So it can be nice too

7 11 2009
Aston Villa 5 Bolton Wanderers 1
Premier League

It’s useless to resist the Premier League, it will ensnare you eventually. The method that hooked me was the granting of free tickets. I would have preferred them for a European game, as advertised, but Villa managed to eliminate themselves from the Europa League. I offered my free pair to a Villa-supporting friend, Gaz, and he gladly accepted them. I had a choice of 5 games, all glamourous; Hull!!!!!! Bolton!!!!! Gaz chose glittery old Bolton on account of a weekend off. Then Neil had a thought; “Why don’t you get another ticket and we’ll go thirds”. I was £7 lighter but i had a Premier League ticket in my pocket.

Motorway services are the epitome of market capitalism. You turn up hungry, they provide the food, you pay the inflated, nay extortionate, prices because you’re trapped there. Wimpy still exists!!! Proust may have eaten a Wimpy burger once, the chopped onions on my Burger reminded me of childhood parties and green milkshakes. The services usually give you a flavour of which teams are playing on a Saturday, except this Saturday of course. We saw one carload of Bolton fans and two supporters, of an indeterminate team in stripes, waiting for a lift.

Motorway travel is great fun usually but it can lead to boredom on rare occasions. Next time you’re bored why not play, “How many Villa fans can you spot?” and the journey will fly by. We spotted 14 and I got the prize for the most morbidly obese. Strangely a lot of people didn’t seem to be going to a football match.

Parking was easy to find by the time we got there. We parked in the car park next to  the Aston Villa Leisure Centre. I vaguely remembered that this used to be some kind of music venue. “Seen Better Days” was the politest euphemism available, it’s very sad how time passes.

We found a nice pub in claret and blue. They were showing the Edinburgh derby and Poppy Fascism is alive and well up there too. Note to clubs; if you’re going to wear a poppy on a polyester football shirt it may be an idea to choose one with a stronger adhesive as several players had become divested of theirs. It was 0-0 when we left. This was not good for Neil, he had Hearts to win on his coupon.

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Gaz left the merchandise tent with a half Villa / half Wales T-shirt and we all went in. I was in the upper tier of the same stand that I occupied during the Rapid match. The upper part was so clean and homely!! The simple addition of rubber flooring made all the difference. By the end of the game you could see the difference that all of the cleanliness had made. I had been surrounded by pleasantness and politeness, then to top it all,  I didn’t meet 1 nice steward, I didn’t meet 2 nice stewards, I didn’t meet 3 nice stewards. I met 4, yes 4,  very nice stewards. I even discussed the Swansea versus Cardiff match (they were showing it on the conviniently located TV screens) with one, he liked Cardiff!! Maybe the one’s working below are sick of  the wet weather and the morons so they can appear to be less than cheerful. I’d asked for a seat on an aisle because of my usual leg space/leg length ratio problems. It was only when I arrived at the correct row that I found my ticket was for the middle of a row.

After the silence for Remembrance Day we were off. Villa began well and scored early into the half. They doubled this lead just before half time. During the intervening period Villa were far superior but due to Bolton’s crappiness this wasn’t difficult. Despite their superiority Villa contrived to make things difficult by not taking the opportunities they had created.

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James Milner looked very good. He was industrious (you couldn’t tell if he was a winger or an extra defender at some points), skillful and he hit some wonderful long passes. Bolton, on the other hand, plodded up the pitch. Their passing was tidy but they usually reached a dead end when they went past the centre circle. Kevin Davies wandered around like a child denied attention but still seeking to impress. On the rare occasions Bolton manufactured a good move it seemed to involve their winger Lee Chung-Yong. Lee looked like he could have caused Villa a few problems but didn’t get as much of the ball as he should have. If this is the standard fare on offer it’s no wonder that Bolton have a meagre(This is the blessed Premier League after all) amount of away fans.

Even so Bolton managed to score somehow. The ball was saved, it may have struck a post, Friedel may have got a touch to it but he was helpless to prevent the ball crossing the line. Due to the nature of the goal part of my brain assumed that there must be something wrong with the goal. Friedel must have had the same thought; his body language said “Referee, you can’t allow this effrontery to stand, it’s not cricket!!” The second half promised to be interesting.

I had a chat with one of the nice stewards at half time; my war wound was flaring up and I required a seat on an aisle. You know, like I’d asked for!! Could he help me? He said that he’d do his damnedest!! My ally and I spotted several likely candidates but, due to the nature of the modern football fan, half-time refreshments were still being consumed by a large number of inconsiderate people. “Those are free!!” No they weren’t. “What about that one? The one under the man with the scarf?” It wasn’t free. My ally eventually found me a place 2 rows up from the front. My knees almost cheered!!

Villa scored their third goal shortly after half time. Carew had it, then he didn’t, He was going to slip, ooooooh he’s still on his feet, Cahill will stop him, no he won’t, “Megs!!” It was quite the most skillful stumble you’re ever likely to see. Then Villa had a penalty. “Don’t let Ashley Young take it!!” implored a young fan. Milner strode up purposefully, the keeper saved. Sidwell fired at an open goal, he hit a post. Milner scored whilst falling. Would we see a clean goal at this end?  Cuellar flicked the ball past the keeper for Villa’s fifth. We had our clean goal!

It was a very happy car on the way home. Gaz was happy with the result, Neil was happy with his ticket and I was happy to have rediscovered faith in humanity. There are nice people out there, even in the Premier League!!

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