Date: 31st July 2013 at 4:59pm
Written by:

I’ve sat on this for a few days until I calmed down after throwing the proverbial dummy when reading Justin Edinburgh’s response following the recent Newport friendly and the subsequent coverage in our Leveson friendly press.

It should’ve gone up yesterday, but I’ve spent two days playing with three bulk bags of gravel and proof reading wasn’t high on my agenda. So apologies for the late comment but I’m a bit more sensible these days when it comes to publish and be damned.

We also don’t encourage expletives on the front end of the site, and I’m supposed to set an example (those who know me will agree I definitely do, but not necessarily the one I’m supposed to normally!)


It’s kind of a Newport for Villa given the unsubstantiated criticisms thrown their way following our game with a Welsh team who rejoined League Football for the first time in, I believe 25 years.

Adult ticket prices of £15-£17 quid. Yes £15-£17 quid were in effect for their friendly against us and apparently we went back on our word.

We’ve played Wycombe (£10), Luton (£10), and Crewe (£8) so far in our domestic first team pre season campaign.

Note I say first team pre season campaign.

Only Newport advertised that Villa had apparently promised to send a ‘strong’ squad.

Our upcoming friendly against Walsall (£12). The game away to Shamrock Rovers (£12,85).

EVEN the showcase friendly of the summer at Villa Park against Spanish side Malaga has a high price of £15.

All adult tickets for comparison.

Anyway, I might be getting off track, so back to the point.

As soon as the friendly had finished, Newport manager and ex Spurs left back Justin Edinburgh told any press who were listening:

‘We’re obviously disappointed not to see some of the first team players that were mentioned in the first place, when the fixture was announced. They’ve gone against what they said. When it first went out on their website it was advertised as a first team fixture. They’ve sold over 400 tickets so they obviously don’t think they’re coming to watch a youth team. We as a club did everything right.’

I’ll deal with everything that is wrong in that statement below.

One of the first, unsurprisingly, to run with the story was the Daily Mail with their ridiculous headline – Illegal Villa Immigrants Cause The Sinking Of The Titanic…sorry, definitely getting off track now.

‘Who? Fans fork out £17 to see unknown Villa reserve side despite top flight club ‘confirming’ they would play stars’

Well to byline writers at the Daily Mail the side who played might be unknown, but to those of us who follow the club and you’d assume the article was aimed at, unknown…erm a few NextGen Champions of Europe? Others well known for their potential first team developing following their exploits in the now U21 league, formerly the reserves…not quite so unknown really.

There are a couple of unknowns who are new this year I grant you. Gordon Cowan’s son. Jerell Sellars who some of us started paying attention to at the Soccer Sevens? T. Strain who may be unfortunately named (in jest only he’s making an impression!). But really somebody charged with covering an element of this match hasn’t heard of Bradley Watkins, Liam Bateman, Josh Webb, Lewis Kinsella, Daniel Johnson and Jack Grealish?

Time to pay more attention if it’s your day job…you’re forgiven if it’s not.

Maybe they even had heard of some of them, but it wouldn’t have suited the anti Villa bile would it. The article didn’t even confirm or provide any evidence of this ‘guarantee’ or ‘confirmation’ we gave about a strong squad, which I agree would’ve been awfully difficult considering no such comment was ever made by the club.

Contrary to their report and Edinburgh’s unfortunate choice of words, it did not appear that Newport was a first team friendly, it always appeared under the U21 schedule for the summer.

They say it was listed amongst the prices as other first team friendlies…it was, but it was never called a first team friendly. The Newport game was a late arrangement and therefore a late announcement, everybody already knew the U21 schedule as they did the first team schedule. It would’ve been stranger for the official site to advertise the Newport game, it’s prices and criteria on it’s own to be honest as every club groups those ticket announcements together.

Anyway, again I know this how, I believe I first listed Newport as an U21 fixture HERE back on July 3rd after, rather cleverly I thought, listing all of the U21 fixtures for fans to follow. We’re nice like that on Vital Villa.

I didn’t invent it, it was our schedule and apparently the £17 quid charging Newport happened to miss that early announcement and completely forgot about it when claiming we would be sending members of the first team and a strong squad – which did actually change in their second announcement, but more about that later.

Easily done I suppose.

Again facts – who needs them.

Anyway back to Newport and the announcement we apparently made – that actually came from them. When covering the friendly announcement I said.

I quote:

‘Newport have said that Villa have confirmed they will be sending a strong squad for the fixture, but you would expect it to involve a number of our youngsters who will be looking to impress and gain some first team chances this season.’

Note the words for repetition, Newport said…not Villa.

Again, I know this how and I know it came back on May 31, well for one, Villa didn’t announce the Newport friendly themselves on the official site, I picked it up from the Newport County official site who were the only party to mention it, until Villa produced the U21 schedule I linked above.

Now I know Villa are Villa good, but making public announcements that don’t actually appear in public is one trick I’d like to learn.

Newport even repeated a more watered down version of the claim just ahead of the game despite anybody with half a brain wondering why we’d send a first team squad to them, in their first game back in the Football League in 25 years, when we played Crewe only 48 hours before, following three games in six days?

‘Further to conerns raised by Exiles fans directly to the club about the kind of side that Aston Villa would be fielding in the friendly at Rodney Parade on Sunday, we have contacted Villa for clarification. Whilst you can never be certain in pre season due to changes of plans, schedules, fitness and the progress of players, what sort of side any team will field, Villa have confirmed that the squad they bring will contain a presence of Premiership experience.’

‘A presence of Premiership experience…’ Not quite the ‘strong squad’ claim from earlier is it. But again this change in tone has been missed by the press, as has the fact the only utterance of Newport was in the U21 schedule.

Am I the only one wondering why Newport fans, assured presumably it was a first team friendly by their own club, and described as an U21 fixture by Villa, would contact the club ahead of the game with concerns?

Did they feel mislead? By who? The club claiming a strong squad of Premiership experience would be on show, that soon became a presence of experience, or the club claiming it was a development side from their first announcement and not charging £17 for it?

Were they upset about their club seemingly taking advantage and charging the highest prices charged in our pre season campaign…well I would be. Why would it be Villa that insisted on £17 – which seems to be an unfair unwritten assertion by most of the media that have covered it, when we are perfectly happy to have agreed the other game prices this pre season which are considerably lower?

The club in the press have taken a lot of unfair, unjustified and totally unwarrented stick for this so far, mainly by those who bandwagan jump and believe you can’t have smoke without fire.

Villa have responded, but you won’t see this amongst the press, either because setting the record straight doesn’t sell enough papers or because facts don’t attract enough hits, again we come back to sales effectively don’t we!

‘Thank you for your e-mail with regard to our match at Newport County yesterday.

‘Yours is not the only complaint we have received on this subject and we are genuinely confused as to where the statement came from that we would be sending a team which included players with Premier League experience.

‘The match was arranged through ours and Newport County`s kit sponsors, Macron, and although the initial contact was requesting a first team friendly, we declined that invitation as our first team`s pre-season programme had already been completed. They therefore asked if we could send an U21 team and we said we could.

‘At no point during discussions/arrangements with Newport County was it ever alluded to that there would be first team players in the squad. On 3rd July there was an article about the development squad`s pre-season schedule which included the Newport game. Again at no point did we make out this was a first team match.

‘I am sorry that you were disappointed on this occasion but I hope you will see from the above that Aston Villa certainly didn`t mislead its fans at any point.’

I imagine this will be last time we do Newport a favour, which is a shame as Edinburgh to his credit was also very complimentary about the youngsters we had on show and the test that they gave his players despite the scoreline. And I’d like to imagine some media outlets would like to remember ethics and the fact they exist to report real news, and not sensationalised nonsense just to grab attention.

I won’t be holding my breath when it comes to the latter.

Before I go, apparently now Martians are to blame for global warming and the ever growing cost of the NHS.

You heard it here first!

Damn, that should’ve been in the title shouldn’t it. I really should work out how this works.

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