I haven’t met George Wilson, but Rick Edwards vouched for this Memphis-born Villan, and that’s good enough for me. The more stories I learn about other American supporters, the more kinship I feel with them. Our reasons for choosing Villa are often eerily similar: it clearly takes a certain kind of person to see past the recent cash infusions that have transformed some front-running clubs to instead follow one whose best moments lie in the past—and, we believe, in the future. And I couldn’t agree more with what George says about what it means to support the team.
The Starting Eleven
Where were you born, where do you live now, and what do you do for a living?
I was born in Memphis, Tennessee, but lived all over the South before making my way here to Marquette, Michigan.
How and when did you choose Villa?
I started watching European soccer around 2006. I watched some Scottish Premier League, Serie A, and La Liga, but quickly realized the talent and history of the EPL. I knew when looking for a team that I wasn’t interested in being a frontrunner. Nine times out of ten, a U.S. EPL fan supports one of five teams that regularly are at the top of the table. What’s the fun in that? I wanted a team that had history, style, and was going to fight their way up the table. Villa fit that bill perfectly.
What was your happiest moment as a Villa supporter?
Honestly, my happiest moments haven’t necessarily been associated with how the team played. My happiest moments have been when I’m able to be with lots of other Villa fans. Meeting the team in Columbus, Ohio, was a great day, but my happiest moments have been watching the team live with my fellow Chicago Villans. I’ve been told a hundred times that being a Villa supporter puts you in the company of the greatest group of fans on the planet. Every experience I’ve had with my Villa brethren has proven that true.
What was your most painful moment?
It was the back-to-back losses in March 2009—when we got destroyed at Anfield 5-0 and then lost at Old Trafford 3-2 with United scoring late—to two teams I despise in two successive games. Recent years have taught me to have more patience with the squad, but back in 2009 I expected to earn a Champions League spot. So the losses were all the more crushing.
Which team would you most like to see Villa beat (or beat again) this year?
I’ve managed to maintain a constant disdain for Liverpool ever since I started watching Premier League. I really don’t care what happens in any given week to lots of teams, but I always like to see Liverpool lose—especially to us.
Who is your favorite player on the current squad?
It’s really hard to pick just one, but I’ll go with Gabby. He’s been the one constant across all the years I’ve been following Villa. He’s gone through a few dry spells, but he always seems to come through for us when we need someone to step up.
Who is your favorite player of all time?
I haven’t followed the squad long enough to have an all-time favorite, so I’ll stick with Gabby for this one too. I have to give an honorable mention to Olof Mellberg. If I had started following Villa a few years earlier, I suspect he would be my choice. He was a tough defender and had some skill on set pieces.
What are your favorite sources for Villa news?
The rise of fan pages on Facebook has made that the most convenient way to keep up with Villa news. I used to check the BBC, Heroes and Villains, the official site, and several blogs each day, but now there are a legion of Villa fans doing that for me and reporting back everything on Facebook.
Rate yourself as a fan. What are your best and worst qualities?
If you are an American and you can honestly say your favorite sports team isn’t in the NFL, NCAA, MLB, or NBA, but instead is Aston Villa of the Barclay’s Premier League, then I think you’re pretty solid. Almost anyone who knows me personally or professionally knows that I love Aston Villa. I think my best quality as a fan is that I have learned to be patient with the results and get my satisfaction from simply being part of the Aston Villa universe. If the team pulled a Sheffield United and dropped into the bottom of League One, I’d still love Villa the same. I guess my worst quality is that it’s just too easy to flip off the TV when you’re half a world away and the squad is playing like crap. I’ve been known to go shovel snow rather than watch the second half an uninspiring performance.
Where do you usually watch games?
There aren’t any pubs where I can watch Villa on a Saturday morning in Marquette, so I usually watch at home. I’m working on seeing if we can get a place to open for morning games, but I’ve found no takers yet.
What are you usually drinking?
Match any player on the current squad with the cartoon character that is most like him. (You could also choose a former player if you’d rather.)
I immediately thought of Randy Lerner as Mr. Krabs from SpongeBob SquarePants since he really knows how to pinch a penny, but you said player. Then I thought of Paul Lambert as Wile E. Coyote from Looney Tunes since he was always coming up with new, “ingenious” plans on how to catch the Road Runner that usually ended with him falling off a cliff—but you said player. The obvious matches would be Ron Vlaar as Thor and Brad Guzan as Captain America, but I’m going to go with Marc Albrighton as Meg Griffith from Family Guy. It doesn’t matter what Meg does, good or bad, she never gets any love. I think our fans treat Marc that way a lot.