I don’t think I got Greg Asad’s name the first time I saw him—but I definitely heard him. In the back room at the Globe last August, as a room packed with Villa supporters responded with absolute delight to Villa’s mastery over Arsenal, Greg started song after song, keeping the volume loud and proud, much to the chagrin of the Gunners fans in the front room. Much to my surprise, Greg had an American accent. How did an American fan know so many songs? (I mean, Peeves was singing right back, but he’s Canadian, which is like one-third British or something.) Read on and learn his secret.
The Starting Eleven
Where were you born, where do you live now, and what do you do for a living?
I was raised in Springfield, Ohio, and have lived in Chicago for three years now, working for a trading firm. Growing up, I played a lot of FIFA with friends, but with Premier League games rarely shown on TV, I never followed a team.
How and when did you choose Villa?
At Ohio State University, my friends were fans of the top four teams and we watched Premier League matches at Fado and played pickup games. I was amazed at how much more intense and exciting the Premier League matches and fans were than the local Columbus Crew MLS games. The passing, goals, and overall talent were far better than I’d ever seen. I became enamored with the game and wanted to support a club.
I didn’t want to be another top-four glory hunter, so I researched a few clubs, but Aston Villa stuck out to me. I liked their proud history in forming the league, and their passionate fans, great academy, name, and colors. Randy Lerner had just became owner of Villa, and owned my Cleveland Browns of the NFL at that time also. So I started watching Villa at Fado in Columbus and through internet streams during the 2007-08 season.
Watching matches I was surprised to hear the Villa fans sing loud and proud home or away, winning or losing. It inspired me to learn a few of the songs which I did at Fanchants. [Editor’s note: I can verify the fact that Greg likes to sing!] I soon after bought my first kit (number 11, Agbonlahor) and Villa Park was added to my bucket list.
What was your happiest moment as a Villa supporter?
My happiest moments as a supporter have been being around the Villa family. I hadn’t met many Villa fans at all until the friendly against the Chicago Fire. At the training session the day before the exhibition, I met several fans and got autographs from Richard Dunne, Brad Guzan, and, unfortunately, Barry Bannan on my Villa flag. Meeting so many great Villa fans and finding out there was a Chicago supporters club put me over the moon! I was able to sing and learn other songs, too, from the Halsted Harp pub pregame to the match at Toyota Park!
The North American Villans meetup at the Globe Pub to start this season was awesome as well! Especially beating Arsenal and reuniting with all the great fans I met at the Fire friendly, and meeting new ones as well. It was also great since my girlfriend, Amanda, had made a rare Globe appearance for the match! (And it was quite the appearance . . . looking good in my old first kit!)
What was your most painful moment?
The relegation battle last year and the string of losses through the Chicago winter was extremely frustrating. Being a long-time, loyal and suffering fan of Ohio sports, I’ve become a seasoned vet at dealing with losing and hoping for earlier draft picks. But with relegation there is no bright side or draft-pick benefit to losing. It would also be extremely tough to even watch Villa games overseas in a lower league. I generally try to keep optimistic and positive in all things, but I was feeling very bleak last year before the turnaround. The Capital One Cup loss to League Two Bradford also didn’t inspire much future hope. Luckily, though, Benteke was a second-half beast and Guzan made miraculous saves to keep us up!
Which team would you most like to see Villa beat (or beat again) this year?
Plastics United, Oil Sheikh City, Liverpool and the racist biter, Chelsea to avenge the 0-8, and WBA, because the Blues are too shit for top-league football.
Who is your favorite player on the current squad?
Gabby for his devotion to Villa and aggressive play. While several great talents have left Villa, he’s been loyal and dedicated to the club every year since he started. He’s the only player left from the 2007-08 season roster when I started supporting Villa, and it’s been nice running past everyone when playing as him in FIFA.
I’m also a big fan of Guzan with the Chicago pride and hope he gets some time with the U.S. team at the World Cup.
Who is your favorite player of all time?
Before Guzan, I was amazed with the play of Villa’s previous American keeper, Brad Friedel! He was also from Ohio and had briefly played for my Columbus Crew in MLS, where he won Goalkeeper of the Year in ’97. I have his Crew bobblehead but, sadly, he had hair then, not as I remember him at Villa. I remember watching several Villa matches though where he kept us in the game despite dodgy defending. Better defended days, though—I also was a big fan of Olof Mellberg.
Though I’ve only watched him on YouTube and read and heard about his greatness, Paul McGrath is also a favorite. I plan to read his book and hopefully he’ll grace us with more singing gems such as the one below. Blessed be God!
What are your favorite sources for Villa news?
The AVFC site, Twitter, Facebook groups, and carrier pigeons.
Rate yourself as a fan. What are your best and worst qualities?
I’m very loyal to my teams and try best to watch or attend most their games. Someday I’ll definitely make the trip to Villa Park, once I save up enough, and I can’t wait for it! I generally try and stay positive while watching games, but find myself occasionally yelling at the TV. I’m sure Tonev hears me.
Where do you usually watch games?
With the Chicago Supporters Club at the Globe Pub or on my laptop or cell with NBC’s stream, wherever I am, if I can’t make it to Globe.
What are you usually drinking?
Coffee for the 9 a.m. matches usually leads to Guinness or trying a beer I haven’t had before.
Prediction time: where do you think Villa will end the season?
Mid-table or just below. Albrighton has been a real spark as of late and I’m confident we’ll get a creative midfielder to join him from transfers soon. I have a good feeling about Helenius, and if Vlaar, Gabs, and Benteke can hold off injury I think our attack will come together nicely this second half.