As a new Villa fan, I promised myself that I would watch at least one home game before the end of the year. On 1st December, I was able to complete my goal by sitting in the Doug Ellis Stand, yards away from the pitch, and watching one of the most riveting matches of my life. For the last year, the television, my laptop, and sometimes even my dreams, fulfilled my fantasies of sitting at Villa Park.
However, when you’re sitting under the floodlights, watching your breath in the air around you, and the Holte End is singing for Holte Enders in the sky, you know, nothing else in the world will ever compare to the feelings you’re feeling right now. My first game at Villa Park was Aston Villa against the defending Premier League Champions, Manchester City.
The “Premier League defending Champions” isn’t the important thing to focus on here, though. It was, indeed, the return of the prodigal Villa son, Jack Grealish. I only saw him in claret and blue for the last year, and ignored as much of the media coverage of him in his brand new blue colour.
To be confronted by reality, from so close, and seeing how good our team looked without him, was more than satisfying. It was also a reminder that I always thought I’d be watching Villa at home with Grealish as our number 10, but instead I still watched him play as a number 10, just in a different jersey.
Reactions around the Park were different. However, the stoic Holte End was a cacophony of chants. One chant that stood out to me and will always stick by me was Villa Till I Die. It cemented the faith and pride of Villa fans and their promise to the men in claret and blue that they were all for them, and were in the moment and forever, Villa till they die.
Goosebumps ran across my entire body, and not from the cold, as the infamous Grealish completed his round around the Park for one last time this year. The same hallowed grounds where he grew up, scoring goals for us and taking us to the next level. I think the important message ringing around Villa Park that day was the fact that important ex-players are welcome back, but that their allegiance remains to the club and the players currently wearing claret and blue on the pitch.
The chorus of Villa Till I Die faded away in the background as Villa Park emptied, but the air lacked any negative emotion. I think it was a mutual feeling in everyone’s hearts that despite the loss, our boys gave one of the best performances possible in the second half. The commentary on the game has already been made on the blog, and still it feels as if no amount of commentary can successfully capture the fans’ emotions at Villa Park.
Indeed, nobody knows the kind of reception that Grealish will receive the next year he arrives at Villa Park, and the reception Villa will receive when we make the trip to the Etihad. However, what I do know is that our club has always been bigger than a player and it will always be the sum of our players, our fans, and our staff. The game served as a sense of closure from the messy summer transfer window, and it has made me look forward to our new era - the Steven Gerrard era.
Sayali - @marathesayu
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