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A ‘Back-to-the-Future’ look at the ‘Matchday Villa’


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Drew’sMilitia takes a Back-to-the-Future look at the Matchday experience mid-way through the 21st Century. Some things have changed, but ‘The Beautiful game’ is still ‘The Beautiful game’.

The Electric Shuttle bus took us in comfort from Oxfordshire via the Terminal hub at Solihull before the Fast Express Line seamlessly whisked us into BCC – as Birmingham City Centre is now known, before the final drop-off at Villa Park. Thirty minutes door-to-door without fail. The Claret and Blue station smells of fresh paint, a sense of real pride echoed in the local community at Villa’s continued success.

The excitement of walking that last 500 metres to Villa Park, the trees in full leaf on this spring day, the noise, the atmosphere, the Villa retail units lining the route doing a roaring trade, the fans with their hats and scarves all displaying the beloved Claret and Blue. We’re over ‘point 75’ of the way through the season and Villa are top of the SKY League having snatched the lead on a superb New Years Day tussle with Preston North End Nokia and have held on to it ever since. A win today will see us go 15 points clear, with the possibility of back-to-back wins in successive seasons looking like a realistic possibility. My fellow Villans certainly think so going by the excited murmurs and shouts all around us.

The stadium capacity remains 62,000 with 5,000 of those standing places in the Upper Holte and Lower Lerner. Villa Park is packed to capacity every week and there are calls for an increase or even a potential move away from Villa Park. The consensus remains that Villa Park has plenty of life in it yet. I agree.

The team had gone from strength-to-strength over the last 40 years, picking up a massive World-wide fan base as well as significant numbers locally, now being the only football team in the Birmingham Metropolitan Area. The financial shocks from 2009/10 and the further problems of 2020 had seen all other teams in the BMA fold due to financial unsustainability. Birmingham City was the first to fold in 2011 after a series of scandals finally closed the doors on that troubled club, West Bromwich Albion following a year later and Walsall now only exists as a training academy for young footballers being traded with the SKY20.

North Stand redevelopment for the 2012 Olympics and the remaining corners filled in five years later to meet the demands of the growing fan base keeps Villa Park as one of the classic ‘Original’ Stadia and a model for retro-stadia being built elsewhere. The clean lines and minimal discreet advertising laser boards all harked back to a previous ‘Golden era’ in the late ‘Noughties’ and ‘Teenies’.

The standing areas in the Upper Holte and the Lower Lerner remain as popular as ever after the Smith report of 2025 saw limited standing areas reintroduced into SKY Stadia. Baroness Jacqui Smith, former Home Secretary and leader of the House of Lords had been a Villa fan and card holder for many years and was quick to realise the attraction of limited standing areas balanced against suitable safety controls.

Former Chairman Randy Lerner had insisted that he did not want the new North Stand development named after him. Fan pressure and a wave of good-natured protests made it inevitable that it would be called after the Chairman who has been repeatedly hailed as providing the model for British football club management since before the Smith report. The honorary knighthood in 2026 was greeted universally positively throughout the football world.

The passing of the stewardship of Aston Villa Football Club from Randy Lerner to his Grandson, who wasn’t even born when Lerner senior took over the club in 2006, saw fans jubilant that the club remained in good hands.

The SKY league as it’s been known since 2015 now commands massive audiences World-wide. The multi-Trillion Euro business growing year-on-year with Aston Villa receiving revenue from NetTV, sponsorship and successive Champions Cup Competitions means that Aston Villa retains its position as third richest club in the World after Telefonica Barcelona and AC Milan Semi-Conductors.

The match today is between Aston Villa and Liverpool City FC a team struggling at the foot of the SKY League. The result of an amalgamation between the illustrious Everton and troubled Liverpool had ensured the survival of the clubs but the resulting team had seen little success in the last 30 years. They have suffered the ignominy of the relegation and promotion cycle for the past dozen or so years, plus the repossession of their grounds and need to play home matches at neighbouring Accrington Stanley’s New Crown Ground. A lesson in poor stewardship of a football club if ever there was one.

Last week Villa had sealed an easy victory over Milton Keynes 2020, formed just thirty years ago and next week sees another potential five points when we visit Manchester FC’s ailing stadium to hopefully take our unbeaten record over the former Manchester Utd/City amalgamation to 19 years without loss. SKY are already talking of a real drubbing by Villa with both Villa strikers Dermot O’Neill (Great-grandson of the former Villa manager Sir Martin O’Neill) and Nikolai DelRado recently acquired from Moscow Saints for a record breaking 1 Billion Euros for a five year deal, in great form.

We pass the seven statues of McGregor, Withe, McGrath, Mellberg, Krulak, O'Neill and Barry with space for more 'future greats'. The entry system allows fast access into Villa Park via the security tunnels and our seats await us in the Trinity Acorns Stand. I’ve been sitting here for the last 50 years since coming with my father and now come with my lads Aston and McGregor.

The technicians are testing the sideline ‘bots which run the line and give 100% accuracy on all line calls and goal decisions. I’m still not a great fan of these things but I suppose progress is progress. As long as they don’t get rid of the pitch-side referee, the on-pitch ref having been superseded by technology maybe 20 years previously. ‘At least humans still have a say in the decisions’, is what they say on NetTV but I still think it takes something out of the game… I start to tell my son about a game at Hull back in 2008, I think it was, where the referee changed his mind, correctly, in favour of Villa – but sense that he’s not really listening. I’ve probably bored him with that story before…

The laser screens, high above us, behind each goal advertise and inform in equal measure and the cheer leaders go through their routine in the centre circle. ‘Some changes are for the better’, my son chuckles to himself.

The Witton Lane stand is filling up and the Holte End too, whilst around me people are taking their seats eager to enjoy the pre-match entertainment. The kids in front of us are enjoying the Video on Demand from the back of the seat in front of them. It looks like highlights of the classic Villa v Oxford game from earlier this season, whilst the other lad is playing some 3D video game I don’t recognise. I must be getting old. No, I am old.

The teams are read out. The Liverpool players’ faces look hard and tired on the screen. Is it just that the media unit has chosen the pictures to give that impression? The psychological aspects of the game are so big these days and I’m not sure I favour some of the antics all clubs get up to these days. At least with the half-and-half rule of 2025 the SKY teams have a minimum of 50% of players from within the European Federation and a maximum of 50% of players from the Rest of the World (ROW). Don’t get me wrong, the ROW players still add a lot to the game but the half-and-half rule or ‘fifty-fifty’ as it’s generally known has done wonders for the British and European game. Villa still retains the highest proportion of British players of any SKY20 team and continues to form the core of the British National team. Britain’s World Cup wins in 2042 and 2046 give testimony to that.

The Laser screens announce the teams are ready to come out and with a fanfare of noise and music the teams emerge from the tunnel and I’m taken right back to my younger days. Handshakes are exchanged between captains, deputy captains and referee as he departs for his control centre on the half-way line. The ‘bots are synchronised, the screens up and running and the Referee is ready. The SKY NetTV Director gives the final go-ahead, the tension mounts and we’re off…

The next 90 minutes with mandated break for physical exertion as required by EuroRegs 126A/31 are a blur. You can no doubt read the full match report elsewhere on VillaTalk if you missed the match, but the mighty Villa secured a valuable 5 points with a superb 4 - 0 victory over Liverpool City FC. Nobby Clark opened the scoring with a rocket of a shot from just outside the box after 5 minutes with DelRado heading in from a corner on 42 minutes. In the second half, Scattergood slotted home from a penalty after ‘bot 1’ sensored a hand-ball by the Red and Blue’s Ivan Padstow and alerted the ref. The vid-play showed that this was correct and was adjudged to have been deliberate by the Pitch-side Ref and a penalty awarded. Singh sealed the 5 points on 80 minutes with a superb free-kick which cleared the wall and placed itself in the top left hand corner of the net, centimetres beyond Cuentes out-stretched gloved hand. The Spanish keeper had another miserable day as Liverpool City FC remain firmly planted at the bottom of the table.

On the way out I wax-lyrical to my sons about the ‘Randy Revolution’. I tell them how some things have changed but that the spirit, the passion, the excitement is still the same. I go on about the great Sir Martin O’Neill and the classic side of 2012/13 which raised the Champions League Trophy (as it was called then) as well as the (then) Premiership and the FA Cup. Agbonlahor, Ashley Young, Martin Laursen, Petrov, Davies, Cuellar and Guzan… The names roll off my tongue as I recall those heady days. ‘The foundations of today were formed back then you know!’ I utter. ‘Yes Dad, we know… we remember… We’re Villans. Now finish your pie before it gets cold’.

The SKY League table after the match…


[row][col]1[col]Aston Villa[col]34[col]151

[row][col]2[col]Celtic Distillery[col]34[col]136

[row][col]3[col]QPR Gazprom[col]34[col]134

[row][col]4[col]Milton Keynes 202[col]34[col]134

[row][col]5[col]Derby Rams[col]34[col]129

[row][col]6[col]Rangers PLC [col]34[col]127

[row][col]7[col]Oxford Utd[col]34[col]125

[row][col]8[col]Dublin City[col]34[col]120

[row][col]9[col]Sheffield Utd [col]34[col]112

[row][col]10[col]Blackpool City[col]34[col]110

[row][col]11[col]Arsenal Emirates[col]34[col]105

[row][col]12[col]Middleton Newtown[col]34[col]98

[row][col]13[col]Nottingham Forest[col]34[col]93

[row][col]14[col]Preston North End Nokia[col]34[col]86

[row][col]15[col]Bristol City Traders[col]34[col]81

[row][col]16[col]Chelsea Lions[col]34[col]79

[row][col]17[col]Newcastle Utd[col]34[col]77

[row][col]18[col]Manchester FC[col]34[col]70

[row][col]19[col]Cardiff City Skoda[col]34[col]68

[row][col]20[col]Liverpool City FC[col]34[col]63[/table]

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Many thanks gents. Was good fun to write. Trying to imagine the subtle changes in 40 years time (which I'm sure you picked up on), whilst still keeping the essence of the same game which we know and love was the interesting bit. Welcome JonoGaff - enjoy VillaTalk!

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