Date: 10th February 2008 at 7:37pm
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Q: Who was the last Villa player to score a Hat-trick at Villa Park?

This was the question posed on the video screen behind me as I took my seat 176 in row 4 Lower Holte an hour before kick-off. Myself and my mate Rob had travelled over from Dublin on a 6AM flight and the effects of the 3 coffees I had, to counter the lack of sleep, were starting to wear off.

‘I know Moore scored a hat-trick but that was away’, I said. ‘It was Angel against Wolves or Coventry’, said Rob. ‘I think it was someone before Angel’, I replied. Then it came up. Savo Milosevic in 1995. ‘Oh well. Someone will match that today’, I joked…

I was buzzing. My first time at Villa Park, having started supporting Villa in 1990 as a 14 year-old in New Zealand. Moving over to Ireland meant I got to see some matches on the TV but I hadn’t made the trip across the sea until now. I was finally in the hallowed ground and I was in awe. The sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky. A perfect day for football. The pitch looked amazing, and I couldn’t believe how close to it we were.

The match kicked off. Was surprised how quiet it was at first but then the Upper Holte kicked in. Petrov missed a sitter at the other end and before you could draw your breath we were a goal behind. The Geordies were going mental and I was temporarily blinded by the light bouncing of many of their naked torsos.

The rest of the first half was a write off. We competed but the Ref was against us giving 4-5(mostly absurd) freekicks in a row in the Toons favour. How Ashley didn’t get a Peno was beyond me. I didn’t see the first handball claim from where I was sitting. Petrov seemed to be in another world running past the ball under no pressure to audible groans. Ashley was getting triple-teamed at one stage. It was not the riposte to the Fulham downer we had hoped, expected.

Half time came and I was enjoying the experience if not the result. ‘They’re only saving the goals for the Holte End’,I said to Rob. ‘They’ve(Newcastle) a rubbish defence. 3-1 to the Villa, I reckon.’

Well you know the rest. Maloney, for me was instrumental in kick-starting the revival. Swapping Young to the right and Maloney on the left bamboozled the Newcastle defence. When I saw the equaliser, it was almost in slow-mo, the shot heading towards goal, Given reacting correctly, the deflection, the beautiful moment when it went a foot behind Given’s outstretched arm goal-bound with no one to stop it. Instant Euphoria! And even greater when I saw the number 3 emerge from the scrum of players celebrating. Go on Freddie, you legend.

After that who wasn’t having a stormer. Carew stole the show. Marlon was running like a man possessed. I have managed to watch on TV 17 Villa games in Dublin this season. But here I was with players no more than 10 feet away from me. After the second goal Marlon chased a ball that he had no right to win and forced a corner. As he jogged to the box, I yelled ‘Marlon… MARLON,’ He looked over, ‘You’re awesome mate, havin a great game!’ To which he put his hand to his ear and a chorus of ‘MARLON, MARLON’ broke out. It was great too, giving Carew his standing ovation as he came straight over to us after the final whistle.

I cracked up when the Holte-enders started singing ‘One nil and you f***ed it up’ at the Toons. To the Geordie’s credit, they made a good turn out, made themselves heard at the start and were applauding us after the final whistle. The whole day was a great advertisement for football.

Q: Who was the last Villa player to score a Hat-trick at Villa Park?

I hope it’s not another 13 years before Carew’s feat is emulated again, but next time it is, I can say I was there for the last time, and what a great day it was!