Another native Clevelander who supports Aston Villa because of the Randy Lerner connection? Pure coincidence that this is the second such Villan of the Week in a row. Or … is it? (Cue creepy theme music.) At any rate, Mike Smoak is proof positive that American fans are just as capable of having their Saturdays ruined by a bad result as fans who were born into it. As the new chairman of the North Carolina Lions Club, he’s a great example of how many American fans are willing to spread the word—and, speaking of “born into it,” he and his wife are, quite literally, helping to birth a new generation of fans. After you read about his plans to provide a gathering place for Charlotte supporters, I think you’ll agree he’s a leader with vision. (In fact, is it too early to suggest Mike’s house as the destination for the next North American meet-up?)
The Starting Eleven
Where were you born, where do you live now, and what do you do for a living?
I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, during fourth grade. I have lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, for about 10 years. I am a regional sales manager for a sports doping/clinical drug testing laboratory.
How and when did you choose Villa?
It was right around the 2006-07 season. I had played soccer and been a fan of the game for years, and, with it becoming more available to watch in the U.S., I knew it was time to choose a club. Being originally from Cleveland, and a huge Browns fan, Lerner’s recent purchase made it a very easy choice. Sadly, Villa fits right in there with the Browns/Indians/Cavs.
What was your happiest moment as a Villa supporter?
Two summers ago when my wife and I flew up to Chicago to watch Villa play. It was the first time I had watched them in person and it was awesome. Meeting great guys like Simon Leach, Ben Mitchell, Chris Fetters, etc., just added to an already fantastic time.
What was your most painful moment?
Losing 8-0 to Chelsea was bad. But in 2012, when we were beating United 2-0 and then lost 3-2 on a second-half Chicharito hat-trick was the most painful.
Which team would you most like to see Villa beat (or beat again) this year?
Every year the answer is the same: Chelsea and United. I have too many friends that are supporters of these two teams, so beating either or both is the best.
Marc Albrighton. He plays the game with heart and busts his ass until the whistle blows. He may not be the most skilled guy, but sometimes I’d rather see someone with passion.
Who is your favorite player of all time?
Even though I never saw him play, reading about and then meeting Ian Taylor in Chicago was a thrill. I remember being in the Halsted Harp, looking around, spotting him and telling my wife, “Oh shit, that’s Ian Taylor.” Her reply was “who is that?” “He is a Villa legend.” “How do you know?” “I’m not sure, but I know that’s him.”
But my favorite soccer player of all time, on any team, was Kai Haaskivi who played for the Cleveland Force and Finland’s national team. I named my son after him.
What are your favorite sources for Villa news?
Rate yourself as a fan. What are your best and worst qualities?
I’d give myself an 8, and that’s only because I have never been to Villa Park. Once I get there, it will be a 10. Best qualities are that I have been loyal since day 1; my days revolve around the game, regardless of where I am. Worst quality, is that I haven’t been to Villa Park, and any loss depresses me for the day.
Where do you usually watch games?
I usually watch in my living room, but I am currently making my three-car garage into my brewery/sports bar. I will have eight beers on tap, a few TVs and a bunch of Villa/Clemson/Browns/Indians stuff on the wall. I hope to make this the place to watch Villa for everyone in Charlotte.
What are you usually drinking?
If at home, it’s usually one of my homebrews. If I make it to a bar, it’s always a porter or stout…unless it turns into an all-day-drink-a-thon then I have to go with Miller Lite.
Rightly or wrongly, Paul Lambert has gotten a lot of stick for his performance as Villa’s manager the last two seasons. Were he to step down or be sacked, who would you like to see replace him?
I am neither for nor against Lambert. I don’t know how much better another manager would do with the limited funds Lerner has given. He has made some good buys and some other bad ones, but when you are on that kind of budget, some aren’t going to pan out. At least he didn’t spend a ton of money on dead weight.
I don’t know many of the available managers, so if Lambert were sacked, I guess Laudrup or Redknapp would be my best choices.