Aston Villa

I am an Aston Villa fan … well not one those rabid ones. I can recall seeing them four times live and probably seen a professional football match six times live. The first time I saw a football match I was six years old. It was at Villa Park in Aston, Birmingham. It was an amazing experience. 1960, October 1st. A neighbour around the corner took me to the match, he was with the St John’s Ambulance and he was volunteering at the ground. It was a magical experience; it was the first time I recalled being in such large ‘enclosed’ space. There was an electric hum from the crowd. Sort of an infra-sound. The pitch was the brightest green I have ever seen. And I got to see it literally from the touch line, I was told not to wander onto the pitch, but I was old enough to know not to do that.

Recent Villa win over Leicester (charcoal)

I have vague recollection of the match, the claret and blue of Aston Villa. I remember the colours of Leicester being a light blue, but who knows, this memory has been retrieved and redeposited so many times. To the eyes of this six year old the teams seemed fairly even. The difference being the goalkeepers. The excited roar followed by a disappointed groan as the Leicester goalkeeper saved another attempt. The ecstasy and the agony if you like. Anyway Leicester went on to win 3-1. The goal keeper for Leicester happened to be Gordon Banks, who went to play for England’s triumphant team in the World Cup in 1966.

But what a experience, it was magical.

Why support the Villa? Villa’s archrival was Birmingham City, their ground was marginally closer. Well Villa was my first match. And, our lodger Toni, was a professional coach, I vaguely remember him being at Aston Villa, probably as some third assistant trainer or something. Apparently he was a coach in Hungary and Portugal as well. So my support for Villa was set. I can remember Toni tying a shoelace to a football, to help hone my skills. The ball in the rain passed as a medicine ball. It didn’t work.

The next time I saw Aston Villa play was in 1968 at St Andrew’s, the home ground of Birmingham City, aka the Blues. By now I was going to school in Bordesley Green (two bus rides from home). I went past the old St Andrew’s pretty much most school days. My classmates were all Blues fans. Anyway, I watched the game from Tilton Rd with my mate Robert and surrounded by the home side – Blues fans. I wasn’t able to cheer for Villa, not that there was much to cheer about, they lost 4-0. Probably saw the Blues play as much as I did Villa at this time.

At home there was a token rivalry, my Mum supported the Blues, my Dad West Bromwich Albion, not that they would go as far as look up a result or anything. There were two years where Villa and their fans had to endure the third division; anyway that ended. I eventually ended up going to university in Norwich and in the final year April 1975, my ex-girlfriend, her husband to be, my wife to be and I went to Carrow Rd to watch Villa versus Norwich (Canaries) for the last league match of the season in what was then the second division. I did not jinx them, Villa won 4-1. Villa got promoted to the first division. It’s funny how little I remember of that match other than feeling sorry for Norwich.

When I finished university, I went to South Africa for six years, did not watch any live football there, but did play for Chamber of Mines there, a social league. On returning to the UK, I did get chance to watch at least one more Villa game, went with a fellow squash player, but a real Villa fan, Graham. It was a dreary affair in November 1986. I remember it as a 1-0 win for Villa against Derby County, but checking the results Villa won 2-1. Two things that stuck out for me how the Derby and Villa fans had to be kept separated in the stands and they were still trying to have a go at one another. The other thing that stuck in my memory was Steve Hodge, he was more than a competent central midfielder, but god was he foul mouthed. Incidentally Steve Hodge was the one who inadvertently set up Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal when playing for England. About the same time, I did get a tour of Villa Park, it was one of those fan-touristy things. The memory has all but faded.

My last professional match that I watched was in 2013, Montreal at Vancouver in the second leg of the Canada Cup. I happened to be in town and was persuaded to go to watch at BC Place. Again it was on of those magical moments when BC place filled up (well half filled up). There was a sublime goal where Camilo Sanvezzo scored from a set piece from near the halfway line.

And of course there was Nigel Reo-Coker a name that I was familiar with. Most Saturday mornings, I go to the BBC football website and see how Villa are doing. Reo-Coker had been a Villa player, 2007 to 2011. That evening Reo-Coker ran his heart out in a loosing cause. The Whitecaps had gone 2-0 up, with Montreal coming back to draw 2-2 and winning on aggregate away goals. A ‘good’ match to watch.

Over the years I have played recreational football too. In my youth I played just for the fun of playing football: in the schoolyard, or at university a pick-up game or intramural seven-a-side. In Canada played in a recreational league, in fact I have played more in Canada than anywhere else. But the knees protest too much now.


Other people have pointed out aspects of football are a little like religion. Some personal recollections and observations:

  • It is magic, well magical is a better description. It inspires a sense of awe as described my first experience of Villa Park. I have sensed the same thing at other venues eg Turffontein the deep murmur of the crowd in anticipation of the first horse race.
  • Many fans are devoted. They donate their hard earned money and give Aston Villa money just to watch the sermon from the Park.
  • There is worship, the current Saint Jack Grealish is the hoped to be the Saviour.
  • Speaking of hope, Aston Villa won’t get relegated this season and will climb the stairway to Premier League Heaven in the coming seasons. And Champions League Glory.
  • Does the hope verge on prayer? And of course the Villa hopeful have faith that the team will regain past glory.
  • There is a sense of connection and betterment, this is hotly discussed on fora like VillaTalk.
  • Football has its cathedrals, England’s Vatican is Wembley, all fans want to worship their teams at this particular Mecca. And of course Villa Park is one of the most venerable cathedrals of old.
  • Then we have the chants, exalting the great ones before us today and demeaning the demons that are preventing us from displaying our majesty.
  • Rituals we have, wearing the colours, scarves, and shirts with current and past saints emblazoned on the back.
  • Then there is looking for salvation when we are down at half time.

Religion can have its negatives. On the less positive side:

  • We have the devil, the club that cannot be named outright – SHA from The Sty.
  • SHA’s followers cannot be name directly either, blouse. They must be vilified; on no account can anything positive be said about them, lest it turn out to be true.
  • Amongst us we have those who will protect our hallowed name with violence.

This of course is a little tongue in cheek, but with an element of truth.

I hope I never have to cry Why have you forsaken me Aston Villa.

7 thoughts on “Aston Villa

  1. Interesting. I liked hearing your ‘football’ terminology. Of course, here in central Ohio we have The Ohio State Buckeyes, American ‘football’.

    Being a part of something large is exciting, and religious-like. But it has to be Human, with hope and other people, with singing and chanting, with emotional highs and lows. Being at The Horse Shoe here in Columbus with 100,000 others (or even at home on your couch watching with just your wife), it is brimming with Qualities. And you can definitely appreciate the physics in these games. Yes, indeed; marvelous passes, collisions, well-timed leaps.
    A lot of Information for a Mind to take in and, of course, even to have created. Sport is a very Human setting, with action according to rules and traditions of its own.
    Thanks rom


  2. To get back to our re-concurring topic, and be explicit about Sport:
    If you marvel at the mechanical and physical qualities of a great play, you start with the raw data of the act, the human accomplishment of the play itself. You may then analyze it into the languages of physics or neurology,… but you started with The Play Itself in all its humanly background. The science of its Analysis may enhance it marvel as the event you are now enjoying.
    But if you Start With the hard science as The Real Reality of the event, you can’t Synthesize up from it many of the Qualities of it we profess to be Enjoying. In other words, you can analyze a Turnip down into its chemical elements, and among these may be all the basic ingredients to Get Blood, but blood does not come from a turnip. It takes an incredible number of Synthetic Stages, each with their own rules and vocabularies, to build the ingredients up to Blood. It’s in these Levels up that a lot more Qualities Appear and play Their Role in what we find special in sport and life.
    I think this makes some sense, doesn’t it? I don’t want to let in “hooey” but we do need to “stay true to the phenomena.” I’m saying this to you about diverse Qualities, like you say that to me about “free will.” You say, and Strawson says, Compatibilist Freedom is just changing the subject, an evasion.
    Thanks rom for making me think.


  3. I’m not sure I quite understood this last comment Greg.

    But I will guess at the point you are making. Things like awe or marvel, are chemical releases … not completely unrelated to my Chemical Spirituality blog.

    I am toying with the idea that consciousness itself, is a trip of a lifetime, that has been honed by evolution.


    1. Rom, “awe” and “marvel” are not “chemical releases”! They are associated with chemical releases but are themselves human emotions. What causes them are awesome and marvelous things, not chemicals. And how do you know that I experience awe like you, other than that we may use the same word? If you release those chemicals in an infants brain, they surely do not experience “awe”. That is a very complex emotion, out of their league at that point. Wow, I don’t think “awe” or “marvel” just pop out of any brain automatically, naturally. They are cultural things. Good example of your “causation accounts for everything “ getting you in a silly pickle.
      Thanks Rom, our conversations are making more sense to me.


      1. “awe” and “marvel” are not “chemical releases”! They are associated with chemical releases but are themselves human emotions

        Emotions don’t exist in a vacuum. At the very least emotions are caused by chemical release.

        What causes them are awesome and marvelous things, not chemicals.

        By that logic if I were to experience dismay on reading your posts we could infer your posts are dismal?

        And how do you know that I experience awe like you … ?

        I don’t. What was your point with this observation?

        If you release those chemicals in an infants brain, they surely do not experience “awe”.

        You know this how?

        I don’t think “awe” or “marvel” just pop out of any brain automatically, naturally.

        They plop out of the brain supernaturally or unnaturally? How else can they be caused?

        They are cultural things.

        Are they … could they also be something that has been outside of experience, cultural or otherwise?

        Good example of your “causation accounts for everything “ getting you in a silly pickle.

        What does lack of causation account for? What does causation not account for?

        Greg, I do feel dismay coming on.


  4. Rom, help me with a question that I’m not sure I understand.
    My wife is currently sitting on the couch in front of me in living room. If we take that —her and couch and air and lamp — and regarded it (‘see’ it) as the particles of physics that it surely is (at that deepest level) is my wife in any way distinguishable?

    Would the whole thing just be a glowing mass like a distant galaxy? Or like looking up at the Milky Way? Would she appear to be a denser spot within it all?

    At that level, particles of her would be exchanging themselves with the couch, right? Certainly air is intermingling in lungs. So at least all the boundaries between the macro objects would be blurred.

    But what could be distinguished? My wife is more dense than the couch and air, but would that help us much? The two time frames, speed, so much different!
    Please explain how you figure it. Thanks, Greg
    I am more interested in this than my other issues.


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