Three in a row

As the season ends, Richard Nevin looks forward to spending more money next time round.

Striking while the iron was hot, on the heels of arguably the best performance of the season, against Newcastle at Villa Park, the club announced the season ticket details for next term, including price increases – in some cases eye-wateringly so. With equally indecent haste I renewed. It will be my third year as a season ticket holder after a fifteen-year absence, although it looked rather unlikely as we lurched through the dying days of Gerrard’s reign. What was supposed to be his first full season was launched spectacularly and with that terrible afternoon at Dean Court, and it didn’t improve. My alacrity to secure my place back on the Holte was almost all down to the man from Hondarribia who has transformed us into a genuine force this season and hopefully for seasons to come. For once, on the pitch the future looks bright but off it the same problems persist.

Catering and transport remain the biggest beefs when attending our historic, picturesque and magnificent ground. The results of a survey completed in return for a free drink by us Holte Enders manifested in the launch of Terrace View. The club claimed to have listened to the complaints about the catering facilities but I doubt anyone offered to pay nigh on £500 for smaller queues, hotter pies and a seat next to an overflowing bin. I have yet to meet anyone, even those that could comfortably afford it, who think it’s an acceptable proposal, let alone willing to spend the money. Personally I think it’s the first crack in the invisible wall that keeps corporate hospitality out of the Holte, a place that is generally accepted to be the heart of Villa Park in terms of support. I may have renewed but it’s the spectre of such gentrification, along with my age and misanthropic approach to the modern game, which may eventually drive me away.

A pleasant surprise off the pitch, amongst so many on the pitch this season, is the introduction of a shuttle bus service from Up Town to the ground for the last game of the season. What was less pleasant was the cost; initial reaction almost renders this dead in the water already and the club can give the excuse that at least they tried before abandoning the idea altogether. The cost is not comparable with similar services elsewhere and indeed in the same city when the cricket is on at Edgbaston. I shall stick to the bus, train or a taxi, all of which I have used to attend games this season. Trains remain problematic even without industrial action and any expansion of the ground currently appears to rely on the expansion of Witton Station. You can make it as big as you like but without any more trains it seems pointless.

Part of that expansion is Villa Live, an area intended, amongst other things to attract fans to the ground early. At the moment there is very little to tempt one away from the pub prior to kick-off time. The fan zone outside the Trinity is a good idea but the weather, along with what appears to be a covers band banging out some lame Britpop every week tends to put me off though. The pre-match build-up is not aimed at an old misanthrope like me but surely some imagination could be employed in terms of the music, and for crying out loud turn it down.

All of this won’t be at the forefront of people’s minds when renewing. More importantly will be the cost and the football which dictates what people do, but the experience at Villa Park while being okay, could be better. But by 6.30pm on Sunday we were able to see what we have achieved and can now look forward to the prospect of more Sunday kick-offs and games at 5.45 on a Thursday afternoon against a team from Austria. There’s no chance of getting home in time for Top of the Pops.

It’s a funny old world but I’ll be part of it again next season.