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American Born Villan

Aston Villa, From Chicago to the Holte End of the World

Month

May 2014

Villans of the Summer: Cat, Robert, Tyler, and Bob

I posted the final Villan of the Week profile two weeks ago—but there are still so many Villans I wish I’d had time to include! The following four fine people answered my entreaties to be Villans of the Summer. Their stories make excellent reading material while we await the fate of our beloved club. Who will buy them? Who will we see on the field next season?

Cat Stewart

Cat Stewart and Brad Guzan
Cat Stewart and Brad Guzan

I was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. I live in Chicago and help manage a call center for a cruise company. Simon Leach started me watching the Villa about three years ago when we first met. Seeing them play at Toyota Park sealed the deal and I’ve been a fan ever since. I’m not sure that it was so much the team that I fell in love with, but the fans. The fans are so enthusiastic and loyal that it is hard to ignore that energy. Even if we lose, I know I will always enjoy watching the Villa play as long as I am in the company of other Villans. My happiest moment as a fan was attending the players’ awards ceremony at the end of the 2012-13 season. The reception hall at Villa Park was beautifully decorated and everyone was dressed to impress. I have experienced many great moments of joy in regards to the Villa, but wearing a ball gown and taking photos with Brad Guzan takes the cake every time. I used to watch games solely at the Globe Pub but, now that all of the games are available online, I have been finding it hard to leave the comfort of my bed on Saturday mornings. When I do make it to the pub, you will find me drinking one of the many fine beers they have on tap.

Robert Lintott

Robert LintottI was born in Chehalis, a tiny town in southwestern Washington state, and have lived in Washington, D.C. since 2004. I’m a PhD candidate in musicology at the University of Maryland. I’ve been following Villa since the summer of 2010, when Kirsten Schlewitz and Aaron Campeau started the blog for which I now write, 7500 to Holte. They, like me, were Seattle Mariners fans, and we all sort of e-knew each other from a Mariners blog, Lookout Landing. I was looking for a Premier League team, and then these two writers I knew started one about Aston Villa, I thought, “Why not?” I really became a fan the summer that Martin O’Neill left, so there haven’t been many highlights since, but after this year’s win against Chelsea, I walked around with a dopey grin on my face for a couple of days. I usually watch games on my couch. I run the match-day Twitter for 7500, and that includes making gifs, so I’ve got to be at my computer. I also handle the post-match recaps, so it really doesn’t leave much of a chance to get to the pub. I drink coffee—a latte if I’m feeling decadent!

Tyler Damme

Kate and Tyler Damme
Kate and Tyler Damme

I was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, but I’ve bounced around quite a bit since I graduated from high school in 2005. I spent six years in Nashville attending Belmont University, two in Washington, D.C., and now I live in Evanston. I’m working in a restaurant and planning to go to graduate school in a year and a half. The 2002 World Cup was what ultimately turned me into a soccer fan. Until then, I really didn’t watch the sport. When I was younger, I had a friend whose parents were from Birmingham, and I remembered that they were fans of Aston Villa, so that’s the club I decided to support. I haven’t thought twice about it. Traveling with my wife from D.C. to Philadelphia a couple of summers ago was my happiest moment as a fan—it was the first time I’d met other Villa fans. They were extremely welcoming to us, which made for a memorable night . . . and quite the headache the next morning. Second to that would probably be the month of April 2008. Beating Bolton 4-0, Derby 6-0, and SHA 5-1 made for an incredible end to the season; Petrov’s bomb against Derby still gives me goosebumps. I used to watch games at home, but since I finally managed to get myself to the Globe late this season, I don’t think there’s any way I’m going back to watching matches by myself. I’m a bit of a hop head, so IPAs are my beer of choice. I try not to get too repetitive with my beer selection, though.

Bob Hartman

Bob HartmanI was born in York, Pennsylvania. I now live in Chicago, where I work as a Wall Street cop who examines and inspects securities firms. I decided to follow Villa in 2007, just before I moved from Chicago to Birmingham for work. I used a calculated methodology: it couldn’t be a traditional top-four club (for obvious reasons), but it had to be a somewhat-competitive club with rich traditions, long history, and a blue-collar following. Guess who ticked all the boxes? My happiest moment as a supporter was definitely attending the FA Cup semifinal against Chelsea at Wembley in 2010. I usually watch games at the Globe Pub, and I’ll drink anything that says Three Floyds on the label or the tap handle.

Villan of the Week: Anthony Niblett

Anthony Niblett“I’ll take erudite sports fans for $1000.”

“This claret-and-blue Birmingham native is a professor at University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law.”

“Who is Anthony Niblett?”

Correct! Yes, you’ll find Villans everywhere, even in the groves of academe (where, rumor has it, Professor Niblett is quite popular with the students). A lifelong supporter of the Villa, Niblett found a big moment of fame on the small screen in late 2013, when he became a bona fide (note my use of the Latin) Jeopardy! champion! (Apologies, but to comply with trademark law we had to use that second exclamation point.) Read to the end for a tasty bit of trivia, and test your wits with a quiz question provided by our Villan of the Week himself.

The Starting Eleven

Where were you born, where do you live now, and what do you do for a living?

A gift from his students
A gift from his students

I was born in Birmingham, but now—after living in a few different countries—I’m in Toronto, Canada. I work as a law professor. It’s the best job in the world.

How and when did you choose Villa?

My family are Villa fans, my dad in particular. I started following Villa in the mid 1980s. My first season was when we were back in the old Second Division (1987–88). My first game on the Holte terraces was against Sheffield United. A dull 1-1 draw.

Anthony Niblett and Martin O'Neill in Columbus, Ohio (2007)
With Martin O’Neill in Columbus, Ohio (2007)

What was your happiest moment as a Villa supporter?

Lots to choose from. One of my earliest games was a 5-0 over Hull City on New Year’s Day 1988. The two League Cup final wins in the 1990s were great, especially the 1994 win against Man United. The 5-1 win against Birmingham in late 2007–08 was a cracker. But, probably the happiest moment was back in summer 2007 in Columbus, Ohio. Meeting Martin O’Neill and the squad at a reception in the Statehouse. The feeling around the club was fantastic at the time. Good times.

What was your most painful moment?

Hmm, probably more to choose from. Stern John’s 94th minute equalizer for Birmingham City back in 2004 was painful. We were the better team all day and we still managed to let it slip in the last minute. Not fun.

As the season is all but over, which team did you most enjoy beating this year—or which team do you most wish we had beaten?

The first game was pretty good. Beating Arsenal at the Emirates. Less said about the rest of the season, the better, I think.

Who is your favorite player on the current squad?

Martin Laursen, John Carey, Anthony Niblett, Olof Mellberg, and Thomas Sorensen in Columbus (2007)
Martin Laursen, John Carey, Niblett, Olof Mellberg, and Thomas Sorensen in Columbus

Benteke. He’s our only world-class player, our only genuine match winner. When he’s out, we look terrible. We need Vlaar at the back; without him, we are a mess. We need a few changes in personnel in 2014–15.

Who is your favorite player of all time?

Going to struggle to limit it to one. David Platt was great in his few seasons for Villa. His goals from midfield almost won us the league in 1989–90. Dean Saunders, Dalian Atkinson, Tony Daley, Paul McGrath, Gareth Southgate, Olof Mellberg, and Martin Laursen would be up there, too. I still miss Jimmy Milner.

What are your favorite sources for Villa news?

BBC football. The Guardian. I’m on a few Villa facebook groups. I tend to stay away from message boards; they leave me a little pessimistic about the future of mankind.

Rate yourself as a fan. What are your best and worst qualities?

Ian Taylor and Anthony Niblett in Chicago (2012)
With Ian Taylor in Chicago (2012)

I used to be a better fan. Villa websites used to be the first thing I read in the morning. I still watch all the games. And when we’re on the box, I go to the pub, usually wearing a retro Villa top, to watch with fellow Toronto Villans.

Where do you usually watch games?

The Toronto Villans watch at a pub called The Oxley in Yorkville. It’s a lovely pub with a pretty good breakfast. I just wish we could recruit a few more Toronto Villans to get out regularly.

Toronto Villans at the Oxley
Toronto Villans at the Oxley

What are you usually drinking?

Just a coffee at that time of the morning. For games that are on in the afternoon here, either a Junction Craft (a local beer) or a Guinness.

Extra Time

Rumor has it you did pretty well on a quiz show called Jeopardy! What is your favorite bit of Villa-related trivia? Got any stumpers for us?

‘Tis true. I love trivia, but I don’t really have a favorite bit of Villa trivia, I’m afraid. Here’s a couple though:

  • Villa Park has hosted the most FA Cup semifinals and, if New Wembley keeps hosting semis, Villa Park will remain top of that list until 2035.
  • Villa have scored the second most goals in the top division of English football with 6,550. Anyone know who’s first?

 

Villan of the Summer? Your Name Here

Could this be you? What if we added hair?
Could this be you? What if we added hair?

This Friday will be my last Villan of the Week post—and it’s going to be a good one—but there are still so many great supporters whose stories I haven’t told! So here’s the deal: I’m going to do an additional post that’s packed with short supporter profiles. One paragraph each, one picture each. If you want to be included, and I hope you do, follow the instructions below. You must be an Aston Villa supporter living in North America (U.S., Canada, or Mexico).

1. Answer all the questions below, either as a Q&A with one-sentence answers (I will edit into a single paragraph) OR as a single paragraph in which you address each question.

2. Attach a photograph of yourself, preferably in a Villa shirt.

3. Send your answers and photo to me at keir AT keirgraff DOT com no later than Tuesday, May 13.

Easy, right? The post will be published on Friday, May 16. The questions:

Where were you born, where do you live now, and what do you do for a living?

How and when did you choose Villa?

What was your happiest moment as a Villa supporter?

Where do you usually watch games?

What are you usually drinking?

Aston Villa 3 – Hull City 1: Relief and Mixed Emotions

After a convincing win at home that put an end to our relegation fears—this season’s, anyway—I feel relieved, proud, exhausted, deflated, and depressed all at once. And, yes, a tiny bit hopeful.

Relieved that it’s over, and we can watch the final two games of the season without worrying that we’ll be playing the Blues (and singing them) in the Championship next year. Proud that we achieved safety with a positive result, without having to let other teams’ losses help us survive. Exhausted because, you know. Deflated because the last remaining tension has been let out of the season. Depressed because, you know: another shit season. Hopeful because, without hope, how can you be a Villa supporter?

Not that the season hasn’t had its moments: beating Arsenal, Manchester City, and Chelsea. Picking up a point against the deadliest Liverpool side in years. A thrilling win against Southampton. Moments of brilliance that made futile losses against crap sides all the more maddening. We were owned by Fulham—Fulham!—who are going down.

It’s worth noting the players who played roles in the three goals. On the first, Gabby bullied his way down the left, literally pushing a Hull defender out of the way, before passing to Albrighton. Albrighton whiffed but didn’t give up, poking the ball to Westwood, who put it away neatly.

On the second, Baker’s two determined headers failed to find the net but Weimann, showing a poacher’s instinct, was in the right place at the right time to put a third header home. The Austrian’s celebration, cupping his ears in front of the fans, was a sad reminder both of his season and the support he’s lacking, and a telling contrast to the moment after he got the winner against Manchester City in the fall.  On the third goal, little-used Jordan Bowery played a perfect cross to Weimann, who scored on a deft glancing header.

With the exception of Gabby, whose spark has dimmed a bit as the season wore on, the rest made, at least on the day, a case for the youth movement, coming up big when they absolutely had to. Three of six players, Gabby, Albrighton, and Weimann, are Villa products; only one could be called a veteran. Supporters disappointed with the season—and I certainly count myself one of them—should keep in mind the role played by Benteke’s and Okore’s season-ending injuries. Had they both been available all year long, surely we would have been safe much sooner.

At any rate, the sense of support and unity finally shown by supporters for this last home game will probably dissipate quickly. We all want a stronger team and better results next year, and any two supporters will be of three minds as to how that can be achieved. And will Lambert be back? Will Lerner be back? Or will he sell the club, and to whom, and if so, what changes will take place?

It’s all too much to think about on a cold Monday in Chicago. I’ll watch the last two games, hoping they give me a few more moments to cheer about.

Villan of the Week: Bob Stephenson

Bob Stephenson and Ian TaylorBob Stephenson has one of those faces where you think, I know I’ve seen that guy before, but where? Well, you’ve probably seen him a lot of times, but never in person—a quick scan of his IMDB page reveals the actor’s extensive range of credits, from Se7en and Fight Club to Zodiac and Larry Crowne, with a whole lot of TV appearances besides. (Check out his feature reel here.) But the hard-working actor, writer, and producer still likes to get up early—and, on the West Coast, kickoff can be very early—to cheer on Aston Villa. And, lest you think he’s some Johnny-come-lately Hollywood type who’s hopped on the bandwagon, ask yourself, What bandwagon? Who tries to score points by rooting for a team that’s flirting with relegation? Bob says he’s been claret and blue for 15 years, and closed his message to me by saying, “Thank you for the interview—means a lot to be a Villa fan and thank you to the fans for embracing me the way you have. I’ll keep flying the Claret and Blue here in LA. UTV! VTID!!” Find him on Twitter at @bobstephenson.

The Starting Eleven

Where were you born, where do you live now, and what do you do for a living?

I was born in Camarillo, California, near Los Angeles, which is where I live now. I am an actor and a writer. I’m not worthy of the titles but that is what I do.

How and when did you choose Villa?

I chose Villa about 15 years ago. I loved the working class/underdog feel of the team, and the fact that it’s a big club with a proud history. I think Villa chose me, to be fair. It just happened.

From left: Tom Hanks, Bob Stephenson, British Consul Priya Guha, Colin Hanks, and Geezer Butler with Matt Lowton at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Oregon (July 2012)
From left: Tom Hanks, Bob Stephenson, British Consul Priya Guha, Colin Hanks, and Geezer Butler with Matt Lowton at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Oregon (July 2012)

What was your happiest moment as a Villa supporter?

Doing the double over Man United this year! YEAH!! Oh wait, that was a dream. Damn.

What was your most painful moment?

These relegation fights are my most painful moments. I lose sleep. I believe in the system and what we’re trying to do and I love Lambert but he desperately needs funds.

As the season is nearly over, which team did you most enjoy beating this year—or which team do you most wish we had beaten?

Always Manchester United.

They're all here somewhere
They’re all here somewhere

Who is your favorite player on the current squad?

I have a few: Delph, Vlaar, Gabby, and Guzan . . . .

Who is your favorite player of all time?

Gareth Barry.

What are your favorite sources for Villa news?

I read all the English press and Astonvillanews.com and definitely the supporters’ pages for thoughts.

Rate yourself as a fan. What are your best and worst qualities?

I can be very positive. I can be very impatient and emotional. I don’t make judgements until I’ve calmed down from a bad loss—MOST of the time.

Where do you usually watch games?

At home. They’re on so early in LA. Once in a blue moon I’ll sneak down to the pub for an 11 a.m. game but I’m usually one of two supporters there. There aren’t many here in L.A.

What are you usually drinking?

Green tea. HA! it’s way too early to drink by myself.

Extra Time

Hoping you can give us a little celebrity-soccer dish. Are there other actors you know who are big fans of Premier League teams? Which teams do they support?

A lot of actors support teams. Many Spurs fans and Arsenal fans. The London teams, of course. And Man U fans. Ugh.

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