The re-arranged visit to Villa Park crept up on us a bit. A list of Aston Villa supporters’ club contacts proved suspect until, finally, we found Gordon Nicoll*, who runs the Studley and Redditch branch. Gordon worshipped Dwight Yorke, is undecided about Stewart Downing, thinks Birmingham City have been lucky and fancies Villa to end our little run and beat us for the third time this season …
Salut! Sunderland You’re having the sort of season we’d love: one final already, another maybe to come and still pressing for top four. I bet you’ll tell me you’re not satisfied!
Absolutely correct. As football supporters we never could be and us Villa supporters are seldom satisfied! If we won 8-0, we’d complain it should have been 10 and trust me I know a number like that! In fairness terrific season overall- disappointingly went out of the Europa cup at the preliminary stage but otherwise a tremendous cup season for us.
Hand on heart, where will you end up this season and how does that compare with your expectations in August?
Don’t see much movement from where we are now. We haven’t got as much up top as Tottenham and Man City and I think that’s where we’ll miss out. Think we can edge Liverpool in to seventh so sixth would be my realistic expectation.
Birmingham or Small Heath been a bit cocky of late. Is that good for the City, a mere blip or something that makes you feel a little sick? How would you characterise the Vilas/Bluenose rivalry compared with Sunderland/Newcastle for example?
Small Heath Alliance have had a good solid season- but I think they’ve been a little lucky to be where they are. Barely scored a goal a game so have won a lot by 1-0 scorelines and I’ve watched them get away with thumpings against Man U and Chelsea on the box, scraping draws where they should have been hammered. Don’t think they’ll be so lucky next year- ageing squad, large losses this year and I don’t think Carson Yeung has the financial clout so they’ll struggle next year. Rivalry is naturally very intense- they have very little time for us and we happily reciprocate. Problem is rival sets come from different areas of the City so no natural synergy. In fairness in the outlying areas such as where we live in Warwickshire/ Worcestershire where there’s a mix of both you surprisingly do encounter one or two half decent blue noses who we refer to as pale faces ‘cos they’re always in our shadow!
Any thoughts on the players and staff who have served each of our clubs? Dwight Yorke, Stewart Downing (on loan to us in a promotion season) and, historically, Trevor Ford come to mind …
Dwight Yorke was idolised by Villa fans and was one of my personal favourite players of all times, tremendous talent, totally gifted and a tremendous signing for Graham Taylor on a pre-season Caribbean tour. Superb goals and a tremendous love of the game. Blotted his copy book when he joined the Mancs and many Villa fans failed/struggled to forgive him which is a huge pity. The Jury’s still out on Downing. Destroyed us twice last year when playing for Boro’ and although he made a bright start has been very poor in recent weeks- probably needs to be rested!
Can you see Villa becoming a brand like Chelsea or Man Utd, or will it always be a proper club with proper fan?
I very much doubt we will become branded like Chelski and the Mancs and it’s not something I’d particularly relish- I’d much rather see us stay as the type of club I’ve thoroughly enjoyed following for 40+ years.
Martin O’Neill. We really wanted him, he reputedly supported us as a boy, he seems a good manager to most neutrals. Why are some Villa fans unconvinced?
You think we would be given his record however watching his team week in and week out certainly has its frustrations. He definitely seems to have his favourites and doesn’t rotate the side enough for me. Struggles also to change things sufficiently or effectively enough. Also when trying to bring Milner in to the side appeared quite weak altering 2-3 players all over the park to get him on. None of us really know why he persists with Cuellar at right back- had two specialist right backs on the bench against Wolves and Cuellar had a stinker- never changed it. Hope he doesn’t play in the semi – Chelsea will exploit him big style!
Greatest players you’ve ever seen – or wish you’d been born in time to see – in Villa colours?
Yorkey has to be up there but over time Paul McGrath was the ultimate player although have so many favourites personally like Brian Little, Andy Gray, Gordon Cowans the list could go on…!
And the peaks and troughs of your Villa-suppporting experience?
Not too many troughs- really started supporting them during the second and third division years during the late 60s early 70s so it’s all really been good from there for the most part- seen us win everything apart from the FA Cup – the European Cup being the pinnacle. Had one or two relegations but thankfully have bounced quickly back up!
Are you a modernist or a traditionaliist in football? Could you stomach selling off the name of the stadium to produce the NEC Villa Park, or even just GKN Park?
More of a traditionalist to be honest although what’s in a name- wouldn’t want it but if the club chose to do it I wouldn’t lose endless nights of sleep about it!
Name one thing Villa or the FA should do to make the lot of the fans a bit better.
We have quite a number of matchday offers for the less regular supporter and I would like to see that being offset against next year’s season ticket price to reward the season ticket holders who renew.
What will be this season’s top four, in order, and the bottom three, and where will Villa and Sunderland end up if not already mentioned.
I think you’ll finish 12th to be honest. Don’t think you’ll catch the likes of Fulham.
The World Cup: bothered a lot, or only a little, about England’s chances?
I’m one of these club before country types I’m afraid. I like the big nights in the pub watching the internationals but that’s mainly for the beer!
The Eduardo question: last second of the last game of the season and you’re champions/cup-winners if you win. But it’s 1-1. Young, Carew, Heskey, whoever .. goes down with theatrical aplomb in the box. Even Villa fans are sniggering. But the ref gives the penalty and you win. Take it gladly, take it guiltily or feel so ashamed you almosy wish you hadn’t won?
Good question- given the decision not to send Vidic off in the League Cup final I’d take it – look at it from the point of view that it’s things evening themselves out over the season and we’re due one. If the French can get through like that with the Henry situation then I’ll take it as well!
Will you be at the match, and what will be the score?
The re-arranged game at Villa Park crept up on us, and a list of Aston Villa supporters’ association contacts around the UK and beyond proved suspect. Finally, we found Gordon Nico
Yeah I’ll be at the game and I think we’ll just edge it. I think it will be 2-1 as I fancy you for a goal. Carew’s banging them in for fun just now- if only he’d work harder!
* Gordon Nicoll (in the white shorts) on Gordon Nicoll: I run the Studley & Redditch Lions and work as a branch manager within the recruitment sector. I’ve followed Villa for 40 years and have seen us win a succession of League Cups, the old first division and the ultimate in the European Cup. All the best to you for the rest of the season.
** Thanks to Chris Satchwell, whose Flickr pages provided the image.