Date: 14th December 2009 at 1:19pm
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Why Villa beat United: the facts by 144wittonlane

Considering Vital Villa is a site for football fans, not football managers, I’m surprised that we haven’t been quicker to understand the real reasons for the club’s recent success and in particular the win at Old Trafford. It’s all down to attitude, planning, getting people in the right position and details.


We all know how important attitude is. For example, I know from bitter experience how I can bring on defeat by suggesting to certain friends that the Villa will win, or worse still, by placing a bet. Early on last week a friend phoned me up for a brief chat about the United game and I was quick to point out that I wasn’t going to predict a result. And, crucially, I was certainly not going to talk about the implications of the result, which I wasn’t going to talk about, on our league position. I also prevented him from talking about either: his loose talk has cost us point in the past! Attitude: always pay attention, it’s easy to say the wrong thing, think the wrong thought. The gods of football are always watching and listening.


This covers a multitude of important areas, most notably getting the match-day kit ready. Match (I don’t use the word ‘lu*ky’) underwear, socks and, in my case (if watching or listening at home) a moth eaten bobble hat circa 1969 with a single surviving plastic star badge (you remember the ‘claret and blue’, i.e. sludge-coloured ones with a player photo in the middle) with no photo. Different kit if I am going to the match, not forgetting home and away kit is completely different – obvious, but some people just don’t get it and wear the same, say, coat to both! Planning also includes refreshments, of course. No, I don’t mean a beer and a pie, I mean where you by the beer from and what brand, etc, It’s also crucial to make sure that you have the right money if going to the match. The right money, of course, being the 1951 match thruppence, and the old £5 note in the left back pocket (so old it can’t be spent now since it’s no longer legal tender), but it was responsible for us winning the league cup after two replays in 1977 (it travelled with me to Wembley, Hillsborough and Old Trafford to ensure victory). Then for instance, if at home, it’s making sure you’ve been for a pee before the game starts as any fool knows that the opposition will score the minute you leave the room. My wife now understands this and will not call me out of the watching/listening room during play. Of course, although rare, the Villa might score when I’m out of the room, in which case I have to spend the rest of the game out of the room, so that they’ll score again.

Getting people in the right position

There’s a lot of rubbish talked about football players and position. Where fans are concerned this can seem complicated, but the principle is clear. You know by now what position suits you and the team best. For me it must be middle top of the lower Holte – not always possible as a non-season ticket holder. If not, then middle tier of the Trinity towards the North stand. At home it’s right hand end of the three seat sofa. (Only leave the sofa to celebrate a goal.) Don’t answer the door (remember the going out of the room rule) or the phone (who would phone during a match anyway??) If friends are round, they can only sit on the other sofa (same room-leaving rules apply: if out of the room when the Villa score, they stay out). Playing someone out of position inevitably leads to trouble.


Detail affects all aspects of attitude, planning and position. Pies are a good example. It’s not only where you buy the pie, but just as important where you first bite into the pie and whether you eat round the crust from left to right (away games) or right to left (home). There’s also the fraught details of finger crossing (one finger on each hand, but do you keep them crossed until the Villa score, or until they go one up?) And don’t even start me on wood-touching if watching or listening at home. I have too many memories of wood-touching going badly wrong: it often leads to a goal for the opposition when we are cruising along, bossing it at 0-0, for instance. Touch the coffee table in a moment of excitement and bam! One nil-down in a blink. Details, see?

Playing together as a team

It’s easy for a team to get arrogant and complacent (or if on a losing streak to think this stuff doesn’t matter), and obviously the United fans thought the result was a foregone conclusion and thought that the socks and pie-crust-eating-direction details didn’t matter. They got just enough of it wrong on Saturday. Villa fans, on the other hand got it right from the underpants up and it showed. Picking people up in the right order to travel to the match, listening on the correct radio when at home, making no predictions before or during the game – all good teamwork. We played a blinder!!

The future

It won’t have escaped any Villa fans notice that not only have we not beaten United since 1995 (and United’s run since then can largely be blamed on Alan Hansen’s ‘you’ll never win anything with kids’ remark: need I say more?), but we have not won the FA Cup since 1957. I watched the game in 57 on our next-door neighbour’s telly (the only one in the street) the day after I got home from the QE having had my tonsils out. I’m afraid I let the whole Villa community down in May 2000 when I failed to time my vasectomy correctly. But, if we get to another FA cup final I’ll be looking for some minor surgery to have the week before the game …

We can all do our bit. Come on you Villa … fans!

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