Breaking the first rule of Blog writing I am going to ignore the lack of transfer activity and onerous management links surrounding Villa Park at present and delve into a subject more important than individual players, managers and foreign ownership, that of the pre match ritual.
I will tell you what mine used to be pre-fatherhood, it consisted of meeting my best mate at his house, at about 11:30, I usually knocked on the door to the sound of him and his long time girlfriend, now loving wife (I think I have those descriptions the right way round), loudly discussing why we had to leave so early, women eh!
We would then stroll up to the off license in Northfield (before Sainsburys was built), then jump on one of the 61/62/63 into the City Centre, there we would shun the bars of Broad street and Corporation street for a quick pint in the Trocadero on Temple street or skip straight to the wistfully reminisced No 7 into Aston to visit the Vine public house, I realise this is all very subjective and many readers (please be many) may have no idea what I am talking about, bear with me.
Then after those few drinks and discussing whether Atkinson and Saunders were the best partnership we had ever had we moved onto the last leg of the journey strolling past many chip shops frequented by the upper classes of football followers, my best mate and I would head steadfast too a burger van and order the greasiest burger we could scrape together to buy, always keeping back enough cash for a pint at half time, however fizzy and the essential rolled up match programme.
Those days have long since gone and though looked upon fondly my new match ritual is one I hope will long continue
Now married and with a young son who asks me so many questions about football, who he should like apart from Villa? He has narrowed this down to England and Chesterfield, his home town club. Who he should always shun? Birmingham City, Man Utd, Liverpool etc.
I digress, my or should I say our new ritual consists of saying goodbye to the women at about 11:30 (or basically 3 and half hours before kick off), we then journey down from Chesterfield to sunny Aston. We sing about Paul McGrath, usually followed by why are we calling him Lord? We talk about today’s game, who we should watch out for and if Emile Heskey and Carew are the best strike force Villa have ever had (I`m kidding of course), then we move on to who his favourite player is, at the moment it`s Ashley Young again, then we arrive in Aston.
We park about 10 minutes from the ground walk through the pretty rat decorated streets of beautiful Aston and on to the club shop. Ah, the club shop where I haggle with my son on the amount of money we will be spending, I start at a cup (about £5), my son starts with a full training kit (about £70), we usually meet at about a scarf (£10).
Then we move on the important business, back out of the ground we venture past the North stand entrance and across the street carefully negotiating the badge and T-shirt stall, and on to the Villa chippy! We consume Villa specials (sausage, chips and curry sauce) sat on the wall, nodding appreciating at our fellow Villa fans, my son is always amazed at all the Villa shirts wandering buy, (we don`t get that many Villa fans this way), then chips finished back we go into the ground and on to our seats, completely different to the old ritual but both special in their inimitable ways.
I`m sure everyone has their routine, lucky pants (done that), special clothing, same shops,food, whatever it is, it seems to be one of the last things to cling on to in this ever changing footballing era.
Long live the chippy, hot dog stand, No 7 bus, sadly the vine is no longer (I think), and the collecting of glossy match programmes, we all mill in and out of the ground rubbing shoulders, shaking heads, stuffing grease filled fast food and glugging back pints, long may it continue.