Villa Fan Tales: No.11 – A Vital Cog in the Villa Machine

Fed up with clickbait and the inane articles of most media covering the Villa? Well, MOMS has got the perfect remedy – a whole series of Villa Fans telling their own unique stories. 

This one by Dean Gregory, tells of how he became Villa and not Wolves and how a passing interest got real, before he filled an ‘important’ role at the club…

First of all, an introduction to Dean and his place in the Villa-verse…

Why Villa?

The two most vocal football fans in my family are my oldest brother and my cousin. They are both die-hard Villa fans and could talk forever about when they were season ticket holders, back in the days of Ron Atkinson and God himself. Even before I had any real interest in football, I had a soft spot for the Villa.

The more logical choice would have been Wolves as they were more local, but they were dull even then. The atmosphere at the Molineux never held a candle to Villa Park. I tagged along to both on occasion with friends and family, but I could never enjoy a Wolves game. Villa fans were always full of song, no matter what was happening on the pitch.

I could also have gone for the club my dad supports, Leeds; but then again, I don’t hate myself enough for that.

First Villa Park Match?

I can’t remember the very first one. I was far too young. All I remember was staring at the back of other people’s heads. I was surrounded by thousands of people chanting, cheering and booing in unison at something I couldn’t see. Then, suddenly, they all leapt out of their seats at once, bellowing in jubilation. At that moment I was swept up into the air by my cousin to catch my first real glimpse of the pitch – a man clad in claret and blue, arms stretched out wide, bellowing back at us.

I now know that I was sat in the Lower Holte, and the man on the pitch was Dion Dublin. I can only assume he had just scored an absolute screamer. I wish I could remember it more.

First Villa Hero?

Up until recently, I had a passing interest in football. I only really started paying attention around 2014 – I missed all of Villa’s glory days. It pains me to say it, but the first Villan I truly admired was Fabian Delph. At the time, to my eyes at least, he oozed quality and passion for the club. The whole transfer debacle around him broke my damn heart, but it’s indicative of the rollercoaster that makes being a Villa fan special.

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Ultimate Villa Legend?

William McGregor. Arguably the most important figure in football history, and there’s a statue of him outside Villa Park. If that doesn’t say everything that needs to be said about Villa, I don’t know what does.

Ask me again in ten years, however, and I hope I’ll say Jack Grealish. Maybe even McGinniesta.

Favourite Villa Memory?

I’m tempted to say the recent Play-Off Final victory, as it’s the first bit of success I’ve witnessed as a Villa fan. Thinking about it though, I’d have to say it’s a match from earlier in that season – the 5-5 draw with Nottingham Forest.

For me, being a Villa fan is as much about the highs as it is about the lows. No game of football I’ve ever known has demonstrated this quite like that one did. The familiar feeling of impending doom upon going 2-0 down within ten minutes. The elation of pulling it level before the fifteenth minute. Going down by another goal only to pull it back again not once, but twice; more fight than I had ever seen the Villa have.

 Then came the absolute euphoria when El Ghazi put us in front for the first time in the match – only for the late sucker punch at the death. Every emotion a football match can induce was felt in that game; it’s those very feelings that keep me coming back for more.

My Villa Tale

A Cog In The Machine

I am a professional driver. Before I moved on to the company I work for now, I had a job that took me to Bodymoor Heath every week. For a time, I was a part of the fabric that runs through our great club, and while my task was a menial one, it was none-the-less important. I held this job for most of the 2017-18 season, along with the first half of the promotion season; I like to think I was a part of that squad, at least for a time.

I performed my vital contribution each week near the training pitches. I would normally arrive around the time that the under-23 team were heading out for their morning session, long before the first team turned up, unfortunately. It would have been nice to see them train. In fact, the closest I have ever gotten to a first team player was the time I nearly ran over Andre Green on my way in one day.

That day, the under-23s were running out for their session. I stopped to let them jog in front of me, but I didn’t realise Green was lagging behind them, trying to catch up. As I went to pull away, he came barrelling out in front of me. I braked, apologies were swapped, and that was that.

After I had parked up, I suppose he felt the need to come and say something to me, for the sake of courtesy. He asked me what I was about to do; he didn’t ask any more questions after I told him. Maybe he was just itching to get started on his training. Or, more likely, he knew the significance of my job, and he didn’t want to keep me any longer.

Many other people would take the time to chat with me and thank me for my contributions; one coach even went as far as to call me a hero, admitting there was no way he could do what I did. The guys on the security gate were much the same, offering me a cup of tea as a thank-you and giving me the inside track as to what was going on from day to day. One imperative service in exchange for another, I thought.

I haven’t been a fan for very long, all things considered. That fact doesn’t deplete the adoration I have for the club, and any involvement can make you feel like you’re a part of the bigger picture.

Any involvement at all…even one as trivial, yet crucial, as cleaning out the portaloos every week.


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