ParkI loved the ground, loved the atmosphere. I went to loads of games and soon I bought a season ticket in the Lower Trinity, where I sat with my mate Andy, right by the dugouts, for about 15 years. When my eldest came along and it looked like we would be moving to the States, I had to give up the ticket, but my mom took it over for a couple of seasons, so we had a Hodister presence at Villa Park a while longer!!

What was your happiest moment as a Villa supporter?

Any time we win! It’s been rare recently . . . .

Harry's very happy ninth at the Hamlin Pub
Harry’s very happy ninth at the Hamlin Pub

I loved being at the Cup finals when we beat Leeds and Man United—those were awesome times. But the best moment has to be my boys (and hopefully my daughter) wanting to be Villa fans. I’ve not forced it on them, I’ve let them make the decision, but they know Daddy supports the Villa and they’ve embraced it. My eldest Harrison just had his ninth birthday, he wanted to celebrate it at our local pub the Hamlin, having breakfast and watching the Villa game there! Good lad!! We’ve been to Villa Park to get kits for them, and I showed them where i used to walk to the games, the stand I sat in, and we’ve walked around Villa Park. Unfortunately, with school time and where we live, they haven’t been to a game. But, we will go and when we do, that’s going to be my new happiest and proudest moment, as a dad and as a Villa fan.

What was your most painful moment?

There’s a couple. Obviously on the few . . . rare occasions when Blues have beaten us. Or when Norwich has beaten us—my lovely wife’s from there, and I never hear the end of it then. (And, no, the kids aren’t going to be Norwich fans, they look terrible in green and yellow, just ask any Cov fan!!)

A jester's cap for a mirthless FA Cup Final
A jester’s cap for a mirthless FA Cup Final

But the worst has got to be the 2000 FA Cup final at Wembley. I went to every game on that journey to the final. It was amazing to see the team play some great games and dig in when necessary to get the results. It felt like we’d been so close in the seasons before. This was to be our year at last. I was really invested in it, too, watching the games at Villa Park, Goodison, and then the semifinal at Wembley. I, like thousands of other Villans, had shared the team’s fight on the road to the final, and we felt like it was our destiny, our year, with the way the draws had fallen for us. So the build-up to the last game at Wembley was great, everything boded well for an exciting final—except nobody told the team. I felt so let down, frustrated, and angry. A moment in history where the world’s most iconic ground was having its last goodbye  . . . and the team didn’t show up. Was it nerves? Or bad preperation? I don’t know, but the party atmosphere that we had brought just fizzled. Unfortunately, it’s probably going to be remembered as one of the worst performances by a team at a final, and unfortunately the Villa will be remembered for that, which hurts. But I still forgave them, and I still love the team.

Which team would you most like to see Villa beat this year?

Simon with Mike Pearson in Chicago, the day before Villa's famous Arsenal win
Simon with Mike Pearson in Chicago, the day before Villa’s famous Arsenal win

All of them, especially any of the top three. I love it when we beat Man United, just to stick it to the plastics and show what we can actually do and show our potential. It’s great having mates who support “big” clubs and being able to show we can easily compete with them. The Arsenal game where all the Villans got together at the Globe was brilliant, not just for the atmosphere but because I got to give my mates stick, too! Because we beat the probable champions, and not many teams will be able to say that this season.

Brad GuzanWho is your favorite player on the current squad?

Brad Guzan. He hasn’t suffered a second-season dip in form like a few of the others, and he’s kept us in so many games, I’d hate to think where we’d be now if we hadn’t re-signed him. He’s brilliant, professional, and he’s alright for an American player!

Who is your favorite player of all time?

Tony DaleyThat’s a hard one. I’ve been lucky enough to see the likes of McGrath, Platt, Cowans, Spink, Yorke, Bosnich, Taylor, and the ledgendary Shawn Teale play. I loved watching Tony Daley though, and always got excited when he went on one of his runs. You literally never knew how it was going to end up. Sums up the Villa really!

What are your favorite sources for Villa news?

Mike Pearson and the Detroit Villa fan club we set up—he’s always on Facebook spreading the news. Thanks Mike! I’ll always skim through the blogs to see whats happening, Sport Witness, Vital Aston Villa, the Aston Villa websites and Facebook pages, the old 606 was great for news and gossip.

Rate yourself as a fan. What are your best and worst qualities?

Simon's wardrobe comes in a veritable rainbow of claret and blue
Simon’s wardrobe comes in a veritable rainbow of claret and blue

Being fickle and expecting too much! Villa is like a sleeping giant that just keeps on slumbering, but I still keep coming back for more. (It’s like being a Detroit Lions fan!) I still get excited by a game even if I may have no hope of getting anything from it, because it’s in my blood and I bloody love it. I don’t watch as much or get as heavily involved as I used to; because of my growing young family, my time just gets swallowed up. But I still grab those fleeting moments and make the most of them. It can be a torrid affair with the Villa. But well worth it.

Where do you usually watch games?

I watch them at the Hamlin Pub in Rochester when I can, otherwise I stream them or record them if the boys have got soccer training or games—which is happening more and more these days.

What are you usually drinking?

Blue Moon or Stella or a good cuppa tea if I’m at home!

Extra Time

If you could overrule any refereeing decision in any game Villa ever played, which one would it be?

It has to be the Peter Enckelman goal. It caused so much grief and embarrassment for the club and I don’t think Enckelman really recovered from that. It was an awful decision, but I’ve played in a couple of games here where exactly the same thing has happened, and the referee has allowed the goal. I guess people don’t fully know the rules on this one.

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