Richard Nevin signs on for another stretch.
As the net rippled I took off along the gangway, removing my flat cap as I went, twirling it around in the air 1950’s style. I was tern again, pretending to be Dennis Mortimer in my back garden, leaping around in my pyjamas as the final whistle went in Rotterdam, I was soaked to the skin at Leeds Road celebrating a subsequently disallowed goal by Warren Aspinall, I was standing up in the back of a Ford Escort cabriolet brandishing a Villa flag as we drove along Queens Drive heading for Goodison in 1990, years of disappointment and engrained cynicism fell away as the that unique joy that only the Villa can provoke coursed through my veins. I’ve no idea why that goal, more than any other had me in such a celebratory mood, there were better goals, more important ones but there’s no logic when it comes to following Aston Villa.
While Mings took the congratulations I sheepishly made my way back to my seat, apologising to the steward along the way for my celebration which was most unbecoming of a man of over fifty years of age. It was that moment, more than any other that vindicated my decision to take a season ticket for the first time in sixteen years. But aside from that explosion of joy, was there anything to make me make it a double and renew?
Of course, this season hasn’t all been plain sailing, far from it. That goal, scored by our captain and the second in a victory against Brighton in what was Steven Gerrard’s first game in charge, came just over a month after what many people see as a season-defining moment, the collapse against Wolves. And if I had to pick a lowlight of my first season back as a regular then that late, late horror show would be it, both on and off the field.
We’d got into the habit of meeting in Town for a drink before the game, but precisely what to do after was something of a curate’s egg, particularly with the Holte Suite still closed. Our usual hostelry was awash with Wolves supporters so we were forced to somewhere else to muse on the forthcoming game and make rash and over optimistic predictions. As it was, this was the only positive of that unseasonably mild October afternoon. The place we found ended up as a perfect meeting place for the rest of the season, and, no, I’m not going to tell you where.
Much has been made of the issues getting to and from Villa Park this season so I won’t dwell on it safe to say it is probably the biggest issue in holding a Season Ticket and does need to be addressed. Taxis from Town are plentiful but getting back is far from easy and this didn’t help things as the dark mood hung heavy over Aston after the game. The nature of the defeat had us dealing with a teenage strop, and an impatient OAP, failing card machines, no cash and being charged £4 each just to get into a pub post-match.
That day, fortunately, was far from typical and as the season wore on we found a familiar matchday routine, either meeting in Town or at the Barton’s where the service has swung from appalling to amiable. Arriving in the ground in plenty of time we have availed ourselves of the catering but this also needs addressing in terms of customer service and lost revenue and the same can be said for the Holte Suite, now a regular post-match staging post.
The return of the match action to the concourse screens is more than welcome but the absence of half time scores is an annoyance. Stewarding, certainly in my seat in the Upper Holte, Trinity Road side remains low key and helpful but it’s striking how many season ticket holders miss games, it seemed a rarity back in 2004 and I was AWOL for three matches, all a result of rescheduling by the TV companies.
The football, much like the whole match day experience itself, was good and bad and at points ugly but in general I have enjoyed my return to Villa Park as a regular. Visiting the ground itself remains a thrill, meeting some old faces bought a wave of nostalgia and my love for the club, my burning desire to see us do well has been boosted by that feeling that somehow, as a season ticket holder you have a deeper involvement, that somehow you are a part of whatever the team achieve.
I don’t REALLY want to be like Manchester City, I don’t want to take winning for granted and the collection of honours expected. One FA Cup would do me, and I will be around to see it next season hopefully. As the team of ’82 took to the pitch and the Theme from an Unmade Silent Movie rang out across the ground I wiped away a tear and vowed to reinvest my time, my money but most of all, my hope.