After what can only be described as a footballing disaster at Wigan on Saturday, I was pretty pessimistic about Tuesday night’s away trip to Villa Park. However, I’m lacking midlands games to go to this season, so I felt obliged to make the short trip down the M6 after university.
Getting to Villa Park is reasonably easy by both train and car. Witton and Aston station are both served by trains from Birmingham New Street and Birmingham Moor Street, and are both within a 10 minute walk of the ground. There are also plenty of schools and businesses within close proximity of the ground and the M6 which open their car parks for anywhere between £5-£8. If you have plenty of time to waste before a game, there is an entertainment complex called StarCity within a half an hour walk. It’s not in the nicest of areas, but there are plenty of things to do there, including a number of restaurants, crazy golf, a cinema, a casino and, my personal favourite, laser tag (!).
Walking up to the ground, you are immediately struck by the size of the Holte End, with its famous stairs, pretty stain-glass windows and impressive architecture. It looked even more imposing in the dark.
Everyone from the car park attendants to the stewards were all very friendly. I’m often greeted with strange looks when people hear my reasonably local accent, but this didn’t happen yesterday, and everyone I spoke to was very helpful, and, like Wigan, I was told on numerous occasions to enjoy the game. It’s just little gestures like that which can make a game a tiny bit more enjoyable.
Villa Park is one of only a handful of grounds in the Premier League where the away fans are situated on the side (which I personally prefer) rather than behind the goal; which is something that was brought in during the Martin O’Neill years. The concourse was quite tight, but not uncomfortable. Because of our lack of away following, the seating was unreserved, and because people spread out quite a lot, the atmosphere was well and truly killed. It was surprising to see the home support so sparse as well. With a ground as big as Villa Park, a total attendance of less than 29000 was pretty poor.
There were plenty of places to purchase food from outside the ground and inside the concourse. Inside the ground were a number of hatches, with servers stood behind huge old fashioned grids, however, there was a good choice of hot food available (even with halal meat) including pies and burgers priced at £3.10, chicken and chips priced at £3.50, and a tray of chips and curry sauce at £2.50. Even though I didn’t eat yesterday, previous trips to Villa Park have seen me experience the best curry sauce I’ve had! Not that it affected me, but alcohol was not served in the concourses in the away end, which didn’t go down too well with some fans!
I’m not an angry person in the slightest, but Tuesday night really made me flip my lid. I was grateful I didn’t have a long journey home for a change! We always knew it was going to be tough, I wasn’t expecting miracles, but I don’t think I was wrong to be expecting a little bit more than what us as fans are being given at the moment. When you travel as far as I do most weeks, you always end up questioning yourself as to why you put yourself through it, but I’m holding onto the fact that I believe this will all be worthwhile (eventually). That was my last away game of 2012 because of work commitments in December, but I’m hoping by the time I write my next blog for Spurs on New Years’ Day things are looking a lot brighter than they are right now.
Twitter - @Becka_Ellen