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More from a Villan in exile


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by Santa_Rosa

Further ramblings on what it's like to be a Villan far from home

Living somewhere like Sunderland, Newcastle, or Middlesbrough it's easy to conclude that everyone you encounter is a Black Cat, Magpie or Boro fan. Things get a little greyer in South Shields, and across County Durham where many pubs are a powder keg come derby day, but as far as the big three cities go, they're staunch, one-team towns (apart from Boro if they're not winning or there's something good on telly). So it's a logical assumption to make and people assume it of me all the time.

You'll be at the bar, or sat in a taxi, when you're asked your opinion on Sunderland's new signing, the Newcastle buy-out or Boro's latest win (or, if they've lost, what's happening on Corrie). Like any football fan I'm not shy of giving my opinion, but I'll always mention the fact that I'm a Villa fan. Pride, a sense of identity, individuality, call it what you will, I just have to let them know.

It's one of the reasons I wear a Villa shirt when playing six-a-side football. The main reason of course is the same as it ever was; it makes it easier to pretend I'm playing in front of a packed Villa Park. It surely stands to reason that if I'm wearing a Le Coq Sportif 'Davenports' replica, I'm more likely to rise like Peter Withe to get on the end of a cross and nod it in; that my Nike 'Acorns' shirt is going to instill me with the strength, determination and engine of James Milner.

But on the odd occasion when this doesn't work, and the spirit of Ian Ormondroyd or Michael Boulding has somehow been channelled instead, I take a little comfort from the fact that I still stand out, as the only person in the place wearing a Villa shirt.

Actually, that isn't strictly true. Since I moved up here I've found that I'm constantly on the lookout for other exiles. A car sticker, a scarf, even the dulcet tones of a West Midlands accent is a potential sign of a kindred spirit. Someone who I can talk to about Villa without hearing a rant about James Milner, Gareth Southgate or O'Neill's love for Charlie Hurley and Sunderland for the thousandth time.

Two weeks ago, as I ambled off the pitch after another hard-fought encounter, I kept breathing long enough to notice, on another court, a flash of claret and blue out of the corner of my eye. A double-take revealed the 'Acorns' logo, so I headed for a shower with the intention of keeping an eye out for the lad in the bar. I'd see what his opinion was on O'Neill's transfer policy and gauge his view on how we'll accommodate Downing (loudly, in case any Boro fans were about). I might even buy him a pint.

Ten minutes later, as he walked into the changing room I noticed that the back of his shirt bore the legend 'Duff O.G' across the top and 'FTM' across the bottom. Most football fans in the North East will know what the latter acronym stands for, so I won't bother with a translation - suffice to say that it indicated the guy in question was not a Villa fan after all, but a Sunderland supporter; the Duff bit obviously celebrating the Premier League demise of Newcastle at our hands, in the last game of last season.

Weeks had passed since that final whistle. A Lions tour had been lost, an as yet unresolved Ashes tour swung back and forth, and message board madness had taken hold on football fan websites everywhere, much more infectious than swine flu and certainly involving a lot more phlegm. Amidst all this, I'd forgotten the pressure that I was under in the run up to that match.

Car horns were sounded to such an extent that the mini kit had to come down from the rear windscreen. Reassurance was constantly sought by neighbours, colleagues and drinkers at my local: "O'Neill will play a full strength side won't he?", "He hates Newcastle O'Neill doesn't he?" "I cannot see the mags scoring against yous like, can you?" were some of the pearls of wisdom that my insight was sought on. Perhaps most significantly, my partner's Dad, a lifelong Sunderland supporter, made it clear that he was holding me entirely responsible for the result, whichever way it went. It was a real hero or zero situation.

Sunderland fans had always been good to me, many of them claiming to have always liked Villa since the European triumph, expressing pleasure at the resurgence under Lerner and O'Neill, buying me pints whenever Villa played Newcastle and shorts whenever we beat them. But this was something new. Even the welcome I got from my Mackem mates after the 3-0 victory at St James' Park, when Dyer and Bowyer were punching each other, paled in comparison (keeping a straight face on the Metro home that day, until I was safely in Mackem territory, was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do)

I wore Villa colours more than usual over the next week or so, and was greeted with everything from knowing smiles when out walking the dog and raucous cheers from passing cars when jogging, to heartfelt thanks from children for relegating 'The Mags'. Unfortunately, circumstances meant I couldn't get to the pub. If I had, I'd probably still be ploughing through the pints now. It was a great time, and a great place, to be an exiled Villan.

The North East is a great place to live. The stunning coastlines and dramatic sunsets; the stillness and peace of the quieter areas, the bustle of the people in the louder ones; their sense of humour, passion for sport, pride at their heritage and welcoming friendliness are all reasons why I am happy to call the area home now. But that's home with a small 'h'. My true Home will always be two hundred-and thirty-odd miles to the south west, with it's own scenery, energy, heritage and proud, passionate people. Supporting Aston Villa, and letting others know I do, helps me to remember this.

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Nice one Santa, great read. As a Villa fan exiled in Darlington, I know exaclty what you mean. You possibly already know, but VT's very own GaztonVilla runs the North East supporters club. Good bunch of lads, all passionate about Villa. We often meet up to watch the match and talk all things Astonian.

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Nice one Santa, great read. As a Villa fan exiled in Darlington, I know exaclty what you mean. You possibly already know, but VT's very own GaztonVilla runs the North East supporters club. Good bunch of lads, all passionate about Villa. We often meet up to watch the match and talk all things Astonian.

Yep. You may find a slightly edited version of the above in Gaz's forthcoming newsletter :)

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Not such a good time to be a villa fan in Newcastle, I cannot dine out in my local cause of that result :(

Particularly as your local is full of high profile, ex-Newcastle players eh Paul?

All the more reason to give it large I reckon.

Oh, and I didn't want to say before as it was going in the N.E Lions newsletter, but for those of you non North-East residents who haven't worked it out FTM stands **** The Mags.

As a result you see loads of personalised numbers plates around Sunderland with that acronym. In fact, a mate of mine used to work for Sunderland council and would help out on kids activity days with kite-flying, bouncy castles, that type of thing. One day, when he was on face-painting duty, those three letters were seen emblazoned on 6-year olds foreheads right accross Wearside :lol:

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