Aston Villa Away Supporter Experience at Newcastle United – 2012
So plans for a three-day weekend bender in the name of Lambert’s Limes had disappeared out the window. Instead of crawling out of my pal’s flat hung over and stumbling 10 minutes to the Sports Direct ground as previously planned, I was up at 9am ready to catch the 10am train from Stirling to Newcastle. Three hours travelling there and three hours travelling back on my own is a new and daunting prospect, especially on the way back, if Villa don’t get something out of the game. However with me now residing up in Scotland, the North East is practically a home game now, and one of the few times I’ll get to see Villa on their travels this year.
It is also the first time I’m travelling to an away day without my trusty wingman, Niku. He is driving up to the game with two of his pals, who I had yet to meet, and a third friend of ours whose identity will become clearer in a minute. Knowing full well they won’t be there in time to meet me at the station, once in Newcastle, I venture into town constantly asking anyone I see in black and white for directions. When I say I’m looking for an “away pub” the Newcastle fans seem confused, telling me there’s nowhere I need to be avoiding. This surprised me, but they weren’t wrong. As I entered the sports bar my friends were drinking in, the swarm of black and white fans pointed upstairs to where they were sitting, and with us being the only Villa fans in there, the banter was rife but always friendly.
That’s what I really like about Newcastle, the camaraderie. I am never one to hide my colours under my coat, no matter where I find myself. Stoke and Liverpool have proved the most intimidating to date, but if you support your team away from home you feel respected to a degree before you even strike conversation. In the toilets of this bar I met a Scottish Newcastle fan who assured me Paul Lambert was “top class” and dried my hands next to a Geordie convinced Stephen Ireland would finally produce the goods this year. Who am I to argue?!
We’d picked up Jack Pot after going to see Villa’s u18’s NextGen game against Sporting Lisbon, a couple of weeks earlier. On the drive back home after the match, we decided we needed a fresh start with McLeish out and the new era finally kicking in. So at a deadbeat service station I tried my hand at a £1 claw machine and won this teddy bear [looks like a dog to me mate! –MOMS], who we named ‘Jack Pot’ after a random sign hanging above us. Niku’s girlfriend provided the finishing touches to our new Villa mascot, knitting Jack a claret and blue jumper with “19” on the back. Low and behold, Jack Pot did bring us the luck we needed in his first game, providing our first point of the season…
And what a good point it was. To the constant chant of “we’re Aston Villa, we’re passing the ball” we really did move it well throughout the game, with no one really shying away from possession. Ron Vlaar is perhaps the most surprising with his willingness to try a twist or a turn away from the oncoming striker, and you only hope that confidence doesn’t come back to haunt him in future games.
Overall though we deserved our lead and were undone by what was quite simply an unbelievable strike on Hatem Ben Arfa’s “weaker foot” if there even is such a thing. With Shay Given dropped to the bench, a mention should also go to Brad Guzan who looked solid and assured all day, pulling off a couple of excellent saves to go with his overall solid performance.
Inside the ground the Villa support were loud and vibrant as always, even if we couldn’t fill out the huge stand the away fans get given at St James’. It really is a wonderful ground and whilst I’d heard complaints in the past about how high up you are, it really isn’t all that bad. The view of the city is quite tremendous overlooking the other three stands even if you do feel like you’re playing Football Manager at times with the tiny dots on the green turf down below.
My one and only complaint was the way I was almost manhandled when I tried to bring my pint back up to my seat. The stewards were quick to shove me away as I bounced excitedly back to my seat spilling a quarter of my beer in the process. An honest mistake and no need for three fluorescent figures to jump in my way like they did…
Overall no complaints though, an away day I’d thoroughly recommend in a fine city, with brilliant fans home and away, watching a side that in Paul Lambert’s words, really is “getting stronger and stronger.”
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