Writer: J P Fear
Date:Friday July 21 2006
Is this the public face of Aston Villa?
A cross section of Aston Villa fans, ranging all age groups and professions today attempted to meet with club officials to express the concerns of the Villa fans.
The group had taken with them the Villa Fans Combined banner proclaiming 'Time For Change' and wanted to politely put forward their views and try to bring some unity to the club.
What sort of reception did they get? First off they were refused any contact with anyone at the club. At first they accepted that and left the North Stand reception but then decided they weren't happy being brushed off after taking the time and trouble to go there and went back in again.
Several fans including Ian Robathan and Steve Orchard, in an attempt to represent the various Villa websites, fan groups and all concerned fans, asked to speak to Steve Stride. The receptionist told them that he was in a meeting all afternoon.
Steve Orchard explained, 'We asked politely, we were careful to be non-threatening and to remain calm. We were perfectly willing to wait for an officials lunch hour to speak or until end of business but instead of being given the respect we deserved, we were turned away.'
Having been told that Steve Stride was in a meeting and wouldn't speak, they asked to speak to the head of media and communications Phil Mepham. The receptionist rang him and said 'you are busy aren't you Phil?' Phil Mepham said he was unavailable and so didn't come down to speak to the group.
With Sales Director Stuart Ryan on holiday the group were running out of options for someone to speak to and as Ian Robathan said 'they wouldn't even send down a junior member of staff to speak to us and no non executives were at Villa Park, or so we were told.'
Orchard questioned 'Is this the public face of Aston Villa?' Orchard, who had driven for over an hour, from Silverstone, to get to Villa Park continued 'We were polite, non threatening and even in some ways apologetic. All we wanted to do was to express our views and try to build some bridges with the club in an attempt to get some unity whilst the club is in crisis.'
Instead the security guards appeared mob handed and asked the fans to remove themselves from Aston Villa premises. Ian went out of the gates and tried to put up the banner 'Time For Change' only to be told the club would call the police and report him for criminal damage.
As I spoke to these two fans, who amongst others were still in Witton Lane outside the ground, I could hear cars driving passed and bibbing their horns in support.
Orchard said: 'The clubs pr is abysmal, all we wanted was ten minutes and they wouldn't even give us that. We wanted them to give us a statement to put out on all the fans websites but instead got treated like dirt and told to leave.'
It seems anyone trying to get answers out of Villa Park these days will be faced - once again - with stone wall silence. Just makes us all wonder, what exactly have they got to hide - maybe their shame?
Perhaps we should ALL (!) go down next week at an agreed time, let them see it isn't just the few?
My personal plea to fans is to carry on with this sort of impromptu protests until Doug Ellis finally leaves, things don't need to be organised and as long as they are legal, any attempt to express your views and concerns have to be encouraged. This is our club Doug and we want it back!
Date:Friday July 21 2006
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