By Eamonn Smith
Expectation of Aston Villa’s trip to the Emirates brought back great memories from the opening fixture of last season, a 3-1 win over the boys from North London. Leaving Birmingham International at 8:35, it was a early start making the trip down south in time for the much detested 1:30 kick off. Being as it was so early, we expected a very quiet journey on the Virgin train, but were greeted by masses of people disembarking for the stationary show at the NEC, which wasn’t the only unexpected encounter of the day.
Arriving at Euston Station, we set off to the pre-match destination of The Boot pub on Cromer Street. The 15 minute walk which bypasses St Pancras Station was where the second unusual encounter of the day took place.
The seasoned away day travellers we are, we knew the Villa team stayed at the St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, which of course was round the corner from where we were heading, so we decided to pay a visit.
Breezing past the couple of security on the front door with the excuse that we knew the players was enough to get through the door, then what were the odds of seeing Ally Cissokho and Christian Benteke sat casually in the lobby seating area. Not missing on such an opportunity to chat to them, we engaged in conversation with the big Belgian. After photos were taken, I wished the big man good luck for the game and we made our way to our original destination.
After a cheeky phone call the day previous to let our friends at the Boot know we were coming early, we got to the pub for 11 O’clock. Over a drink and a good old game of snooker we discussed Villa’s current woe. Despite the lack of quality on show in the Premier League this season, we knew Villa were always capable of pulling out a shock result out of nowhere, so we were hopeful of a surprise happening today.
Around 2 O’clock we set off for the ground, and a short trip on the Victoria line to Finsbury Park, we were greeted it seemed by the hundreds of food vans, so it was only right we had a bite to eat on the walk through the streets of London to the football tourist centre that is otherwise known as the Emirates.
As we walked past the pictures of all of Arsenal’s legends we wondered whether any of these fans actually knew who they were, but nevertheless we could clearly see we had arrived with hundreds of cameras clicking away for a photo to remember their special day out. We entered the turnstiles and were finally greeted by some proper fans in the away end.
As always, the away support from Villa was superb, hundreds were on song in the concourse, and as we made our way to the luxury, padded seats awaiting us, the atmosphere was building.
Somewhat inspired by a little Spaniard called Carles, there was an excitement for kick off, and as the players entered the playing surface there was a roar of ‘Villa, Villa, Villa’ from the travelling faithful.
Despite being under pressure from the beginning of the match, Villa dealt with the problems Arsenal caused them in the very early stages, well until the 8th minute that is when German World Cup winner Mesut Özil opened up our whole defence with a little flick, which Olivier Giroud latched onto and then slotted home. Villa mustered up a few chances for the remainder of that half, including what seemed quite an easy chance for top scorer Andreas Weimann, but it was business as usual for the Villa forwards.
As the second half approached we picked ourselves back up again and continued our unconditional support, and on the pitch, the team started moderately well, until Özil once again worked his thing and scored on 58 minutes. From there it was downhill and that hope we had at the beginning of the day slowly dwindled away.
35 minutes later, we found ourselves 5-0 down, and humiliated by the red half of North London. Despite this, Villa fans carried on their support until the final whistle, even taking a trip down memory lane to the ‘Let’s pretend we scored a goal’ chant which proved one of the only bright spots of the game.
As the final whistle blew, only two players came to thank those travelling fans spending hard earned money to watch effortless displays under Lambert. Those were Alan Hutton and the captain for the day, Fabian Delph. The only player highlight of what I saw on the pitch was Delph’s pounding off the Villa badge on his chest to the fans, really showing he cares about the club, especially after being arguably the only player on the pitch who had really tried.
Home Atmosphere: 4/10 – despite the odd chant when their goalkeeper kicked the ball, the North London library was fairly quiet, at least a few plastic Gunner fans got some nice photos though.
Onwards and upwards. UTV.
Follow Eamonn on Twitter – @EAmonn_Smith