Now the dust has settled and the 4 day hangover has commenced, I thought it was about time I gathered my thoughts following Aston Villa’s glorious return to the top tier of English Football.
First of all about the day. It was a classic football day. I had travelled down to London the night before, stayed in a Central London hotel, set the alarm for 6am and had little sleep with nervous anticipation ahead of the game. 6am awake, got ready and headed for some breakfast in a cafe in Central London. I was on the tube by 9:20am, beers in the bag & heading to Wembley Stadium. As soon as I arrived at Wembley, I could feel the atmosphere. Claret and blue everywhere. Shirts, flags, balloons and the short walk up to the Green was something else. Approaching the patch of grass to just see an absolute sea of claret & Blue. It was special. Villa fans all in jovial mood, enjoying the weather and soaking up the atmosphere. It was a truly special day and this was before the match even kicked off. The Villa coach drove past the Green on its way to Wembley at around 12:30pm/1pm and the team were given a hero’s welcome. What a boost that must have been driving past that. I’d been drinking with some of the lads on the Green in the morning and at around 12:30pm I went to the Wembley fan park just outside Wembley to meet my brothers. Thousands of Villa lining the streets and one Villan in Ian Taylor having photographs with hundreds of Villa fans.
Into Wembley we went, the nerves really kicking in by this point. The atmosphere was incredible, Villa fans in fine voice, as always and it just felt like this was our time. I felt confident, whether you can attribute that to the beers I’m not sure but I held a good confidence prior to the game getting underway. Villa took control of the game in the first half and should have been ahead before Anwar El-Ghazi headed Villa into the lead right on the stroke of half time. What was special was the songs continued into half-time, as I said before this just felt like it was our time. Second half we stepped it up, especially John McGinn who led us to victory with his industrious and non-stop running. It was a nervy final 7 minutes but the defence held our well to give us a deserved win and promotion. The trophy was lifted by our captain Jack Grealish with club captain James Chester by his side. A delighted Prince William alongside John Carew kept flashing up on the big screen along with images of jubilant Villa owners, Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens. The celebrations were well underway. The full repertoire of songs as Villa parade the trophy around the Wembley Stadium. Doesn’t silverware look better with claret & Blue ribbons attached? Sharing this moment with my brothers was something special, I said to them this was the first ever trophy I’d seen Villa win. For them, the League Cup in 1994/1996 were the only ones.
The celebrations continued well into the night. Villa fans were still in their numbers around Wembley Stadium around 9pm when I finally left to make my way back into Central London. I was up at 3am on Tuesday morning to get an early flight out to Ireland for a few days rest but it was all so worth it.
The season has been a rollercoaster. On the brink of going out of business, saved by 2 wealthy men who then went about to appoint the right people in the right areas. I said back in March that promotion was so vital, with the owners background and wealth it really is our chance to establish ourselves again as a big club in England. Massive credit to Dean Smith, his staff & those players. To go on a run like we did is extremely difficult and so special. It broke all records and what has propelled us into the Premier League. On a personal note, this season has been such a poignant one for me. I have regained my absolute love for the club, not that it entirely went away but for a part I lost sight of how important it was in my life. This season I’ve been to countless brilliant away games and met some absolute brilliant people through social media whom I now call true friends, whether that’s generally online or through meeting up. It’s helped me so much and I will eternally be grateful to you all, the Aston Villa faithful.
Enjoy the summer, I’m sure it will be a busy one. No doubt I’ll pen some words throughout the summer but let’s all have a good break and look forward to returning for Pre-Season in July as a Premier League Club.