Fan Tales: No.8 – How Aston Villa’s Season Mirrored a Traumatic Personal Journey

As we all slowly drown in the swamp of clickbait seeking Aston Villa news, it’s time to deliver some proper Villa stories, by rebooting and reintroducing the rather good Villa Fan Tales.

In Villa Fan Tales, Villans tells their own personal Villa stories. After an introductory interview to give us their Villa background, we then get their unique Villa tale.

Phillip Shaw from Northern Ireland recalls how Villa’s recent promotion season very much mirrored a worrisome year for him in terms of his nearest and dearest. Many thanks to Phillip for sharing this.

No.8 Villa Fan Tales – Phillip Shaw

Why Villa?

Hard to say. I can trace it back to David Platt’s volley against Belgium, but the reason the team stuck was probably a desire to not be like everyone else in Northern Ireland. Back then everyone supported Manchester United or Liverpool.

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It turned out that the people who supported other clubs, tended to have a deeper interest in football like myself. It helped that Big Ron’s Villa side played football the way I thought it should be played. Pacey and with purpose, even at 10-years-old I knew it was meant to be.

First Villa Park Match

Slightly embarrassed to say it was the pivotal 2-2 draw with Stoke City. 01/03/2009 – Trinity Upper. I had seen Villa play away many times before, as I had to tag along with supporters’ clubs going from Northern Ireland to the more supported clubs. The first time I saw them was in Belfast in a pre-season match against Manchester United. All I remember is it finished 1-1 and Mike Phelan scored for them.

First Villa Hero 

Despite Platt being the catalyst and a player who I followed at every level, it had to have been Gary Parker. He just epitomised the kind of player that drives a successful club. A midfielder who drove forward and had a cannon of a shot on him. 

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Ultimate Villa Legend

For this, you must take a step back and remove emotion. A legend should imply someone who acted professionally and never failed to perform on the pitch. For my era of supporting it is Gareth Barry.

Despite moving on, after dalliances with Liverpool, Barry never had a bad game. He was never less than a 7 out of 10 on the pitch and he drove the club forward.

Other players who say the right things to fans etc may be held in higher regard, but for consistency, Barry is hard to beat. When the chips were down on the pitch he stepped up a gear.

Favourite Villa Memory

The play-off final is very close despite my heart rate during it, but my favourite Villa memory is the Coca-Cola Cup Semi-Final vs Tranmere Rovers.

After the first leg, I remember walking to primary school the next day with my Villa scarf still on and getting pelters from the rest of the class. United were on the verge of the treble after an easy ride against Sheffield Wednesday, whereas we were on the verge of an embarrassing elimination to Tranmere.

Fast-forward to the second leg. I was in my family home watching it with my Mother and Grandmother, with a United-supporting father popping his head in.

We should all know what happened during the match, it cemented what supporting Villa is all about. Hope, setback and ultimately triumph.

I walked into school the next day like a king, non-United supporters who had abused me now realised Villa were a great chance to stop United’s domestic treble. Wembley glory was still to come, but coming back after the first leg will never be beaten for me.

Your Villa Story

Promotion Season Mirror to a Traumatic Personal Journey (and the Magic Villa Jumper)

This one is a bit personal and I’ll leave some details out. Just around the time of the Play-off final defeat to Fulham my wife became ill.  

In December 2018, she had to have serious surgery. All seemed to have gone well and one night before she got out, I was watching the ‘Hand of Rod’ game against the Baggies on the iPad by her bedside. In the time it took me to walk from there to the car park, Rodriguez had equalised, Jack was crocked, and our momentum had been halted.

Over the next few months, our lives were turned upside down. Another surgery due to a serious sepsis-like infection followed and many, many days were spent wondering what I could tell my three-year-old son. 

Rock bottom happened in the game versus Leeds at Villa Park. Driving to the hospital, Villa raced into a two-goal lead, something that managed to lift my spirits as I arrived at my wife’s room. 

Her brother and Father supported Leeds, so I was able to have a bit of banter with her despite the situation. As I watched Villa throw the lead away my phone was buzzing with banter from my friends and colleagues and I thought this is it. 

Things began to look up and she got home but on the 28th of February 2019, we had to rush to A and E again for a third emergency surgery. Again, things went well, and I found myself sitting there beside her on Saturday 2nd March 2019, following the Championship scores. I said to her, ‘’Grealish is back this week, better make the most of him before he leaves…’’

She laughed and asked is that why I was wearing the Villa jumper from our first trip to Villa Park.

My soon to be lucky Villa sweater had, had its last wash and the 10-game streak began.

Rotherham away cemented it in legend like Jack’s boots. Thinking it was only Rotherham, I left it upstairs. Needless to say, a sprint upstairs at half-time was required and the dirty jumper was in place for that incredible second half.

Fast forward to the play-offs, Villa’s resurgence coincided with the improvement in my wife. She was well enough to go to the kids’ birthday party before racing home to watch the first-leg against the Baggies, pizza on the sofa and the most pivotal goal from Hourihane in our recent history followed.

She watched the second leg in the same place and had to console me as the heart rate warning on my watch went into overdrive. The final was 90 mins of pure tension and pain yet when the final whistle went the relief and joy were off the scale.

People usually use football as a means for escape, but the 2018-2019 season mirrored my life almost perfectly and became intertwined with it.

From rock bottom to the elation of the play-offs.

Hopefully, the future is just as bright.


If you have any Villa tales that describe the essense of supporting Aston Villa FC, answer the below five questions and then tell your tale and send it to MOMS at:

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  1. Great personal story, really enjoyed the read. What a game, what a period Villa v Tranmere. Gareth Barry was a Rolls Royce, simple!

    Thank you ????????

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