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Dave’s Villa Blog



Like many big football clubs, Aston Villa haven’t always had a good relationship with their neighbours – and we don’t mean Birmingham City. Dave Woodhall reports on a novel scheme to attract the fanbase on their doorstep.

First of all, thanks to everyone who contributed to the William McGregor statue fund last Saturday. The Supporters Trust collected £1975.33, which means we’re well on the way towards getting the statue commissioned.

The result against Bolton was a welcome win at a time when Villa were showing signs that our season was ending a month before everyone else’s. Bolton are doomed, which was reflected both in their play and the surprisingly small following they brought. But whatever the opposition are like, you can only beat what’s put in front of you, three points is three points and any other cliché you might care to think of.

Saturday afternoon was a good one, with lots to cheer. But there was one thing which stood out. It wasn’t the result. It wasn’t the sweeping movement that let to Gabriel Agbonlahor scoring Villa’s second. It wasn’t even the welcome return to form of Gareth Barry nor our first clean sheet since last November. And neither was it Meadowlark Baros keeping the Albion out of the cup final.

Villa have recently leafleted homes in area around the ground offering match tickets for the Bolton game for £5 each. Not only that, but they were offering halal refreshments and an alcohol-free area. These had been mentioned in supporter consultation meetings as reasons why the local population, which is predominantly Muslim, has never attended Villa Park in great numbers.

The result was an area in the lower Witton Lane stand, which from where I was sitting seemed to house around 800 Villa supporters, the overwhelming majority of whom were Asian. Whoever thought of this initiative deserves promotion, a bonus and anything else they want.

Over the years Villa and the local residents have often been at loggerheads.

The club has often had the attitude typical of football clubs that they can do whatever they want. Supporters have believed that as the ground was there first, the locals have got to put up with anything we want to do.

And the residents themselves have seen this high-profile and highly-profitable business impose itself on the neighbourhood for a few hours once a fortnight. Traffic chokes the roads for miles around, parking is difficult and local services swamped.

Unless you own a retail business in the area or you’ve got a piece of land suitable for a car park, you get nothing in return for the inconvenience.

Last Saturday, Villa made another huge step towards making the population of Aston and the surrounding area feel that this is their football club as well.

And that leads to what was, for me, the best sight of all. Walking down Station Road after the match was a group of young kids. Some were Asian, some white, some appeared to be mixed race. But that doesn’t matter.

They were wearing Villa shirts, scarves and making a Godawful racket with those hooter things kids buy at the first match they go to. They were singing and dancing around, full of smiles because their team had won.

It was probably the first game they’d ever been to. I bet it wasn’t the last.

Should football clubs do more to attract supporters on their doorstep – especially from minority ethnic groups? Leave a comment on the Stirrer Forum.

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