It's like this: you speed along the grey tarmac of the snaking Aston Expressway that so eagerly spearheads from Birmingham's famous Spaghetti Junction and your eyes won't be able miss the peaks of the old Aston Hall that beg to break the sky.
Beyond that monument to the Jacobean splendour of the Holte Family, you'll also catch a glimpse of their namesake 'kop' stand. The impressive Holte End backs out into Aston and almost onto the grounds of Thomas Holte's estate. Beyond that, a small concrete football pitch plays host to the games of children almost in the shadow of the Trinity Road stand.
It's a story in itself, isn't it? Taking a deep look at Aston Villa's unique ground is worthy of a thesis as Villa Park is made up of hundreds, if not thousands of minute details. Tiny, intricate building blocks of history placed with care by the patrons of the club throughout its many years standing tall in Aston. Like the cars that travel past and above on a daily basis, time time always be moving, and it will always be Aston Villa's greatest enemy.
Named after an old house at the junction of Villa Road, Lozells Road and Heathfield Road a stone's throw away, Aston Villa have a unique name, almost like the language of William Shakespeare which has been thrown aside as past habits so often are. There are a multitude of Uniteds, Citys, Towns, Sportings, Wanderers, Rovers, AC's and FC's - but there's only one Aston Villa. A name that could have so easily been torn from the pages of literature or from the archives of our history, but no - it is simply a dedication to its origin - that old Aston Villa that stood on a crossroads.
Aston Villa were founded by the members of the Aston Villa Wesleyan Chapel. These pilgrims in the face of their God may not have known at the time that they would play a part in the breaking of a few of the strict commandments that they worshipped - if not by creating their own religion then they did so by playing their part in allowing many to witness a number of idols that would dazzle those watching and paying allegiance to the claret and blue.
The area of Aston would betray it's older glamour as many inner city areas do. The terraced houses that toe the line behind the stadium belong to many families who don't have much cash to rub together. Surrounded by a bit of poverty, neglect and a few doses of crime, Aston Villa are the only reason that an area of Birmingham everyone else has seemingly forgotten gets remebered. Upon telling someone that 'you're going to Aston', you may encounter a look of distaste, or a glimpse of curiosity as if to say, 'Why there?'. The same question can also be reflected onto my American colleagues - 'Why Villa?' and likely met with equal distaste by overseas fans of Tottenham and Arsenal, why would you throw in your hat with the lowly Villans?
The question of 'why' is just as embedded into Villa Park as those bricks and mosaics that gleam so eagerly in the face of the sun's light. Why do they play in those majestic colours? Why do they have such a regal, old fashioned name? Why are they based in Aston and not the centre of the city, like almost every other football club? For the budding fan, there is so much history locked between the seams of Villa Park and those questions will remain, just as Aston Villa will remain and even though changes would come - like the transfer of footballing operations from the sightly Aston Lower Grounds to Villa Park - these changes wouldn't affect much at all, but some would certainly try.
In the wake of tragedy always comes change. The Patriot Act is one example that owes its origins to a few hours of horror. It took two planes to change the world and the political landscape and it took ninety-six lives to change the face of English Football. The date is etched into the mind of every single football fan in England, whilst being forever branded into the culture of the City of Liverpool: 15 April 1989. The 'sanitisation' of football would follow as the Government and the media started to accuse and point fingers. Change would come and it would be led by the Taylor Report and a new wave of mistrust. The Holte End would be torn down in 1992 and those who came to watch would be ordered to sit, but of course, you'd be a fool to make demands of a lion.
After the rug had been firmly pulled over the events of 1989, the cash started to flow. A new league was created at the summit of the English football pyramid and football became projected. It wasn't the nation's secret anymore, it was everyone's to enjoy. Science, stats, post-match analysis, columns, articles, blogs and fansites would flood the culture that was previously 'pie, bet & pint'. The simple game became the day-in & day-out game. Football was everywhere and all you had to do was look for it. The demand for news became overwhelming and footballers became global superstars
Aston Villa benefited from this exposure as long time custodian Doug Ellis passed the torch to the seemingly keen Randy Lerner. Villa Park was renovated in some small aspects, but time would quickly pass and the only monument left to honour Lerner's time in charge would pretty much be the Holte Pub - a hollow gesture in the direction of what might have been.
Our idols stand regardless of 'modern football' - will we ever forget the commanding leadership of Martin Laursen and Olof Mellberg, or the tepid tempo control of Gareth Barry? No, we will not. Peter Withe's 'shin-kick' will weather the winds of time, as will the speed of Tony Daley and the bravery of Gordan Cowans. We will look back on the wasted potential of Lee Hendrie, Stefan & Luke Moore, and Darius Vassell whilst fondly remembering the heroics of the 1982 European Cup winning team. A exasperated Dennis Mortimer grasping onto the famous trophy cementing Villa's status as the cream of Europe.
Are Aston Villa a big club? No - there's no such thing as a 'big club'. Football has allowed every single participant to grow a rich history. We see teams leap from the undergrowth and fade into decline, but that doesn't destroy the pages written about the club. No owner, tragedy or bad result can remove the fact that there is only one Aston Villa Football Club.