Aston Villa – Raise the Profile but Don’t Get Starstruck!

A lot of credit has to go to Tom Hanks and his enthusiasm in getting whole-heartedly involved in the claret and blue cause.

It would have been a good morale boast for the Villa players to see that Aston Villa can be a big deal internationally, and further proof for Paul Lambert, that he’s taken a job at a big club with the potential to serve whatever ambitions he has, if he gets it right.

The presence of Tom Hanks supporting Villa was picked up across all the national and US press.

Certainly there’s been a tendency for Villans to downplay themselves. We talk about the top six, as if it’s something we pander to be in…when the statistics tell us we are the fifth most successful club in the history of English football. ‘Top Six’ is our right!

Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenals deserve respect, but just remember until a few years ago, Chelsea were smaller than us in profile, and until a few minutes ago, Manchester City were something of a  laughing-stock.

Tom Hanks Geezer Butler Aston Villa team
Hanks joins the Villa line-up

We normally get a raw deal in the national press who prefer to focus on the London or Manchester clubs. And lets not mention, where we normally end up on the Match of the Day billing every Saturday night (hopefully Lambert’s total football approach, will change things there).

The Hanks factor and trips to the US like the one Villa have enjoyed this summer, can only help alter this perception.

It’s noticeable that the AVFC associated media team were falling over themselves for pics with Tom Hanks.

That’s all well and good, as it’s understandable they want a Hollywood souvenir, but don’t let it impact on your work, as the Birmingham Mail seemed to be guilty of…

Mat Kendrick and Tom Hanks
A starstruck Mat Kendrick loses his ability to count.

I know from first-experience from my job as a film journalist interviewing actors, that a lot of my colleagues seemed more concerned about getting autographs and pictures than doing their jobs.

Sometimes it’s pretty embarrassing and hardly professional, but celebrity-fever is unfortunately all the rage nowadays.

For the record, I’ve only asked for an autograph once – Pele. As my colleague said at the time: “Clint Eastwood…whatever, George Clooney… who cares, but this is Pele…we’ve just got to!”

When you break it down, actors are manufactured by film studios to become famous to help sell movies, football players though have a different kind of fame.

They become famous due to a direct link to supporters; providing thrills, joy and a whole spectrum of emotions.  That’s why fans wear their names on the back of their shirts. You don’t normally wear actors or showbiz people’s names in such a way.

In the context of football, actors are just normal football fans like you and I.

Interviews with Viggo Mortensen (Lord of the Rings), normally begin with a catch-up on how his favourite Argentine football team San Lorenzo is doing (he also writes a column for their website).

I remember once interviewing actor Clive Owen (Liverpool fan), the day after Ashley Young had scored the injury time winner vs Everton in the 3-2 thriller. He was gushing so much about Young’s strike, that it was difficult to get him back on track to do the interview.

I’ve also spoken Villa with James McAvoy (Celtic fan) on the merits of Shaun Malony,  discussed Martin O’Neil with actor Stephen Graham (Snatch, This is England) and asked director Spike Lee (Arsenal fan) for a character reference for Randy Lerner (gave him the thumbs up – “He’s from Brooklyn”).

Football, as always, is the great leveler.

The irony when you see Tom Hank’s interview by the Timbers reporter , with Hanks talking about the ‘AV’s’ and Villa being formed in ‘1888 ‘ (not 1874), it’s clear that it’s Hanks who is suffering from being starstruck the most… by the wonder of the Villa.