As I approached the field before the North American Villans’ friendly against the Globe Pub last August—a game made infamous not by our intricate tika-taka passing or our ruthless finishing in front of goal but by the “Peever Roll” (and, no, that’s not a special maki you can order at the sushi bar)—Tyler Fisher was the first person I met. Our encounter was brief (he told me he wasn’t in charge) but, since then, I’ve gotten to know him as a regular at the Globe Pub, a guy who, despite a relatively short history supporting the team, is none the less passionate for it. Among Americans, Villa seems to draw a disproportionate number of Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Browns fans, which has its own kind of logic. Tyler falls into the latter camp, and surely that in itself is a lesson in patience, loyalty, and a pragmatic way of thinking. Reading Tyler’s responses, you might even call him an optimist!
The Starting Eleven
Where were you born, where do you live now, and what do you do for a living?
I was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1988. By the time I was five, we had moved from Charlotte, to Dallas, back to Charlotte, up to Chicago, and finally ending up in my childhood playground of Cleveland, Ohio. That city gets a worse reputation than it deserves because of its economy—I grew up in a great community, playing hockey, football, baseball, and lacrosse. (I stopped playing soccer in kindergarten because there was too much running.) We were a short walk from Lake Erie, and a short drive from the city, where we could watch three professional sports teams, an awesome thing to have available growing up. So, while I was born in Charlotte, I consider myself a Clevelander.
I now live in Chicago’s north suburbs and, with my girlfriend, Lesley, regularly commute on Saturdays to watch Aston Villa with the Chicago Supporters’ Club. I am an account manager at CDW-G, managing relationships with K-12 School Districts in the Pacific Northwest. In plain English, I’m an inside sales rep at a technology solutions company.
How and when did you choose Villa?
I developed an interest in professional soccer in 2007 during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at Miami University (Ohio, not Florida; we were a university when Florida belonged to Spain). I worked in a warehouse and a few of the guys there were Arsenal fans who often discussed the sport and their team. My knowledge was limited to a few names: Ronaldo, Beckham, and Mia Hamm. I quickly learned about “the Big Four,” who at the time were Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Arsenal. As I became interested in the sport, I immediately eliminated those names as teams I’d be willing to support. Being from Cleveland, I wouldn’t know how to root for a front-runner.
I don’t really know how I chose Aston Villa. I knew they had some connection to Randy Lerner, then the owner of the Cleveland Browns, but, more importantly I think it was because they had legitimate history, had won the European Cup, and at the time a better-than-midtable side with a lot of upside. I decided to support the club, but I didn’t become a huge follower of the sport until a year later.
What honestly got me hooked on the sport was that year’s Champions League final between two English teams, Manchester United and Chelsea. I saw the brilliance of Ronaldo, the leadership of Lampard, and learned a hell of a lot about the sport through that match. I still remember being stunned when Chelsea’s Captain, John Terry, missed the penalty take which ultimately lost them the game. And that was the moment I became an active follower of the game.
What was your happiest moment as a Villa supporter?
Narrowly avoiding relegation last season! Actually, the happiest moment was, without a doubt, the opening match of this season. That entire weekend, the first North American Villans meet-up, was incredible, but watching Villa thump Arsenal with another 50 fans was unforgettable. Simon, the Chicago Supporters’ Club chairman, really outdid himself.
What was your most painful moment?
Sitting through the second half of the season with Alex McLeish in charge. While the football was awful, that wasn’t what really depressed me. Listening to and reading fans’ reactions to every game, struggling to find the match on the internet, all of the negativity, really got to me and made it hard to be enthusiastic. It almost seemed like an affirmation that O’Neill knew something we didn’t when he just vanished. Everything about that season was terrible, but, as the season closed, we had an awful wage bill, overpaid journeymen, little talent to be excited about, and no confidence that anything would change. Meanwhile, a team like Manchester City was on the rise because of money alone. That was the low point.
Which team would you most like to see Villa beat (or beat again) this year?
This year, it will need to be Manchester City. To beat the title favorites twice in one season would be absolutely magnificent. I want another great moment like watching Andi Weimann scoring the winning goal, standing in front of the Holte End, seeing nothing but claret and blue.
Who is your favorite player on the current squad?
I can’t say I have a favorite player. I love a lot of the players on the squad, and really hope our core players develop as a unit and stay together. If I needed to pick, it would have to be Delph because of the way he has flourished this season. It is so great to see supporters of other clubs notice him, because that doesn’t seem to happen very often. I really like Bacuna though, and want to see him get a real shot in the midfield.
However, I love most of the squad: Guzan, Vlaar, Clark, Lowton, Westwood, El Ahmadi, Agbonlahor, Albrighton, Weimann, Delph, Bacuna, and Benteke. I can’t wait to see how players like Kozak, Sylla, and Okore develop, and I can’t wait to see the next undiscovered gems Lambert discovers. I think Lambert is building something great, despite what some supporters’ grumblings.
Who is your favorite player of all time?
I haven’t been around long enough to give a great answer. I started following in the age of mercenaries, and once one of our players begins to show some true talent, he gets swiped out of our hands and goes to a team that can offer more money and better competition. I loved Downing and Young, but neither showed any class when they left Villa and it really soured my feelings about them. The only player who doesn’t fit this in my time supporting the club is Agbonlahor, and while he can’t finish any better than I can, he is probably my favorite of all-time just because of his ties to Aston Villa and his desire to never leave.
What are your favorite sources for Villa news?
7500 to Holte is probably the best blog I’ve seen for general Aston Villa news. My Old Man Said, is probably the best blog I’ve seen for general discussion, banter, and support. In general though, I use News Now, a UK news aggregator to keep track of everything that is going on. I highly recommend it to everyone.
I’ve had trouble committing to a few of the fan forums online for one reason or another. I don’t like the insular feeling of only having one supporter’s community partake in discussion. The only other source I can add, is Mat Kendrick, the Birmingham Mail‘s Aston Villa reporter. I think he does great stuff, and seems to truly enjoy what he is doing.
Rate yourself as a fan. What are your best and worst qualities?
I’ve never been to Villa Park. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. It will happen, but, until then, I’m not sure I can say I’m a true fan. However, I am a regular on Saturday mornings, watching at the Globe, participate in discussion online via Twitter when I can, and will never turn down an opportunity to discuss Aston Villa or soccer in general with anyone. Actually, I love supporters of other teams because I go immediately into discussing the weekend’s fixtures or results. Unfortunately, they’re mostly plastic and have no idea what I’m talking about. That seems to be the majority of the fans of the “larger” clubs in America. It is depressing and insulting.
Where do you usually watch games?
The Globe Pub. It is a truly incredible bar, with a never-ending selection of beers, and supporters from a dozen teams, which always creates an exciting atmosphere. I actually discovered the Globe Pub and the Chicago Supporters’ Club via Twitter on New Year’s Day, the first weekend I had moved to Chicago. I was with my girlfriend, Lesley, in a hotel room downtown, when I saw a Tweet about the game. I shot out of bed and forced her to get ready so we could check out and watch the game. I have rarely been more excited about anything, especially in a hungover state. That has become an extremely important moment in my support history, and has become a huge part of my identity in Chicago.
Depending on how my Friday went, it is either water, coffee, Franziskaner, Guinness, or a Magner’s cider.
Is there a game we lost this season that you felt we deserved to win? (And is there a game we won where luck played a role?)
The first match against Chelsea is the first match that comes to mind. We started the season off on a tear but didn’t get enough points. Chelsea, however, was absolute bullshit. (I avoided cursing for as long as I could, and I almost made it!) Ivanovic should have never been on the pitch to score the goal. It wasn’t right, but that’s football, and I’m not one to continue complaining about decisions because some go your way and some don’t.
And it goes without saying that, while we played well, we were lucky to come out with three points against Arsenal the first time, Manchester City the first time, and Chelsea the second time. However, after some intense analysis, I’ve determined that we are consistently great against the top clubs in the league, so it wasn’t luck. Ignore this paragraph!