The long Summer days (depending on your latitude) are slowly (or rather quickly for my liking) drawing to a close and we bid farewell to days spent rowing down the stream, playing Cricket in our whites and enjoying a late evening spot of Croquet. Bah, face it it's not like there really is a Summer break from football anymore, between Peace Cups, Under 21 Championships, tours, friendlies, late internationals and spending every waking minute following the transfer gossip we probably digest as much Football in the Summer than we do during the regular season, and this wasn't even a World or Euro Cup year.
So here we are facing a season opener and I really must say it just doesn't hold the same excitement as opening day did when I was younger, before football became this big global fully televised event. Back when the Internet was preceded by struggling to find the scores on Ceefax and those who couldn't get to the games prayed for Des Lynam to offer some highlights on Match of the Day. Back in the old days you would have gone through the Summer months without seeing the players, hell I watched 3 of them play for England yesterday, the team play Fiorentina on Saturday and the full peace cup before that. Even in the early Sky TV Premiership days I could really only hope to watch a live Villa match once a month now even in the off season I'm watching us play weekly.
Don't get me wrong I wouldn't give up the modern coverage for anything but I can't help but think of the excitement from season openers past and my mind will always go to one in particular: August 1995 at home to Manchester United. It was very special to watch after a couple of months without Villa, there we were in all our glory, new kit, new signings and at home to the wounded Man UTD who after a season without silverware were desperate to make their mark in the first game of the season. All eyes were on Villa Park and Brian Little's men. I was watching on Sky with my dad and brothers back in Ireland, all had told me Villa had no chance after all we barely escaped relegation by 3 points over Palace a few months before. My Man U supporting brother rubbed it in the most when I suggested we could repeat the scoreline from the League Cup final a couple of years before calling it a "meaningless result in a meaningless trophy" and that we were "a washed up team destined for relegation".
Guess what? We fucking murdered them that day. I was prancing around the living room celebrating every one of our 3 goals like it was the winner in a cup final. Not only can I still remember the scorers of Villa's goals to this day but 14 years later I even remember the order they went in: Taylor, Draper and Yorke with a penno. It was a legendary match the one where Alan Hansen famously uttered: "You'll never win anything with kids" even with a young United substitute called David Beckham coming off the bench to score his first goal as United's consolation. Well United did bounce back from that defeat to win the double with those kids but for Villa it was the springboard to a very special season under Little where we finished 4th and won the League Cup.
Saturday's game wont hold the same appeal and not just because our opposition is Wigan, the Premiership has come a long way from the opening day of the 95-96 season, on the back of Blackburn winning the title the league was wide open, we believed anyone could win, There was no big four, no stranglehold on the upper reaches of the table. We weren't yet blanket bombed by TV coverage and Internet discussions, each televised match was a special bonus not a routine. I shouldn't complain, here I am in New York heading to the pub on Saturday morning at 10am to watch Villa's opening game. Unthinkable for those of you who were in the same situation 10 years ago but thanks to the Internet an TV I can't help but feel I only saw Villa play a couple of days ago. Well I actually did.
First game of the season Wigan at home this Saturday at 10 am Eastern, Live on Fox Soccer Channel. Crack out your Claret and Blue and venture down to your local pub, you could watch it at home but then the rest of the world wouldn't see how handsome Villa fans are. NY and Tristate Villans I look forward to seeing you in Nevada Smiths our game will be on at the same time as West Ham - Wolves and Man City - Blackburn so while I don't expect the crowd to be out the door it will still be very busy so get there early. First timers have a look around for the good looking fans in Claret and Blue as opposed to the West Ham lot in their stolen colors, we may be setup downstairs so be sure to ask for the Villa game on arrival. I'm the big lad with the longish greasy hair fighting off the hordes of female admirers
Quickly let me jump onto some other matters of business, Membership cards are on their way (if Steve hasn't received them already) and we will be sending them out / handing them out as soon as we get a chance and $88 to cover the postage. All members are entitled to a discount of 15% from the Official Aston Villa store. This nicely offsets the postage charges to the US to get the discount contact me and I'll send you the link, it's also included in the email version of this update for registered members, if you did not receive and email let me know. Also for those who manage to travel across to Brum your membership card does entitle you to 10% off at the physical club shops in the city and at the stadium. You can also get loads of Villa stuff at our buddy and fellow Villan Andrew Darby's shop in Hoboken, NJ: http://www.premsoccershop.com/
There's a number of projects on the table for this year including a new website, NY Villans T-shirts and a new flag. In order to make this happen we will be putting together some fund raising, raffles that type of thing. I remain strongly against membership fees for the club as I think we should be doing everything we can to welcome new followers in the US and dues will put plenty of people off. Maybe once everyone gets addicted to my charm and dry Irish wit I'll start charging you to receive my spam :) As always we are looking for people to get actively involved in running the club so if you have any ideas, services or want to get involved please let me know. For those in NYC we will be having an organizational meeting some night next week and all are welcome to come.
Tickets are always a hot topic and this year we will be doing things a little differently, Supporters Club Treasurer John will be setting up a Paypal account tied into our desolate bank account (with added Tumbleweed this year) it'll be a case of stick your ticket money in there and Steve will then place the order. the system should work fine so long as John puts down his PS3 copy of FIFA long enough to set it up.
Remember to setup your fantasy team at http://fantasy.premierleague.com/ League Codes:
Aston Villa USA - Code to join this league: 653274-146607
Aston Villa USA Head to Head - Code to join this league: 653274-146618
Also for those who use that stupid Twitter thing: http://twitter.com/martoneill
That is all for now, I have no comments on signings and speculation at this time might do squad profiles for the site so keep an eye out.
Also as I'm writing this I just heard that Luke Young's brother has died tragically while on vacation in Greece our thoughts go out to Luke and his family.
Up the Villa.
Cause I can never wrap these damn things up, I have noticed there is some confusion as to who exactly we are inside the pub so in order to make things easier and make us more approachable for those visiting New York and those who have never met us I have included the following old picture of NY Villans board members: front left in Club Treasurer John Whittard (usually has a bit more of a beard), Front and Center is Club Chairman Steven Lanham (usually wearing glasses and sweating profusely from his morning run), back left is Bob Warren Club Secretary (usually blocking somebody's view of the game) and the other tosser is me (usually even more of a tosser than pictured). Not pictured is club rent-boy Andrew Levinson just look for Robert Downey Jr. and you'll find him (except in the unlikely scenario that Robert Downey Jr. is actually in Nevada's) and the Villa ladies supporters group who aren't difficult to spot (usually horrifically drunk and swinging from the ceiling lights).