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.
A few months after the kit launch I got a call from my contact at Under Armor, Niall Bruton, asking if I would show himself, one of the UA head honchos from America and a well-known photographer around Villa Park. What they wanted was a flavour of Villa Park from a fan’s point of view, as opposed to anything too corporate. Of course, I was only too happy to do it. I have to say, as I was driving to Villa Park, I did start to wonder what I had to tell them and feared it would be a very short tour. How stupid of me.
After the introductions, I asked exactly what they wanted and they said, ‘A tour of ‘your’ Villa.’ Easy. It all flowed. It also reminded me why I love Villa. It is certainly not for the poor performances on the pitch over the last goodness knows how many years, it’s just the everything. The belonging, other fans, our history, the whole tribal vibe. I could go on and on.
As I walked around showing them the ground, all my stories and memories came flooding back. It was so fabulous talking to them about all this and showing people with fresh eyes this amazing and historic ground.
I walked them away from Villa Park, down to the flyover where the M6 connects. With our backs to the stadium, I said this was the industrial area, grey and desolate, much of it now closed. I think they wondered why I was talking about this, but I added:
‘Now turn around gents.’
They did, and they ‘got’ it. The full impact of AVFC. You have Aston Manor Park. You have the Aston Parish Church. You then walk towards Villa Park and see the famous old (and not long restored) Holte Pub. Then, and only then, there is the full glory of the ground.
I was buzzing. I went home with a lovely reminder of everything Aston Villa and Villa Park meant to me.
The funniest bit though, standing outside the Holte End a little lad came up to us on his push scooter and asked:
‘Are you buying Aston Villa?’
‘No mate, I wish I was,’ I replied. ‘When you grow up, will you buy them?’ I enquired.
‘Nah mate, they’re shit!’ he retorted and off he scootered.
So there you have it, not everyone shares the love.
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……….
Chapter 18 Part 2: A Moment, At Villa Park, That Brought Me To Tears
Chapter 23 Part 1: A Most Unusual Aston Villa Kit Model