On August 16, 2013 my mate and I went for a night out near Chicago’s famed Magnificent Mile (i.e. not the cheapest place in the world for such an activity).
Having worn many different hats since university, let me offer a tidbit of unsolicited advice -- it is beneficial to know or be friendly with the bartenders anywhere, especially at your local.
With that said, after a few too many free beverages from a generous bartender trying to offload her unwanted stock, that balmy August night quickly blended into the morning.
It just so happened that morning was the start of Aston Villa’s 2013/14 campaign in the Premier League. Who could forget the result they had on the road at Arsenal that Saturday?
Those were the days in which Christian Benteke was banging in goals for the claret and blue. Like many Villans full of optimism at the start of that season, I had proudly worn my ‘Benteke 20’ home shirt out the night prior to that 3-1 win at the Emirates. Unfortunately early that Friday, I had also made the daft mistake of putting on a pair of loafers that hadn’t quite yet been broken in. Ultimately I ended up having a bit of a Curt Schilling moment:
I have kept those to this day in order to remind myself of what was a great night out and here is why...
Whilst walking on the streets of Chicago, my Villa kit first caught the attention of a group of women from -- Latvia or Lithuania, it was definitely one of those two Baltic states. They weren’t even Aston Villa supporters but, much to my pleasant surprise, they knew enough football to collectively begin chanting “...Oh Christian Benteke.”
Not a few minutes later, on the same street, my kit was again recognized by a Villa supporter who happened to be visiting from Birmingham. We had a brief discussion about the upcoming Premier League season and our, what we now know were, naively high expectations. However, what was most joyous about the unexpected attention my support of this great club garnered that night, was when that supporter took out his phone.
He proceeded to show me footage (i.e. albeit grainy by contemporary standards) of when he was in The Holte End for Villa’s 5-1 victory over the Blues in April of 2008.
The clip showed the crowd at Villa Park absolutely giving the Bluenoses the business, and rightfully so. That result was one of the most famous victories for Aston Villa in one of Europe’s most notable derby’s, the Second City Derby.
When Villa make the roughly 6 km journey south to St. Andrews to face Birmingham City on Sunday evening, it will mark the 123rd all-time meeting between the two bitter rivals.
The run of form that has seen Steve Bruce’s side move into the promotion places has generated the most positivity surrounding the club in recent memory. If the claret and blue can notch their 54th victory in history against City this Sunday, Villans everywhere will be absolutely buzzing.
Whilst promotion this season is of the upmost importance, the significance of any victory of the Blues cannot be overlooked. This is the case, because no matter how bad things might seem at the club, supporters can always collectively revel in the joy of Villa’s derby record: 53W – 31D – 38L.
For those lucky few of you who were able to get an away ticket to St. Andrews, hopefully three points on Sunday will leave you all with footage that allows you to say to your mates, or maybe some random supporter on the streets of a foreign city, “...I was there.”
As per the rest of us watching the televised derby, come Sunday night, may we all be left with fond memories of the day that don’t involve a blood stained pair of shoes. Up The Villa!