Writer: J P Fear
Date:Saturday January 21 2006
I'm not a season ticket holder, unfortunately. I can't get to Villa Park every week, which breaks my heart. And while I haven't been able to attend any protests or meetings in recent years, I have always tried to put something, either financial or just moral support, behind the efforts to improve the club's fortunes and remove Doug Ellis from his position. I definitely consider myself to be a 'good' fan. I want the club to do well, and when they don't I am inconsolable. But this is a call to arms for Villa fans. We all want the club to do well, and I think it's time that a concerted effort is made to fulfil our part of the bargain. Sack the board, support the team.
I was born in Dublin, and I played briefly for Dalkey Utd FC, the club where Paul McGrath started his career. The McGrath story was always inspirational to me and, ironically, I suffered from the same 'dodgy knees' that Paul did. Pulling on the number 5 jersey for Dalks and seeing pictures of Paul in the bar area was always special to me and, although I was a Shamrock Rovers supporter through family links, I paid great attention to the career of the former St. Pat's player.
That is when my love affair with Aston Villa started. A beautifully named club with a strong tradition and a successful history; I was hooked.
My first trip to Villa Park, seeing the mighty Holte End and the magnificent old Trinity Road stand was a day that stands out in my memory, and the wall of noise that came from the Holte that day in support of the team was, I'm sure, a catalyst to the fine victory over Manchester Utd in November 1992.
Living in Ireland and, more recently, the North East of England, trips to Villa Park can't be as regular an occurrence as I would like; it's an expensive business supporting a club from hundreds of miles away, and while I look forward to away games against Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesboro, nothing compares to the drive down the Aston Expressway to Villa Park and the feeling of pride when the players take the field.
Unfortunately, in recent years, I have noticed deterioration in the level of support. The numbers attending the games remains steady, if maybe a little depleted, but the quality and noise of the support, especially from the Holte End, is decreasing at an alarming rate and, unfortunately, there is an unhealthy focus on denigrating our Birmingham City rivals. This, inevitably, takes away from the support given to the lads in Claret & Blue.
As for the mindless individuals who seem to enjoying spending Saturday afternoons berating David O'Leary, Roy Aitken or the players on the pitch, I would like to distance myself from their actions and urge you not to lower yourself to their level.
I'm sure anyone would agree that nothing fires a player up more than hearing his own supporters chant and sing in SUPPORT of the team. While it is very amusing to sing about the virtues of Blues and some of their players and directors (I'll admit to having done so myself), the team needs support and I feel that if Villa Park could raise its noise level in support of our players, the good fortune experienced over Christmas could be continued to the end of the season, in spite of our well publicised squad shortages.
Perhaps O'Leary could use his position to encourage the frequent visitors to Villa Park and the hardcore of the Holte End to focus on supporting the team. His programme notes, the club's website as well as pre- and post-match interviews with Sky and BBC would be an ideal platform for this.
Many fans were upset at his comments post-Wycombe about some fans being fickle. I wasn't. I agree wholeheartedly with what he had to say and I think, being away from Villa Park on match days on more occasions than I'm there, enabled me to see the wood for the trees. But if he could encourage supporters to raise their voices in support of our players and leave the songs about Birmingham City until they come to Villa Park in April, I'm sure the combined efforts of the fans voices and the players' / management's skills would see us definitely pushing for Europe like we did in his first season at Aston Villa.
It's all very well to say that, as fans, we pay the players' wages and that we deserve passion from them, we deserve an indication that they are proud and deserve to wear the shirt. We would all love dearly to have the opportunities and wealth that they have. But, with this wealth, naturally comes complacency. Especially in the days of 4 and 5 year contracts. So we need to remind them that they are playing for a club that matters dearly to us.
For us to show up, sit on our hands and say 'entertain me' shows that WE are not fit to wear the shirt. When we seem to ignore the on-pitch fortunes of our players and instead spend 70 out of 90 minutes gleefully singing about Blues potentially being relegated, or the alleged reasons for Robbie Savage wanting to leave St. Andrew's, is it not hypocritical to then vilify the manager for not showing passion on the touchline? If a player doesn't seem to give 100% into a tackle, it upsets some fans that they have to take time out from a chorus of 'Tracy Andrews is our friend' to tell that player how terrible he is and how their mother in law would be a better player than he. And still some fans will wonder why the players don't show passion. Show passion for them and it will be returned.
I would like to see the club actively encourage more vocal support and an initiative to make Villa Park more intimidating again. It used to be a fortress, but sadly no more. A call to arms from the club for fans to show up in villa colours, with their voices in gear to support the team. It's not a big effort, it's easily started and it will gather momentum at a huge pace. Hi Ho Aston Villa.
Supporting our club should be about how great our club is, how great it can be, and how great we will be. It should not be about how bad other clubs are. It should not be about any other clubs at all. That type of conversation should be reserved for the pub, the workplace, or the day when Blues come to Villa Park. When we play Chelsea, why do we care so much that
Blues are going down? Why do we care so much about them at all?
Aston Villa FC. We're by far the greatest team the world has ever seen. Let's remind them...
By Gary Gleeson
Date:Saturday January 21 2006
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