Rumour has it a small Northern town was overrun this weekend by an assortment of characters, from Mr Blobby, to a full pack of Crayola crayons, the cookie monster to Batman himself, even Jimmy Saville returned from the dead. A daydream too far for the inhabitants of Wigan?
Nope just 4000 excitable Villa fans, roaming the streets, singing in full voice and causing mischief. Must have been last away game of the season, or something?
We might not have had the best of seasons but what I will say is Aston Villa can be proud of something, and that’s its fans. The away support has been incredible this season, despite the sometimes substandard football, rain or shine, the fans have been there; singing our hearts out from beginning to end, and Sunday was no exception.
Usually, I’d travel up the night before and experience the delights of whichever town/city we happened to be playing in, but this weekend was a little different, as I couldn’t make the night before warm up. I have however been ensured that the Reflex Wigan experienced some unbelievable scenes. It’s always quite amusing heading out before/after an away game; you’re never quite sure how many of your own are amongst you, however, 40 seconds of ‘Karma Chameleon’ later and the Reflex DJ was apparently regretting his choice of song, as the Claret & Blue army bounced around the dance floor.
Fast forward a few hours later, and I’d finally arrived in Wigan, to be reunited with my worse for wear pals. The main street, hosts an abundance of bars & pubs, but all I could see was claret, blue, and a pinch of lime. A few pints in the Moon Under Water and we began the ‘short walk’ towards the ground. It was neither short nor scenic, but it was loud. ‘Ohhh when the Villa, go marching in, ohhh when the Villa go marching in, I wanna be in that number, ohhh when the Villa go marching in’
The Red Robin was already buzzing when we turned up. Bulgarian flags were hanging from the trees and placed over the cars; Petrov day was in full swing. We even managed to stalk out some Petrov Vodka (which proved extremely detrimental to remaining upright for some).
‘I don’t care about Wigan, they don’t care about me, all I care about is AVFC’ seemed to be the chant of the afternoon. The police did turn up for a quick check, but I think Saville scared them off…
The atmosphere in the ground was electric, one of the best I’ve ever experienced. Despite a short dip in the noise 10 minutess or so before the half time whistle, you just couldn’t fault the passion of the fans, even Wigan joined in at points. Bent’s goal just five minutes in, lead to an eruption of ‘Na, na, na, na, naaaa Darren, Darren, Bent, Darren, Darren, Bent’; smoke bombs and flares filled the air, as I struggled to remain in the stand (front row issues).
The 19th minute was something truly special, ‘Petrov from the halfway line’ & ‘there’s only one/4000 Stiliyan Petrov’s’ rang around the ground. The Wigan fans joined in also, making it quite the spectacle. A massive thanks to mask-arade for providing the Petrov masks, something I’ll treasure for a long time. In typical ‘just our luck’ fashion, Wigan went and scored as the 19th minute reached an end, not that it stopped us, but I’d have loved for it to have been in the opposite net.
There was a bit of lull just before half time, which evidently worked in the favour of Wigan as they went ahead just before the whistle.
We came out fighting, both fans and team. One of the best things about football for me is the banter with other clubs, Wigan chants of FA glory were met by ‘Seven times my Lord, seven times’ and ‘But have you won the European cup, the European cup?’. They replied with ‘There’s only one Dave Whelan, one Dave Whelan’, which brought a prompt ‘Broken leg my Lord, broken leg’ – and some far worse chants, that really shouldn’t be repeated.
Vlaar’s goal came as a bit of shock, but my gosh what a finish. A draw was probably a fair result. I’m so glad we didn’t have to travel to Wigan needing to take something from the game, as I feel the atmosphere could have been slightly tenser.
The final whistle went but the fun was far from over.
In fact we didn’t leave the ground for another 10-15 minutes after, exchanging mostly pleasantries with the home fans/ laughing at a few unfortunate pitch invaders who just couldn’t stay on their feet. A delightful chorus of ‘we’ll meet again’ filled the stadium as the Wigan fans, erm, celebrated relegation? Just kidding, I’m sure their invasion was for that cup they won.
Brilliant to see Stan, not only on the bench, but coming onto the pitch afterwards with Lambert to applaud the fans. All in all, another excellent away day, and despite only taking one point, a pretty decent send off for not only Stan but the season itself. Hope you all have a wonderful summer, try to avoid falling sucker to any ITKs and I’ll see you next season for more of the same/less of the relegation battle! UTV.
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