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Mission: Birmingham


bickster
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By Slovenian

My mate and I (not a Villa fan) were in Birmingham from Friday till Thursday last week (24.11. - 30.11.). We were there to see Middlesborough and Man City games. This is my review.

My mate and me started the trip from Ljubljana to Birmingham at 15.00 on Friday. The flight was interesting because of six guys that drank more than they should. Minutes after we landed five or more policeman escorted them to the ‘other room’.

Train station at Stansted airport is not hard to find. We only had to wait half an hour and off we went. The trip that should take little more than 3 hours lasted 4 hours and a half. And we paid for the single tickets twice as much as we paid for the plane return ticket. No problem there though, couldn’t wait to get to Brum.

We got off at New Street. It was raining quite hard and we had no idea where to go. We followed the crowds and ended up at the Birmingham Markets, the first place that was mentioned in our directions to the hostel (Milk Street, Digbeth). Five minutes later, at 23.30 we were at the hostel. They had the place running for only two weeks and they only accepted cash and no credit cards.

We shared our room with a 16 years old whiskey lover from Australia, rocker from Finland and an Italian snob. You can imagine the quality of air in the room at 8 in the morning.

We went to the Bullring first, had a quick breakfast and off we went to Villa Park. We forgot our map at the hostel but went on anyway. We walked for more than three hours, including a couple of Pub stops. We came down the Church road. When I saw the church I knew we were close. The sight of Trinity stand was impressive. Finally Villa Park! Absolutely unbelievable! I probably saw hundreds of pictures but Villa Park is bigger and better than I could ever imagine. We walked round the VP and then to the Villa Village. I wanted to take the stadium tour but it was already sold out for that week. Damn!

I remembered three names of the pubs that were mentioned here where the fans meet before the games - Upper grounds, Aston Hotel and The Social. We went to the Upper grounds before that game (vs. Boro). I think we were there round 13.00. At 13.55 we met Chris at the Holte Suite. Five minutes later we had a meeting with Rob Bishop, chief programme writer at Villa (thanks Ian). He wanted to take our picture and have an interview. It will be published in the programme for the Bolton game (Saturday, 16 December). After that we went to the Upper grounds again and back to the car park, but nobody was there anymore. It was only five or ten minutes before the kickoff.

We went inside the stadium and the sight was magnificent. I stood at the top of the stairs, my mouth and eyes were wide open, no words to describe the feeling. Sounds from the Upper Holte, sight of thousands Villa fans. We soon found our seats (Holte lower, L5). The view was perfect.

I will not comment the game. Ok, shortly – Agbonlahor is ace, they scored from an offside, Huth should have been sent off, Boateng is a t*@t and I don’t think Bouma should be playing.

After the game we wanted to return to the city centre because we were not sure how long it will take. We only walked for an hour to the Bullring. We stopped at the Bull ring Tavern. It’s not the fanciest pub but the atmosphere was brilliant. We returned there two or three more times over the next couple of days. We spent our Sunday, Monday and Tuesday discovering Brum and its pubs. We went to all the attractions that are walking distances away from the centre. I can tell you I have never walked that much before in my life. And the walk to Villa Park on Monday only took 35 minutes.

We went to the Wednesday’s game against Man City early in the afternoon. We stopped at almost every pub along the way. I was always wearing green Slovenian Kappa shirt hoping to meet some fellow VTers. We again went to the Upper grounds, atmosphere again was not what I expected. We moved to the Aston Hotel. Too dark and too quiet, again no prematch singing. Time to get to the ground. We had tickets for the Trinity stand, lower C. Great view, you could smell the grass, that close to the pitch we were. But sitting there was like being at the theatre. I shouted at the ref on more than one occasion during the match. I could see people round me, eating their chips didn’t like it too much. Now I know, it’s the Upper Holte where I belong.

Again, a short game review – an opened game, we made Man City look like Brazil in the first half, I didn’t boo Vassell, wish we had Barton in our team, if we scored when we were 2-1 down, we would probably win the game.

We had a steak burger after the game and we went straight back to the hostel, we had to get up early.

The trip home began at 6 in the morning and we were home round 6 in the afternoon. Both, the train trip and the flight were quiet. I was reading Villains (ex hooligans book) and You can call me Stan on the way home, I recommend reading both.

I was in London in February to see us play Charlton at the Valley. We were at a pub Antigallican couple of hours before the game and the atmosphere there was brilliant, lots of singing from probably more than 300 Villa fans. I have not been at the Social before the games, but the atmosphere at the Upper grounds and Aston Hotel was not even near to what I expected and experienced at the Antigallican in Charlton.

London is unlike Birmingham, full of tourists. London is full of attractions but i don't think its the better looking city, and Birmingham has the soul. I felt almost like home in Brum. You won’t find friendlier people anywhere in the world. I will return.

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