In 2019 I released a book, Fear Conquers All, about my life, my struggles with brain aches and operations (14 so far!) and how to face setbacks full-on and fight back. It has gone down so well, you can see from the 28 five star reviews!
Anyway, I thought I would serialise the Aston Villa parts of the book here on Vital Villa.
I will link to the other parts at the end of this article.
Here is a slightly more fun bit relating to myself and my love of football and Villa…
Chapter 18… Safari so goody!
Picking up where we left off (about the safari)…
I could talk all day about Aston Villa. The only thing I will add was a magical moment that reduced me almost to tears (as emotional as I get, nearly crying.)
The team of ‘82, who won the European Cup, were honoured on one of the anniversaries of their success by walking on the pitch, showing off the trophy to the adoring fans. They went all around the stadium and then back towards the bench in the centre.
Our captain, Dennis Mortimer, looked over – he knew where I sat because he had come to some games with me – and walked over with THE cup. THE cup! ‘Hi Jon,’ (one of the only people I allow to call me Jon, who am I to correct ‘Sir’ Dennis?!), ‘Saw you and had to come over for you to see the Cup.’
I was humbled, touched and delighted. Another of those lovely moments in life. Thanks Dennis, it was truly appreciated.
My Villa site, Vital Villa, has grown fabulously over the years and has a very loyal following. Mike Field is the co-founder and co-editor. We had a break of around five years after a bit of a disagreement, but he’s now back fully on board.
I’ve also built up the social media following and have over 16,000 Twitter followers and almost 7,000 followers on Facebook, as well as close to 1,000 on my own Facebook page.
I’ve been on the Villa sites, from Holteenders.com, to the standalone Holteenders.co.uk and now Vital Villa, have been going for 18 or so years. It’s a passion to write about my beloved Villa, although with recent form, it’s also been a bit of a curse at times.
I must be doing something right as I get some wonderful compliments about it, none better than this one from Kevin:
‘I have to say Jonathan, with 100% sincerity, that I really appreciate very much your sending me these e-mails. Rest assured I will treat them with utmost confidentiality. Very, very interesting. It also provides me with a glimmer of hope. Hope, when to be honest, I had all but given up.
You are to be applauded for your efforts, you really are. I know that Villans everywhere would say the very same thing. That you got involved and hopefully stirred things up a tad is excellent news. These are dark times, and it hurts me to say it, but I truly think that we could be in for harder times than we even experienced back in the late sixties. There is going to be no easy route back. There wasn’t then, but at least back in those days you had the feeling that things were about to get better, today I’m more concerned that things will get a lot worse before any upward turn begins.
As for your running of the site, you do it admirably. No one I know could do a better job. The praiseworthy comments I hear about Vital Villa quite regularly would astound you, received from both people who know me more as Glensider and not Kevin, and of course from friends to whom I’m only Kevin, Glensider being a mere figment of my imagination.
You promote debate and discussion, allow each and every individual to have their say, express their point of view, and it’s a great shame that some individuals have to stretch the boundaries, become abusive and offensive, but sadly that is human nature. We are all Villans, we are all suffering, we all feel helpless, the last thing we want or need is for Vital Villans to turn on their fellow members and create even more angst and misery.
As you say though, as relegation day draws ever closer, tempers are going to become even more frayed, and the weaker amongst us are going to turn to personal insults to release their pent-up emotions. I hope that is not the case. We can hopefully all get through these dark times together and be much stronger and prepared for the 2016-17 Championship campaign ahead of us.’
I’ve gone down to see Villa in some really bad states of health. For me, it was always the only thing I wouldn’t compromise on; when I got flare ups I’d have to miss out on a lot, but not Villa: I’d force myself down there. At one stage in 2011 I was so bad my friend, Reverend Pete, contacted the CEO (who he knew I was friends with but that I’d never ask), and mentioned I wasn’t going to be well enough to get to Villa and sit in my seat.
Paul Faulkner straight away got in touch with me and said there were several corporate boxes empty in the North Stand – I’d be welcome to use one if it made things easier. It certainly did. It would have been impossible if not for that facility at the time. Rev accompanied me to one, my Dad to another (I wasn’t driving at the time) and then my South African friend, Reza Bodiat, flew over to see me and came in with me.
We went into the box and Reza decided it was time for a smoke and went outside. When he came back, I was lying on the floor. I thought I’d warned him that at times, I’ll lay flat to bring down the brain ache pressure, but evidently not. He thought I’d collapsed and went into a panic! He’s of Turkish descent and has a deep complexion, but I swear he ended up whiter than I was. I couldn’t help but laugh and say, ‘Don’t worry my friend, I’m still alive.’ I did get an odd look from the waitress as well – I just told her that the football was sending me to sleep.
Forum thread: Click Here….
(I’m making a tentative return to writing, something I’ve done for 20 years now, following yet more brain ache issues and my 14th operation. I was close to hanging up the keyboard, but I’ll see how it goes. Hopefully this article is error free! Right now, the lights are on but no one is home so to speak!)
The Villa part begins in Chapter 16, following numerous operations, a near loss of life, a total conspiracy to cover up the fact I had never been put on the hospital waiting list and all sorts of other fascinating occurrences. This is the part of the life story where I find myself devoid of things to do, devoid of health, and wondering what was next so……….