One of my all-time favourite Villa videos is David Bradley’s, celebrating 140 years of Aston Villa.
I love the romanticism in this video that “you don’t choose Aston Villa, it chooses you” and for many this will be true. However, claret & blue blood runs deep in my family. My dad was influenced strongly by his family when he was a child and proceeded to be a staunch Aston Villa fan, following them home and away during the 70’s & 80’s.
So, when I arrived in ’79 there was only going to be one outcome; put on the Villa attire as a baby, then Villa kits as a toddler. I didn’t know any different and my obsession began. I didn’t choose Aston Villa, it was chosen for me and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
One of my earliest Villa memories was from 1988, as an 8-year-old sitting in my lounge with the wireless on listening to Swindon vs. Villa. It was the last game of the 87-88 season and not really understanding what was going on, I watched my dad pace the floor as the scores were coming in from around the grounds until he went absolutely ballistic when it was confirmed that Villa were promoted back to Division One, with me just sat there thinking ‘what the hell is going on?’
Unfortunately, I do not know exactly when my first Villa game was, but it was around 1988. I do remember the intoxicating match day experience though. Villa Park being majestic, especially the old Trinity Road frontage which was sheer beauty and should have been incorporated into the new build. The roar as the team emerged from the tunnel, the singing, the smell and the AV floodlights, just struck me with awe. A love affair was born.
I am privileged to have stood on the original Holte End, well I say stood, I actually sat! My Dad made me a stool with hooks on the end of it which attached to the rail that ran down the middle of the Holte forming the famous divide of the right and left sides.
So, there I was perched on my dad’s shoulder like a parrot. He would shield me whenever there was a goal surge which – perhaps surprisingly to our younger fans – was quite often back then! The old joke from the regulars around us was that Deadly Doug would be furious if he knew we weren’t paying extra for being seated!
During my teens, Villa was everything to me. I would get information from wherever I could. Remember club call? A bit like Twitter today but you had to pay £1.50 a minute for the privilege. After calling in at the newsagents to read the latest in the Birmingham Mail (in the shop obviously so I wasn’t paying for it! I was only interested in two pages in it after all), I would go home to phone club call most days. My Dad soon put to a stop this when he got the phone bill!
I often think I love Villa more than I do football in general. For instance, I have nowhere near as much passion for the England football team as I do Villa. I will also rarely watch a live football match that doesn’t involve Villa.
I think this is because the Villa is more than football; it’s the spending time with your Dad every Saturday, the journey to the game, the pre-match routine, the after match debrief, the conversations of the latest gossip during the week etc. It’s the connections it brings you, even more so nowadays through social media.
I often have to remind myself that whilst Villa was chosen for me, it really was easy for my Dad as I had nothing to complain about. By the time I was 15, I had experienced first-hand: promotion, finishing runners up in the top tier of English football twice and going to Wembley for two League Cup final wins. Not bad that!
As I raise my son (now 14), his early years haven’t been as easy, especially around the key ages of 8 and 9. But as we get older, we know that, as real fans, it’s not just about the trophies or the glory, it’s about time spent together as a blood family but also as the wider Villa family.
As David Bradley says in that fantastic video: “The lows just make the highs, higher.” In the space of 12 months, I went from suffering the lowest feeling I have ever experienced as a Villa fan at Wembley in 2018 to the massive high in 2019 with my Dad and son. It will be something we all remember forever. I really hope when he’s 40 he looks back with the same affection as I’m doing now.
A few years ago I took a mate of my sons & his dad to Villa Park. The son was into football but the dad wasn’t. After spending an hour or so in the family fun zone the dad said to me “I get it, look at all the dads with their sons, it’s unbelievable”.
I know of a family where the dad is a Villa fan, the eldest son (same age as me) is a Liverpool fan and the youngest son is a Man Utd fan. Now each to their own and all that, but I just can’t get my head around stuff like this. When will they ever experience that family connection? The jubilation of a hug whilst celebrating a goal, the pre-match pint, the days out travelling away… the list goes on.
So why Villa? Well, Villa is family to me. It’s a bond you can never break.
By Adam Wright