Date: 15th November 2008 at 3:12pm
Written by:

The Loneliness of the Long-distance Supporter

The clock was set for 5am. I woke at 4.20am. My better half was in Denmark visiting our daughter and the Little Vikings so I didn’t need to be quiet as I fell out of the pit.

I was just a bit excited – I was going to see the Villa play later today!

I left a little after 5am to drive to Dublin Airport. Or rather the long-term car park, situated in an adjoining county. Welcome to Dublin Airport. A vision of hell worthy of a Bosch painting, jammed packed with weeping masses on their way to torment (ie a Ryanair flight).

Wearing suitable footwear, I set off for the dreaded Pier B. Travelling with Ruinair is not luxurious but they tend to be on time. And so it was that we arrived at East Midlands 15 minutes early. EMA? Why not BHX? Well, the only available flight to Brum had left 90 minutes earlier. Also, it would have cost ?40 whereas EMA was only a tenner.

Ah, the joys of Derby as I waited for my National Express coach. Ah, the early afternoon delights of Oxford Street as I was disgorged from said NE coach.

So I was now in town early and my son would be arriving from London soon. Then my mobile phone buzzed. And guess what? He had missed the bus and was now on the next one, due to arrive at 2pm. In a way, this was par for the course. He never builds too much redundancy into his travel arrangements. Frustrating – but not too bad. I went to get sandwiches and our train tickets.

Birmingham City Centre 2008!

Oh, my, what a change – and not for the better! Where is Bridge House (where I used to work) towering as it did over the Bull Ring? Gone!

Still, I liked that St Martin’s seems to have been moved to where it can be seen to best advantage.

Sambos and tickets procured, I wandered back optimistic that the coach would arrive in time for us to get the 2.20pm train. But another phone call reported that the coach had stopped off for a break at Watford Gap.


When the long-delayed son arrived, it was 2.25pm which meant getting a taxi. The driver wasn’t very clear as to where he was going but we eventually got to within 400 yards of Villa Village. Sadly, there was no time to shop for the babygro for our newest grandson but we did take time to walk round to witness the desecration visited upon the Trinity Road stand by he whose name, like yer man in ‘Harry Potter’,
cannot be mentioned.

We were just sitting down when the teams made their entrance and Niall remarked on the great buzz. I felt, as I had when at the Odense game a few weeks previously, that the loyal and enthusiastic Villa supporters deserve success in bucketfuls.

And then there was the game.

It was the one against Sunderland which we ended up winning reasonably comfortably. We scored two smashing goals and as we had good seats at the right end, we had a grand view. I wondered at the dichotomy that is Nigel Reo-Coker, a man who within a heart-beat could change from being a king to a clown.

And I took time to think of my late Dad who took me on my first visit to Villa Park 45 years ago and of the many times I’d been back in the 1960s in particular.

We ate dinner in New Street and admired Victoria Square. Then it was time for Niall to try not to miss his coach back to London and after I saw him off, it was out to Elmdom for me.

Some banter at security – one of the guys was a Baggy, the other a Villan – and then into WH Smiths a buy some refreshing Vimto. The flight was a little late and I ended up sitting in the front row between a Wolves supporter and a Man U adherent. Even more banter and craic helped us while away the time back to Dublin.

Now I was just a bit tired and it was a weary man who trudged the long miles from Pier B and across to the bus back to the car park for the half-hour drive back home.

It was gone midnight when I let myself into the empty homestead. All being well, I hope to do it again next month when Bolton – the team Villa defeated 3-0 on that day with my Dad back in 1963 -come to town.