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England 2015

May 24, 2015 – Day 6

An amazing VIP day at Villa Park watching Aston Villa’s final home match of the 2014-2015 season!

Here are all of today’s photos

Villa Park panorama

This morning, we’re off (in smart attire, thankyouverymuch) to Birmingham for the final home match of the Aston Villa Football Club for the 2014-15 Premier League season.

Kathy and LeAnn in McGregorsWe’re dressed up because our day will revolve around eating, drinking, and watching top-flight football (soccer!) in the VIP circles in which Marianne (and John!) enjoy!

When we arrive and park in the VIP lots, we make our way over to the Villa store for some souvenirs.

Since Villa was going to be playing for the FA Cup Championship the following weekend (ugh, horrible result as it happened), he had asked for a Cup Final kit (jersey). So, while I was getting that kit personalized for him with his name/number, we looked around and loaded up on a few other things. Yay us!

Storing our treasures in the back of the Jeep, we head towards the stadium. We pause by the statue of William McGregor, founder of the Football League in 1888, for a quick photo.

Once inside, we go to the Club level. McGregor’s Restaurant, named for the aforementioned statue, is an upscale venue and we’re pampered from the start.

Sitting in the AVFC home dugoutHOWEVER – before we can even get settled in too much, we’re whisked off for a quick walk down pitch-side!

Being able to sit in the Villa home dugout seats before the match actually begins is fantastic!

We walk along the touch lines as the ground crew preps the pitch for the upcoming match — what an awesome perspective!!

Being a former (schoolboy and recreational) player, being at this stadium and standing that close to a pitch that is one of the best in the world, really made me want to run down to the locker room and suit up.

But, even I can admit that my playing days are LONG behind me and the “run down to the locker room” might have done me in for the day (ha ha!).

Still … it was a fantastic feeling. 🙂
Villa Park panorama

Once back upstairs, the multi-course lunch begins in earnest!

Villa banner in The Holte EndAnd now, stuffed to the gills, it’s time to walk out to our seats … AND WHAT SEATS THEY ARE!

Unfortunately, Villa find themselves in a hole early on and half to play catch-up for the rest of the match.

We have a great time, though, as Kathy and LeAnn really get into the experience and crowd atmosphere – including the chanting coming from The Holte End fans!

Halftime brings on *MORE* refreshments and a brief respite before heading back out for the second half.

The description of the second half is Kathy’s vocal commentary in the video below.

Villa come up on the short end of today’s match, but they’re safely above the “Relegation Zone”, so it didn’t really matter – though we would have preferred to have seen a victory!

Throughout the day, back in McGregor’s, we are treated to several former Villa players coming by the table.

Roger and Charlie AitkenCharlie Aitken is the all-time record appearance holder for Aston Villa primarily as a defender, playing in over 560 matches from 1959 until 1976!

Charlie also played for one of my boyhood favorite teams, the old North American Soccer League (NASL) New York Cosmos.

He played alongside Pele and Franz Beckenbauer, and he made sure we knew that it was *his assist* on Pele’s 1250th career goal. 🙂

Marianne, Roger, and Lee HendrieLee Hendrie was a popular Villa midfield player from 1995-2007.

I remember seeing him play numerous times – so it was really excellent standing next to him for this photo.

It was really a pleasure talking with both gentlemen, and an honor to have my photo taken with each.

The food, the atmosphere, and just being there with John and Marianne was another wonderful day!

As we were leaving, we heard noises coming from the stadium, so before we left, we walked out into the seating area again. There was a “fantasy camp” match being played by (obviously) non-professional players. It was anchored by Lee Hendrie on one team and Ian Thomas on the other.

Several of the players were… well… “chubby”. Some of their friends were in the stands, cheering them on, and occasionally teasing them with fan chants such as “Have you ever met a salad that you liked?”, aimed at the not-so-slender of their friends. Totally fun to watch for a few minutes. 🙂

Just a spectacular day… and a dream come true. It was agreed that I need to bring Andrew back for this experience. 😀

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