The famous Aston Villa. A club bound by tradition, oozing class from every fibre of its being. The club who’s former chairman, honoured by a statue outside the ground, founded the football league system itself. A club with 7 League titles, 7 FA Cups, 5 League cups and to top it all off, a European Cup. A club with a huge fanbase, and a beautiful, historic stadium. The rampant lion that we wear with pride. But what does Aston Villa mean to me?
As a lad from the coal mining towns of south Staffordshire, with a lifelong Wolves fan for a grandfather, and a dad who had very little interest in football, I always had Villa in my heart. It’s not something I’ve ever been able to explain. All I know is that in the photos of my early childhood, as far back as 4 or 5 years old, I was wearing Villa shirts, singing Villa songs, and telling everyone I was “Villa Till I Die”. My friends and family insist they have no idea how this happened; perhaps it was the neighbour across the road with his villa flags, or some kid at school? All I know is my earliest memory of Aston Villa is from the train into Birmingham, looking out the window and seeing Villa Park in all its glory and knowing. I just knew, somewhere in me, that Aston Villa was my club.
Having moved down South and spending most of my time surrounded by Southerners, my accent may have faded, along with some of my memories. But one thing that has never faded, and will never fade, is my love for my football club. While travel costs and work shifts have hampered my efforts to watch the mighty Villa, in the past few years, social media has allowed me to feel closer than ever before. Thanks to The Villa View, as well as Instagram and then eventually Twitter, I have spoken to what has now become hundreds of Villa fans, day in, day out. It’s an obsession. Sad as it may be, I now consider many of these people, from various social media platforms, to be my friends. We do talk more than I probably talk to relatives back home after all!
In Aston Villa Football Club, we find a diverse community of people whose paths may never have crossed otherwise. We find a team full of passion, captained by one of our own, and best of all, managed by one of our own. We are finally developing a philosophy, and turning round years of mismanagement. Sometimes being a villa fan seems like torture, but I don’t regret it for one minute. Even after the playoff final, when I, as I am sure did thousands of others, had a genuine feeling as close to grief as I have ever been without actually grieving. The relegation season was hard, but we had accepted it long before, which softened the blow. This however was a sucker punch. But as often happens, out of the bad, came the good. Sawiris and Edens came in, joined by Purslow, Pitarch and eventually Dean Smith, a Villa man and the choice of many fans before his arrival.
Now, as we watch a team managed by a Villa fan, and captained by a Villa fan, who reacted to a punch from a Bluenose by scoring the winner to totally ruin their season, our sense of unity is stronger than ever. Thousands of people are brought together by a shared love of Aston Villa.
But we are more than that. That badge that we all wear with pride, that unites us all, young and old, rich and poor, from all corners of the globe. But the badge represents more than Aston Villa Football Club. It represents all of us, Fans, Players and Staff. We are a community; a family. We go through ups and downs, together. We stand shoulder to shoulder, and never give up.