By Tim Wykes – The Travelling Villan

New Season, New Owners, New Players, New Optimism, Same old travel problems!!

As the first home game of the season approached my excitement was building. A solid 3 points away at Hull, although certainly not a vintage performance was a great way to start. The ‘will he stay or go’ Grealish saga and the capture of a few players late in the transfer window only added to the tension as match day approached.

I live on Walney Island, on the very West Coast of the Lake District, the excitement of match day is always tempered with the dread of having no idea how long the journey will take, for anyone who uses it regularly, the M6 is an absolute joke right now.

Twice last season, I left home as usual at 09:30 for a Saturday 15:00 KO and turned around at 14:00 still being at least 90 mins away. Totally soul destroying…Not for this game though, I took the Friday off work and headed down a day early. Friday traffic and bad luck meant the journey too over 6 ½ hours, but, no stress, I had plenty of time in reserve.

Saturday morning, up nice and early and arrived at Powerleague to get parked around 12:00 and have time for a wander down to the new shop and get the obligatory Balti Pie.

£7.50!!!! Yes, that’s right… £7.50 to park, I had forgotten it went up last season, I’m so used to it always being a fiver. As I pulled into the car park, I saw that the exit down to Spaghetti junction was coned off down to one lane, its Wacky races getting out normally, so having only one lane open when trying to start the long journey home didn’t fill me with joy.

The sun was out, and the walk up to the ground was uneventful, I did the usual wander around the ground and then headed for ‘The Holte Pub’ to get a drink.

This season, the pub is reserved for Lions Club members only again; personally, I don’t get it, why would you want to segregate fans?

To be honest, the pub is such an infuriating experience, every time I go in there, they have lots of staff, none of which have any idea how to work a bar, on top of that, a huge building, big rooms, one small bar with seats for about 30 people. That place could make so much profit if only it was run well.

With an hour before KO, the place was so rammed, 5 deep at the bar, I gave up my stool to an elderly lady and headed out to sit in the sun on the Holte End steps. I love just sitting there, soaking up the vibe, eavesdropping on the conversations and gauging the mood and expectation. There was a positive buzz, helped by the weather, but also just first game excitement. I sat there wondering if my season card would work and actually let me in, or if there was going to be an issue, I had received no correspondence from the club with regards to my season ticket whatsoever.

Aston Villa has always been terrible at doing the simple things.

I headed into the ground, a quick pat down by security and was then surprised that my season card flashed the LED green, the turnstile clicked and in I went. The Holte concourse was busy, big queues for food and drinks as usual, again, seems like every member of staff are making their debuts. Bruce would be sacked if he played a completely new team and they didn’t perform.
Off up my seat, stopping for a chat with the Steward who I have known for years, but can never remember his name, he is smiling and feeling good for the season ahead. As I get to my seat, I see the usual people who sit around me, we greet each other warmly with smiles and vigorous handshakes and begin the usual pre match analysis that I imagine everyone goes through.
The game was billed as a sell-out (Not counting the Upper Trinity), but there were quite a few empty seats in the Trinity and Doug Ellis stands, great atmosphere though, and a real buzz around the Holte as the players all received their individual cheers, Grealish was singled out for a special cheer and round of applause as expected.

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