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American Born Villan

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

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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.

Villan of the Week: Tyler Fisher

Tyler Fisher with girlfriend Lesley
Tyler Fisher with girlfriend Lesley

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.

Leaving the pitch after a hard-fought match wearing claret and blue
Leaving the pitch after a hard-fought match wearing claret and blue

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?

Andi WeimannThis 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?

Fabian DelphI 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?

Gabby AgbonlahorI 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?

Tyler and Lesley meeting Ian Taylor
Tyler and Lesley meeting Ian Taylor

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.

FranziskanerWhat are you usually drinking?

Depending on how my Friday went, it is either water, coffee, Franziskaner, Guinness, or a Magner’s cider.

Extra Time

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!

Aston Villa 1 – Arsenal 2: One Minute of Madness

A highlight to everyone’s season was the opening game, beating Arsenal 3-1 away, a result that proved to be a wake-up call for Arsenal—after they went out and bought Mesut Ozil, they began to look like a team that could conceivably win the league. For us, though, it was merely the harbinger of a season that would be marked by highs (thrilling wins against Man City and Southampton) and lows (pretty much the last eight games). Not an anomaly, exactly, but an illustration of how hard Villa’s performances would be to predict.

Chicago Villans

Going to the Globe again yesterday, only the heartiest optimist would have expected a win. Villa started the day with four losses, a draw, and a win in their last six games, while Arsenal was in better form with three wins, two draws, and one loss. Notwithstanding the August result at the Emirates, Villa’s record against Arsenal in the Premier League is something like 3 wins, 6 draws, and 12 losses—let’s face it, they own us. And, worst of all, the game would be played at Villa Park, a once-proud fortress now derided by Premier League diving champion Ashley Young as an easy place to go and pick up some points.

Much as any of us would have wanted to dispute that, with Arsenal in 3rd place with 45 points, and Villa in 11th with 23, the most likely scenario involved Arsenal’s return to the top of the table.

All the same, no matter how bad it looks, a true fan puts on his colors and walks into the lion’s den—or, in this case, the Globe, an Arsenal bar when it’s not a Villa one, made all the more so by the proclivities of one of its owners, Gary Winters. Helping Simon hang the handsome new Chicago Villans flag, I felt as though I had passed a minor true-fan milestone of my own. (Even if my subpar work with a thumbtack meant that the flag had to be rehung by an Arsenal supporter partway through the first half. “We’ve got them working for us now,” quipped Simon, reassuring me that I was not yet off the flag-raising team.)

Villa are usually good for 10-15 minutes of sprightly play before they start falling back to the bunkers, but this time it looked as though they had mistaken the referee’s whistle for the bugle horn of retreat.

As the official Villa media Tweeted and Facebooked photos of Villa Park looking beautiful under the lights, and touted the qualities of its playing surface, the Villa faithful analyzed the starting lineup. What Jack Woodward was calling a 3-5-2, everyone else was calling a 5-3-2, and, as the game got under way, it seemed that Paul Lambert was hoping not to lose his job by not losing the game. Villa are usually good for 10-15 minutes of sprightly play before they start falling back to the bunkers, but this time it looked as though they had mistaken the referee’s whistle for the bugle horn of retreat. Would the entire game be played in our 18-yard box? How many goals would Arsenal score before it was all over? These were the two questions paramount in my mind.

baker downAnd then Nathan Baker took a ball to the head and crumpled to the turf. Simon and I exchanged a few quips about the defender’s seemingly magnetized noggin, regretting them when we learned that, far from his usual cranial misadventure, this time he had entirely lost consciousness. Frighteningly, he didn’t regain it until he reached the locker room. It’s worrying for him—how many blows to the head can he take?—and worrying for Villa, as, say what you like about Baker’s finesse, he provides some steel on a fairly fragile back line.

With Lambert substituting Bacuna and changing tactics to a 4-4-2, it’s hard to blame the team too much for being wrongfooted. Whatever plan they’d had had been changed without warning, and Arsenal were quick to capitalize. At 34 minutes, Lowton was at fault for a Jack Wilshere goal. It seemed inevitable, and frankly, I wasn’t too bothered. Villa have fought back from a goal down this season, and maybe conceding one would break them out of their shell.

When Giroud scored 59 seconds later through Lowton’s legs, I was fairly bothered. Would this game turn into an embarrassing blowout?

Christian BentekeBut something happened. Villa held on until the break. Weimann came on, Benteke came to life, and Lowton atoned for at least one of his errors with a brilliant cross that Benteke met with a powerful diving header to claw back a goal. Now it was Arsenal’s turn to look ordinary as Villa began spending more and more time in the visitors’ half, launching attack after attack until even the doubters—I can only include myself among them—began to believe that, while victory still lay out of reach, a deserved point would be ours.

It didn’t happen. Even with 14 minutes of total added time, we fell short. We lost. But we earned a little pride, perhaps. After all, we may have split the points with Arsenal this season, but we won the home-and-away series 4-3. If this were a cup tie, Arsenal would be going home and Villa would be moving on.

Better luck next year, Gooners!

Reasons for Pessimism

The first half. We may have made a game out of it, but we still got nothing.

Next game: away to Liverpool.

Reasons for Optimism

Benteke scored! Benteke scored! Ending a 12-game goal drought, no less. And, as you’ll recall, the Beast was at his best in the second half last year, so hopefully this will get his confidence flowing.

The second half.

Baker’s injury, despite his loss of consciousness, has been reported as a mild concussion. After seeing season-ending injuries to Okore and Kozak, hopefully we’ll have him back soon.

Reasons for Throwing Up Your Hands

Matt Lowton. Both a defensive liability and an offensive spark yesterday.

Southampton 2 – Aston Villa 3: Saints Preserve Us

We buried my grandma, Laura, on Tuesday, in my hometown of Missoula, Montana. It was a moving ceremony and I struggled through the words I had written down. As we carried her coffin from the hearse to the grave, the temperature was eighteen degrees, and a light skiff of snow crunched under our feet. We dropped roses on the casket, and scattered tea leaves as well, because she loved her tea. We should all love, and be loved as much, and remembered so well, as Laura.

Me, my dad Tom, my uncle Jon, my cousin Shane
Me, my dad Tom, my uncle Jon, my cousin Shane

It takes a funeral to get us all together, these days. And I was glad to have the chance to spend a little more time with family before my flight back to Chicago on Wednesday—at a conveniently scheduled midweek game. Given my grandma’s deep Christian faith, and given how many times she’s been described as saintly, it seemed only fitting that we were to play the Saints.

On hand would be my dad, Tom, a Barca fan who’s never really chosen a Premier League side (but who I can report is definitely leaning toward the Villa); my Uncle Jon, who follows Manchester United but is a great guy, anyway; and my cousin Shane, who was wearing his Portland Timbers scarf but just appreciates good soccer wherever he finds it. Jon and Shane played soccer when it was still a new thing in Missoula, and it was Shane who first taught me how to appreciate the game as a spectator.

The Press Box, Missoula, MTMy first call to a sports bar (“I’m wondering if you can show the Aston Villa – Southampton game, it’s streaming on the internet”) didn’t go well, and my second call, to the Press Box, didn’t start well, either. But, after a dubious waitress put me on hold while she consulted someone else, she came back on with a cheerful, “We’re your connection!” My dad and I showed up ten minutes before kickoff and waited while the IT expert, a cook named Paul, was dispatched to the bar’s tech closet.

And waited. Man United – Everton kicked off on a nearby screen while a wrung my hands helplessly. Eventually, Paul came out, looking frazzled, and asked whether I had a DIRECTV password. I did, but it still took several reboots, and a poorly timed Microsoft update, before we got the game up on the big screen. When it finally came on at 21′, I practically yelled in Paul’s ear when I saw that the score was already one-nil to Villa.

Villa had scored! Away to Southampton! Who were, as yet, undefeated at home!

Press Box TVI’ll spare you the minute by minute. You already know what happened, how each time we pulled ahead, the Saints pulled one back—until that final, magnificent goal by Delph, who shot and scored while I was screaming “PASS!” . . . a goal for which the Saints had no answer.

We won the game with 23% possession. With 9 shots to their 21. With 2 corners to their 8. (And 13 fouls to their 9.)

But the only stats that ultimately matter are goals scored and goals allowed. And all three of our shots on target hit the back of the net.

Reasons for Pessimism

Benteke . . . coming off the bench? I back Lambert on this, but, still, we need him to find his form.

Our first touch, our passing, and our ability to hold the ball. You know, the small stuff.

Our inability to play away as we do at home. We’re 2W 1D 4L at home, and 3W 3D 1L away. It just beggars belief.

Reasons for Optimism

Fabian Delph opens his account
Fabian Delph opens his account

We can win without Benteke. With goals from 9 different players, we are getting contributions at vital moments. Delph’s goal (an absolute cracker) was his first for Villa, continuing the recent tradition of notable scoring debuts. Against the Baggies, Westwood’s first secured the draw. Against Norwich, Kozak’s first gave us the win. (And last year, who can forget Lowton’s winner against Stoke? OK, OK, that was his second goal.)

We’re tenth in the table. (And we’ve fallen to eighth in the injury table.)

We are unbeaten in the last five.

We are second only to Chelsea in points gained from losing positions, proof that the lads don’t quit.

Three of our five victories are against teams above us in the table: Arsenal (currently first), Man City (currently third), and Southampton (currently seventh, but until their recent skid they were riding much higher).

All of this, I think, is testament more to Villa’s fighting spirit than their talent and technical prowess. But, in a youngish side, where we’ve seen improvement on defense, and where new acquisitions are still finding their place, maybe fight and spirit are the most important thing. They will sustain the team through the inevitable rough patches and, hopefully, allow them to hold together while they cohere as a unit. And if Lerner sees fit to add a top talent or two in January, or over the summer, I think our progress will continue.

It will continue to be gradual, but it will continue.

Who Will Play Them? James Franco IS Matt Lowton

And this one doesn’t even require a time machine. Although Franco will have to keep clean-shaven and comb his hair down . . . .

James FrancoMatt Lowton

Villan of the Week: Chris Fetters

Chris Fetters with dapper Villa legend Peter Withe
Chris Fetters with dapper Villa legend Peter Withe

It’s Aston Villa coast to coast! Covering the Left, er, West Coast of North America, sports fanatic and Seattle Lions Club chairman Chris Fetters preaches the gospel of the claret and blue—when he isn’t making footy pilgrimages to the land of Brum.

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

I was born and raised in Seattle, went off to college and came back to Seattle, where I currently reside. I am the Editor-In-Chief of Dawgman.com, a website dedicated to covering University of Washington sports and recruiting. I also contribute to Sports Washington Magazine and am a host on a weekly radio show on Sports Radio KJR 950 AM, talking Washington football, men’s basketball, and recruiting. I am also a contributing recruiting analyst with Scout.com, part of FOX Sports.

How and when did you choose Villa?

The George and Dragon PubAround 2007, a cousin of mine from Wisconsin moved to Seattle, also for work, and we started hanging out quite a bit. Matt is a massive Everton fan and talked to me about joining him at a local pub called The George and Dragon to watch Premier League games, so I started watching soccer again. At first I was watching Everton games and really started enjoying the game again for the first time in a very long time. It was like riding a bike; you don’t ever seem to really forget what it’s like and it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it again. The George is about a ten-minute drive from my home in Ballard, a Seattle neighborhood, so I soon started going to games on my own. At that time I hit a couple of Aston Villa games. Martin O’Neill was managing and Martin Laursen had just retired. They had also just signed Brad Friedel, so that intrigued me as an American watching English football.

I also remember Emile Heskey joining the team around that time. If I remember correctly, it was a stretch of a few games where they played Sunderland and Portsmouth, maybe a couple of other teams. But in watching the games, Villa just stood out to me. It’s hard to explain now, but there was just something about how they played. I remember Cuellar and Luke Young in the back, Milner, Petrov, Barry, and Ashley Young in the midfield and Gabby and Big John Carew up front. They were fun to watch, and they were winning too! Once I realized I was getting hooked on the Premiership, I knew I wanted to follow a team. I knew I couldn’t support Everton, because that was my cousin’s team, and I certainly wasn’t going to be following the “Big Four”—that was too cliché and boring to me. So the more I followed Villa, the more I appreciated how they played the game. And then I started going to the message boards like Heroes & Villains and Villa Talk and delved into the history of the club. It was a massive club! And they also had Acorns as their shirt sponsor, and learning more about their association with Acorns simply solidified what I kind of knew in my mind for a while—Aston Villa was going to be my club. I picked them, but in some strange way I feel like they picked me too. And I’ve never looked back!

What was your happiest moment as a Villa supporter?

A couple stand out . . . first, playing in Wembley in the League Cup final in 2010. Even though it wasn’t the result we wanted, getting a chance to enjoy that whole cup run—including that wild 6-4 tie at Villa Park against Blackburn—showed me just how exhilarating English soccer could be, as well as the roller coaster it can take you on. The second was the run at the end of last year, with the wins versus Sunderland and at Norwich being the real highlights . . . that run of fixtures showed me that the players were buying in to Paul Lambert and his vision for the future, and we’ve obviously seen a lot of that carry over into this year.

What was your most painful moment?

Again, the League Cup loss stung, and especially how it went down early with the Vidic penalty that should have been a sending off (in my opinion). But I would have to say the most painful moments have been the other Manchester United games—like the one at Old Trafford where Macheda (what has he done since?) scored the winner and then the 3-2 loss at Villa Park when Chicarito scored a brace to steal the points. For some reason, those losses to the Red Devils have always stung most—as well as any time the Mighty Villa have lost to the Blues. Those are excruciating.

Which team would you most like to see Villa beat this year?

Liverpool's always hungry goalscorer
Liverpool’s always hungry goalscorer

Liverpool, just because of who they are, and, of course, because they have the guy everyone loves to hate: Suarez. And I also have a soft spot for Everton through my best friends and family and they are the second team I (quietly) root for when the Villa aren’t on. The year they won 3-1 at Anfield with the Ashley Young penalty at the end, there was a great picture of the scoreboard . . . I made that into a t-shirt!

Who is your favorite player on the current squad?

Ashley WestwoodAshley Westwood. I had the distinct privilege of being able to travel over to England this past spring and catch up with some of the Lions from Kidderminster that I met in Chicago the summer before, and with them I was able to experience the win at Stoke with that Lowton golazo! That was an experience I will never forget. But during that trip I also wanted to experience a lower league game, and since there’s seemingly always been a connection between the Villa and Crewe I decided to go see them play at the Alexandra. Well, when I was there I got to meet Ashley Westwood’s father Kevin, who works on the grounds, as well as Ashley’s grandparents. Finer people in this world you’re not likely to meet. Kevin let it be known that I was in town to see Ashley’s old club and that I’d come all the way from Seattle in America to see it, and their PR man gave me a signed picture of Ashley in the Wembley Stadium locker room the night they secured promotion to League One. Not that I needed to be persuaded of Westwood as a player—I’ve always thought he was a very solid addition from the start—but the personal touch from his family and his extended family at Crewe just put it over the top for me. I had the picture framed and it’s in my office.

Who is your favorite player of all time?

I have a soft spot for John Carew. I admit it fully and without reservation. I know he was a big lump and probably didn’t give his all at times defensively (not that he was necessarily being asked to be that guy), but, boy, he scored some cracking goals and he just had a nose for the net—as well as that head of his. And of course, there’s the song . . . .

What are your favorite sources for Villa news?

Heroes & Villains, Villa Talk, Aston Villa Review, the Villa Times, the AVFC Official Site (including AVTV), 606, TalkSport.

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

I don’t know how I rate (and I suppose ultimately that’s for others to decide), but I know I’m VTID. They’ve got me for better or worse, so I guess my loyalty would be my best quality. Worst qualities? Probably that I live half a world away from the Holte End, so I don’t get to support the Villa the way I’d like to—but I’m trying to get there at least once at year (and hopefully twice in 2014) to let them know there are boys nearly two oceans away that bleed claret and blue.

Where do you usually watch games?

If the game is on telly, it’s always at the George and Dragon in a hip little part of Seattle called Fremont. Almost every ex-pat that I’ve talked to—and we have a fair number, interestingly enough—have told me the pub is the closest they’ve come to an authentic English pub experience in the States. It’s owned by two ex-pats—one is a Hereford fan and the other an Arsenal supporter—and they are terrific. Love the George. It’s definitely the “official unofficial bar of the AVFC Seattle Lions.”

What are you usually drinking?

Anything from Rainier to Bass to Strongbow to a “Twlya” (named after a good friend of mine who is a United supporter), which is basically a coconut cuba libre. During the winter months I’ll go for a hot buttered rum or any number of concoctions the staff decide is in my best interests (not often the case, by the way—especially, say, after a half-dozen or so). My tastes vary, and I like to keep it somewhat interesting.

Extra Time

If you could sign any player from any other team for Villa, who would it be and why?

Michael BradleyIn this case, it’s a guy I’d like to sign back . . . Michael Bradley. He’s been killing it for Roma and he just didn’t get the time he deserved when with the Villa. He’s probably not the super creator we need at the moment, but he would work his socks off and really solidify our midfield. I think he’d also give us a little more going forward than what we currently have.

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