Ben McCool calls himself a “professional nerd,” but, the truth is, he has a cool name and a cool job: he writes comic books for a living. (Take that, amateur nerds!) A Villan by birth, he has carried his passion for the team across the Atlantic where, as a resident of New York City, he now cheers them on from the Football Factory with the rest of the New York Villans. He’s loud, he’s proud, and you can practically hear him over the roar of the Holte End. Follow Ben on Twitter at @BenMcCool.
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 the Costa Del Birmingham! Despite its reputation, Birmingham is a cracking good town, filled with great people (Villa fans), top-notch pubs (ideal for before and after a Villa game), and of course, Aston Villa. What’s not to love?
I live in New York City these days, and have done so since 2007. It’s bonkers, but mostly in a good way. Work-wise, I’m a freelance writer, mainly comic books. So in other words, I’m a professional nerd.
How and when did you choose Villa?
I had no choice in the matter! My parents are die-hard Villa fans. Their very first date was at Villa Park, back when we were in the old Second Division, and, in one of the earliest photos taken of me—possibly the first—I’m wrapped in my mum’s Villa scarf. Claret and Blue since day one!
What was your happiest moment as a Villa supporter?
Hmm, tough question. Watching us beat Birmingham City 5-1 always springs to mind, not least Ashley Young’s thunderous opener! The ’94 and ’96 League Cup Finals are also up there. But, in terms of excitement, I’d say the second leg of the semifinal against Tranmere Rovers, en route to beating Manchester United in the ’94 Final, is probably top of the pile. A quite stupendous comeback, and the drama . . . wow. What a game.
What was your most painful moment?
Hah, there have been quite a few of those, too! Losing 3-0 to a certain cross-town rival during their first top-flight stint in 20 years was particularly gut-wrenching; the abuse I suffered from my Bluenose pals was beyond gruesome. More recently, the 8-0 drubbing at Chelsea still stings . . . I unleashed more F-bombs during that game than Ian McShane managed during his entire run on Deadwood! [Readers unfamiliar with this reference may click here. —Ed.]
Which team would you most like to see Villa beat this year?
As no Villa fan needs reminding, our Premier League record against Manchester United is dreadful. We haven’t beaten ’em at home since 1995, and one remarkable 1-0 win at Old Trafford aside (get in there, Gabby!), we’ve struggled mightily at their place, too. So I’d say a win at OT would be a massive boost for the players and supporters alike, not least after the horror show at Villa Park earlier this season.
Who is your favorite player on the current squad?
Fabian Delph has been brilliant all season for us, and though Benteke has suffered through a few barren spells (and battled injury as well), he’s also scored some big, big goals. Last season’s 19-goal outburst was one of our primary reasons for staying in the Premier League! But I’d have to say that Gabriel Agbonlahor is my favourite player; he’s a born-and-bred Brummie, genuinely loves the Villa, and his work rate is second to none. And as a certain Holte End anthem makes clear, he’s fast as f*ck!
Who is your favorite player of all time?
Paul “God” McGrath. As solid a defender as you’re ever likely to see, McGrath could mark any player in the world out of a game on his day, and despite his knees causing him more and more bother as the years rolled by (I hear he didn’t even attend training during the final period of his career) he never put in anything short of a stellar shift. A legit Villa legend.
What are your favorite sources for Villa news?
Many and varied. I keep a close eye on Birmingham-based newspapers (Mat Kendrick, the Birmingham Mail’s chief Villa writer, always offers up a good read), and there are numerous Villa blogs and websites that I check on a daily basis; The Villa Blog, and Aston Villa Life are both recommended. The Aston Villa America page on Facebook is a fun place to discuss all things Claret and Blue, too.
Rate yourself as a fan. What are your best and worst qualities?
Best? Fiercely loyal, proudly passionate, always willing to spread the good word of Aston Villa Football Club.
Worst? I’m loud and terrifying! I can scream at the top of my lungs along with the noisiest of ’em, and my vocabulary can often be (ahem) non-family-friendly. It’s all spawned from my immense enthusiasm, of course, but I’ve been known to turn the air blue on occasion! (Along with a streak of Claret.)
Where do you usually watch games?
My regular spot in NYC is The Football Factory, downstairs at Legends bar in midtown Manhattan. It’s right opposite the Empire State Building, so easy to get to from the surrounding area, and the atmosphere is cracking. Local Villa fans, come on down and join the fun!
What are you usually drinking?
Depends on how the game is going, hah! I do enjoy a pint of Guinness, although Legends’ very own Jack Keane—a legendary bartender on the NYC footie scene—makes up some splendid alcoholic concoctions to either fuel victory celebrations or console the bitter blow of defeat . . . .
You write comic books. Care to draft a quick storyline for next season, telling us who will be the hero and who will be the villain?
The hero? Whichever stonkingly talented creative midfielder we pick up after the World Cup! To me it’s the missing ingredient in a young but promising team, and exactly the kind of superpower we need to get the team soaring up and above the villainous likes of West Brom and Stoke. Gabby’s Flash-like pace, Delph’s Batman-esque grit, plus Guzan’s superhuman goalkeeping will also help us triumph over some of the League’s more prominent forces of evil—another win against Man City, please!
The villain? After a brilliant end-of-season goal-scoring frenzy (and a sensational showing at the World Cup), some cash-lavished evil empire will swoop in and swipe Christian Benteke from us, cackling with ghastly glee as they do so. However, the forces of good will prevail, and with the extortionate amount of money paid to us we’ll pick up another exceptional young striker, taking the place of CB20 in firing us up the league table!
Truth be told, I do hope to keep hold of Benteke. He’s a quality player, adored by the fans, and I believe we’re yet to see the best of him. UTV!