By, Jake Bayliss @jakeybaylisss
I have a confession to make — before you, there was somebody else. It was a brief fling but I would be lying if I said it didn’t mean anything. I was young and easily influenced, seduced by the superficial things (like winning games).
The cocktail of Beckham’s skill, Keane’s passion and Van Nistelrooy’s goals, all blended together by Ferguson proved irresistible. I was 7 years old; it was just after the 2002 World Cup. The Class of ’92 and an expensive Rio Ferdinand had swayed me after their exploits for England. A year of lust ensued.
World-class players, a league title and THOSE two games against Real Madrid all played their part as my fairy-tale journey into the world of football continued. But it could never last.
Desperate to rid me of my United obsession, my family tried to show me that there were other teams out there. My Grandad, a diehard Villa fan, set about filling my head with past claret and blue glories. But to no avail.
His tales of “Johnny Dixon and Peter McParland in the ’57 FA Cup…”, “Brian Little, what a magician!” and the classic “Well, you know, Villa actually won the European Cup” all fell on deaf ears.
I’d been to a few games at Villa Park but nothing had changed. Drastic steps needed to be taken.
August 2003: I was handed my first season ticket. That was the moment that my love for you first started to blossom.
Leicester City was my first game that year and, after an explosive start, Villa found themselves 3-0 up inside 16 minutes, courtesy of two goals from the original long-haired Colombian striker: Juan Pablo Angel.
This felt different to my fairy-tale romance of the year before. It felt right. I knew from the moment the first goal went in that this was special. Within a week I had my first shirt. I was in this for the long-haul.
Since that day in August we’ve been through our ups and downs. The romanticism of European nights and cup-runs, marred by fan protests and relegation fights. Our favourite sons — Mellberg, Laursen, Barry, Milner, Young and Petrov — have all flown the nest.
The relationship hasn’t always been a happy one, especially over the last few years.
But the prospect of a packed-out Villa Park, the Holte End in full voice and the players finally getting it together on the pitch is simply too enticing.
It’s why I keep coming back to you; in the hope that, when the final whistle blows, I will get to experience that winning feeling once more. A reminder of better times.
And finally, after the misery of the last few years, we have reasons to smile again. A new owner, a new manager and a new team with the chance to restore the club back to where it belongs.
Just know, that if that doesn’t happen, I will still be there to support you — for better or worse.