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My Favorite Villa Shirt: The old standard

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For our “My Favorite Villa…” series, Phil Vogel shares the shirt that — no matter how many years pass or other kits he picks up — he always comes back to

Aston Villa v Stoke City - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Welcome to My Favourite Villa… a new series from the staff at 7500 to Holte! With no sport on as everyone stays at home amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re sharing our favorite Villa teams, moments, players, kits, and anything else we can think of.

If you are looking for a detail analysis of a kit or the history or a design — you’ve come to the wrong post.

This is a self-reflective/serving journey — and how much of it is connected to my 2009-2010 John Carew Home kit.

In December 2009, I was six months out of college working at three freelance/part-time jobs in radio in Washington DC. I had no health insurance, significant college loans, very few friends in a new city, and a rough personal life (which was about to get worse).

My mother — who does not know a thing about professional soccer, let alone football in England — bought me the home kit with John Carew’s name on the back for Christmas after hearing about the connection with the Acorns charity (likely from me in some phone conversation she dutifully listened to). I recall opening it and then wearing it to work a 10-hour shift until midnight Christmas evening. If I had had a smart phone at the time, I would have snapped a picture. I didn’t — if you can recall those days.

Watching Villa in the States at the time wasn’t easy, and involved searching dodgy ends of the internet. Following that team was a joy, even if things came up short of where the club and all the supporters wanted. But this isn’t about that team — it is about the shirt and my journey with it.

That Winter things in my life bottomed and in the Spring they bounced. I found full time employment — two new great roommates — and that summer began dating my now-wife Angela.

Many years ago — the summer of 2010.

As you can see, the Carew shirt was a constant companion — being my only piece of Aston Villa attire and with TV rights growing in the United States a more common piece of daily wear... even for a date to listen to live music in the park.

For me — sports are one of the few emotional outlets. Football is special that way because the true moments of joy and sorrow are few but momentous. A 2-1 finish can be an enjoyable watch but in the most basic sense there are only three moments that actual make the scoreboard change. And that means a supporter is on the edge of sorry and joy for the whole 90’ and it can be the smallest thing that turns the play.

Two years ago when I got to see Aston Villa for the first time in person when the club traveled to Philadelphia — there was only one option in terms of attire. As I sat in the parking lot with a friend eating a cheesesteak and drinking a pack of Newcastle’s the Carew name was a frequent topic of conversation and song. After that trip I got involved with the Aston Villa America Facebook Group — which only grew my love of the club and my connections with fellow supporters.

The shirt came along to Houston in 2014 as well.

The day I saw Joe Bennett score.

And yes — to save you the Google — that means I’ve seen Joe Bennett and Nathan Delfouneso score goals for Villa. Not many outside of the U.S.-based fans can say that!

I’ve worn the kit in bars in a dozen or so places sometimes with other Villa fans sometimes as the lone representative. But most football fans remember John Carew — at least the song — and love the story of the Acorns connection. It is enjoyable — even if sometimes you lose a bet to your Swansea friend (Hi Sean!) and end up wearing a light up hat for the rest of the day.

I took the shirt along as motivation for my first half marathon in Chicago with my brother Jack.

Before

Somewhere in Chicago there is a man who cheered me on in the 12th mile with a nice “Come on Acorns.” So to that man — thank you. No idea why the shirt so drastically changed colors or anything.

After

I was supposed to wear it this spring — with my young nephew (and his adorable little kit) but the quarantine has put that plan on hold. I think the Globe and the Chicago Villans would have made the day a wonderful event — as they usually do. Malört won’t be too many years away for him.

I’ve bought a few other shirts over the past 10 years. But in the end I always find my way back to the Acorns/Carew shirt. I’ve seen the club relegated while sporting it in The Queen Vic (order takeout from your local bars, people) — I was in the same bar with the same shirt when the team won promotion last spring. Two Cup final defeats, Villa dominating performances, getting thrashed at other times — the shirt has seen it all and shows its age.

It has seen better days.

But I suppose we all do. In this time of self-isolation and a quiet sport landscape — this journey of finding the pictures and writing this has helped me. Clearly the joy and sorrow of sport is nothing in comparison to the joy and sorrow of real life — the real pain and death that is occurring across the world. Hundreds of thousands will die and all any of the general public can do is stay home and try not to make things worse. That is scary — and not scary in the same way as those times Alan Hutton was a makeshift central defender.

Sport right now is about the memories it has created and the memories it will create in the future. And for me — Aston Villa is forever tied to this John Carew kit. And I don’t I would want it any other way — even if the Acorns connection is visually-speaking nothing but a shadow.