Chicago is a city of intricate pocket watch design. There is an overwhelming sense of depth to movement in the city. At ground level, sidewalks with the size and depth of a Malnati's stuffed pizza stretch out from the foundations of towering skyscrapers. The loop train rattles on age-old tracks above the non-stop locomotion of cars on the street. Looking deeper into a sea of interlocking movement reveals a web of traffic and pedestrians, sliding against each other through intersections, block-by-block. There is an Italian influence, Jamaican influence, an Irish influence, an English influence - scratch that - there is worldwide influence decked out under an American flag. Wrigley Field, home of the former World Champion Cubs leans against railway tracks as we stretch north into the city, nay, metropolis. Walk into a bar, and a shot of Malört awaits. The smell burns the nostrils, don't drink it.
Welcome to Chicago.
The Swedish inspired neighborhood of Andersonville invites us closer to Ravenswood. Leafy suburbs that are practically towns within towns within a city. A short walk into Ravenswood, you can find the Globe Pub - and along the lacquered bar in the tavern, amidst the glare of flat screen televisions, lies a slice of Villa Park - American style.
Tyler Damme has been following Aston Villa the hard way. 6am wake up calls in -14c weather to slide the few blocks south to the Globe is a harder task than it seems - and it certainly isn't easy on the wallet when there are beers to buy and a drunken pizza to eventually order. Aston Villa haven't always been as sweet and tangy as marinara sauce though - and these early wake up calls haven't always resulted in glory. There is almost pain in Tyler's face as he recalls the 15/16 season - where he saw a win perhaps one or two times. 38 trips to the pub, and nothing.
However, while there isn't often glory on the pitch, the Chicago Villans led by Simon Leach are a friendly, raucous and supportive bunch and the pain of following Villa from nohas forged bonds of friendship. It was in Simon's house, after all, where the Chicago Villans crashed after forcing the bar open on Memorial Day 2019 to see Aston Villa qualify for the Premier League.
Megan, the general manager of the pub, knows that the Villans bring thirsty mouths and full wallets, but there is also a sense of a genuine care for Aston Villa from a more neutral perspective. After bringing her staff in on a day off to cater for the Chicago Villans, she found herself involved in the celebrations of victory - a far cry from the time she spent reassuring the Villans during a gut wrenching play-off shootout against West Bromwich Albion.
Tyler can recall the exact spot he stood in. He nods his Nebraska Cornhuskers cap towards a spot in the corner and recounts the events of that day. He leaned against a dishrack and watched the penalty shoot-out through the gaps in his fingers. Megan's kitchen staff didn't exactly help his nerves as they banged metallic sounds of doom with metal ladles against aluminium serving shelves.
We all know how that one ended though, and Tyler needn't have feared. It wasn't to end in disaster like the year before - an emotional final against Fulham that brought everything out of the Chicago Villans to the extent where Megan's husband - a neutral - chose to support the Villa. There are dozens of untold stories in the knowing glances shared between Tyler and Megan. This is real, and it is Villa.
If Chicago is anything, it is a city of connection and interlinking humanity. A spontaneous visit by a newbie Villan decked out in claret and blue to the Globe will likely end in the creation of new friendships. Tyler, Simon and the rest of the Chicago Villans simply won't allow a Villa fan to watch the game alone, and will invite them into the group.
From there, it's singing. Simon brings the English twang through cheeky chants aimed at the other football shirt-clad patrons of the bar. No matter the group opposite, the Villans in the pub won't let them rest easy. Good natured barbs are the order of the day (alongside pints and pints of Guinness), and no matter if you're Liverpool, Manchester City, Forest or Arsenal, you'll hear from the Chicago Villans.
While the Villans are always going to order lots and lots of drinks, there is a genuine sense of care from the Globe towards them. It has become a home, and that isn't at all by accident - it has been nurtered by Megan & the Globe, and the Chicago Villans. It is a weekend excursion, early doors in the dark dawn of winter. It is a construction of complete care.
There is destiny in the fact that a Birmingham based football club have such raucous support in Birmingham's sister city and thanks to the Globe, Megan, and the Chicago Villans, there is not a chance of isolation for Midwestern Villans, or domestic Villans far from home.
Not on their watch and not in the Second City, in the wood and brick of the Globe, decibel after decibel of song and chant has been beaten in. The place is soaked in the songs of Villa.
Oh, and it's your round.