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Arm-chairs, car-seats and bar-stools


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Posted by: Santa_Rosa

More from a Villan far from home

Following Villa games from afar is an odd thing. In theory, if you're not at the ground watching the match live it shouldn't really make much difference where you are. As the match unfolds in front of you, it doesn't matter whether you're glued to the telly in Perry Barr, or in an outback watering hole, packed full of sheep farmers and truckers, peering at the one screen not showing Aussie Rules, the latest State of Origin bloodbath or the Alice Springs Annual Open Spitting Championship. A smelly bar, if you will.

If you can't witness your team's performance in the flesh and it is being brought to you by that TV, those radio waves or, as is increasingly the case, via a broadband link, wherever you are in the world, we're all in the same boat. For those 90 minutes, plus 15 for the interval, a handful for stoppages and however many it takes for the media to drag cliches out of the managers and the man of the match, the arm-chair, car-seat or bar-stool fan's experience is pretty much the same. We whip in every cross, rise for every header and bottle some 50/50 challenges depending on the opposing player in question, totally lost in the moment.

There is a difference though, and that is how you deal with the aftermath. Or, more specifically, how much aftermath you have to deal with. This mainly depends on two factors:

Your proximity to your clubs HQ is one. The other is whether the match in question was against one of the leading clubs in the country; the 'big four'. Or 4 as they will no doubt become known once some executive or other at Chelsea or Man Utd has an epiphany and registers the trademark with the Intellectual Property Office.

Let's look at the first point; location, location, location. Logically, the further you move away from Birmingham, the less chance you have of encountering a fellow Villan. Thus the likelihood of finding a kindred spirit to celebrate/commiserate with decreases. It's here that the ticketless Perry Barr fan differs. He can get straight down the local, if he's not already there, and either raise a glass, or cry into it, with his Villa brethren.

I on the other hand, have often had the experience of being one of a couple of dozen people at most in a 20 mile radius who cares whether Villa beat West Ham, Portsmouth or Blackburn in a mid-week, midwinter televised fixture. I mean, really cares. I'm not talking about someone who's got a couple of quid on a home win with the landlord, or a colleague who's got Ashley Young in his fantasy team.

There is no such thing as a genuine neutral in football; everybody has teams they hate and those they don't mind, with the former undoubtedly outnumbering the latter. On the whole though, my own well documented experiences of beating Newcastle whilst living in Sunderland aside, victories and losses by teams other than yours are generally forgotten once almost immediately. Tomorrow's chip paper and all that.

Many is the time that I've emerged releived from a match-induced trance in a Wearside pub after a close encounter where Villa have scraped home, to find everyone else just getting on with their evening as normal. There has even been the odd time where we've romped to a victory by several goals, and I've looked around for someone to share the joy with, only to be greeted with token congratulations, less-than-comfortable nods and smiles, and requests to shut up and get out of the way so that the dominoes tournament can start. Internet message boards help in these situations, but it's not the same.

The 4 factor (come to think of it, maybe I should register that trademark) is a different kettle of cod entirely, and totally independent of location. As everyone knows, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United fans are, like horsemuck at an 18th century transport exhibition, everywhere. And just as unsightly. If any of them are your opponents on a televised match and they've beaten you (both fairly likely events in recent times sadly) you'd better brace yourself for a glory hunter dishing out the stick at work the next day, whether that be at a business park in County Durham, an oil refinery in Azerbaijan or a house of ill-repute in Bangkok. Come to think of it, particularly if it's the latter.

There is nothing that can be done about this phenomenon. It's a cross that every fan, of every team, has to bear. There's only one thing worse than abuse from a victorious Liverpool-shirt-clad-Scouser in your away end, and that's abuse from a victorious Liverpool-shirt-clad-non-Scouser in your local. Mind you, it is sweet on the rare occasion you can give it back.

Oh, and since you ask, the oddest place I've tried to keep in touch with the Villa score was via mobile Internet on the North Shields to Amsterdam boat. The only place I could get a signal was the on-board pub. That's right; the ferry bar.

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