Writer: J P Fear
Date:Monday December 17 2007
Christmas games are special
The Christmas period is a hard time for footballers. OK they are on huge salaries, have luxury accommodation, the best travel arrangements but they still tend to be working over the period and not enjoying what is considered the best time of the year by many.
Supporters too have a chance to get down in their finery, full of Xmas cheer and food with few traffic restrictions, most being at home, to hinder their day out. Having been a regular at Villa from 1958 until 1982 Xmas was always a special day out for me as a supporter.
When a kid I used to walk from Kingstanding past Witton Cemetery, to stand behind the goal at the Witton End in that stream of fluid using what pocket money I'd earned to gain entrance. If I was lucky and it was a poor crowd they let me in for free, and that meant a packet of chips on the walk back home.
Xmas was different, because if there was a home match it usually meant the Everall's and Wheeler's met up out side one of the pubs in Perry Barr for our Xmas get together. Bus trip there and back, my Dad, my favourite uncle, Vic and his sons all shouting and cheering no matter what the weather. Usually as a bonus I came in for special treatment too, being the youngest and also a Xmas baby, so there's always a good chance the match was on my birthday. I often came home with a new bobble hat or scarf in the claret and blue, good times.
Over the ensuing years I did my bit always took my flask of whiskey to share with my fellow season ticket holders, it never failed to overcome the misery of a gormless performance from Villa, and always boosted the victories from great to glorious, some pleasant times, fine memories. OK, some of the away games at Xmas in my clapped out mini, were a bit hard going, especially if the heater wasn't working, and the journey was to a far off land like Bradford, or Huddersfield.
Mind in those days Xmas matches tended to be against local opposition, in the 70/71 season we were at home to the Shrews and won, but come New Year we were away at Walsall and I think we lost. Still great times and there have been some epic matches like in 75 when we beat West Ham 4-1 great boxing day that I was half pissed when we sat in our seat and totally out of it by the time we finally started walking back to the car in Halford Drive. Did I get some stick when we got home to moms. It was the one and only time Dad was seen to put two fingers up at anyone. We drank some drink that day.
Now of course with better means of travel. no expense spared, the players have it easy. Ours face a resurgent Chelsea on Boxing Day, and then travel to Wigan 3 days later to meet up with that old Blues manager I'm sure those with families will get time with their kids, I'm sure the club will provide some sort of 'celebration', but I don't envy any of them their task, both games would be tough in normal circumstances, to wind yourself up for such important games has to be hard, so very hard.
So here's my best wishes to half decent weather, and 6 easy points. I won't be at either game, my old joints prefer the warm roaring fire, and as many of my family around me as possible. Good luck to those who go, I still remember with great fondness the trips I made and the enjoyment shared, its a special time for all, have fun.
Merry Christmas all.
Date:Monday December 17 2007
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