I do apologise in advance, this won't be a usual ‘From the Stands'. It's hard to comment on a football match when it was consistently as poor as the last one I witnessed at home.
There's a lot going on in the world right now. Hate is flying everywhere like it's got unlimited air miles and disaster and tragedy lurk around every corner, ready to spearhead into the print of the daily news.
It's not a sports issue, but no-one can ignore the disastrous shooting incident in the States this week. It has weighed heavily on my mind that so many people have lost their life to what seems to be such a simple issue to resolve on paper.
I walked to Villa Park with a cloud hanging over me. The actions of one human being, thousands of miles away from me had opened a mental can of worms inside of me. How high does the issue go? Why allow such a waste of life and money? How far does this issue go? Who is blocking the progress and why?
We turn to sports to seek refuge from the worries of our life. Without sports, we would turn to other ways of coping, other ways of understanding. Without Aston Villa, I'd have no chance to take the weight from my mind. A goal provides elation in spades and a victory swells your pride. There's no better drug, is there? The society we live in demands a capital return on your pleasure. Football has always been the sport of the working class in England, it has brought us together - but there is always money to be made. Step in the FSF who are leading a movement to get away ticket prices down to £20. The federation is bang on the money, but there is so much more to push for - people really can't be paying more than £25 for a home game, and if prices go down around the board, Villa Park would likely be filled each and every game.
As the 90 minutes against Stoke passed, I was swept away by other thoughts. How will Sherwood and Aston Villa get Villa Park to its feet as they were during the match with Manchester United? The Holte End is a weapon and its edge is so dulled right now, you'd have trouble cutting butter. It is quiet, it is deprived and it is starving for goals and glory. It is very hard to enjoy a football match when every single person around you is paying money to watch vapid, boring football. How can anyone justify paying £25 for this match? How could anyone not be embarrassed to budget money for this? English Football is rapidly approaching a tipping point as prices rise, whilst performances stagnate nationwide.
Returning to Louis Althusser whom I referenced a few weeks ago. The theory of the state apparatus pretty much states that without entertainment as meaningless as the X-Factor or Premier League Football, the proletariat would run wild and tear the state apart (apparently). This seems even more evident nowadays with the pressure higher on the young and working than ever (football's exact target audience, mind you), and luxuries are becoming harder to choose between - something has to give and that something may be visiting Aston Villa every other week. Especially with performances on the pitch so bad right now. I'm not saying the supporters will rise up and put the PM's head on a spike, but there is so much frustration inside and outside of Villa Park and I'll bet the feeling is mutual with other underperforming teams in low income areas. There is certainly a lot to be pissed off with currently and I can almost understand why people would give up on Aston Villa right now, it certainly wouldn't be hard, would it?
On a final note; I sit in the ‘kop' of Villa Park. The Holte End is a place for loud, boistrous support - If Aston Villa were the Lion Rampant on its crest, the Holte End would be its roar. A woman sits behind me and regularly complains loudly and around the 60th minute of the match she asked me something kind of shocking, especially deep into the Upper Holte End.
"Can you stop standing?"
She did explain that she had bad knees and couldn't stand up regularly, but this only brought up more questions. Why was she sitting to a seat where she had to ascend steps? Why was she complaining about standing at a football match? Why was she upset about her vision of the match when she was so far up in the Holte End? Maybe I am just being unfair, but it wasn't nice to hear and really did put a damper on my match having to marshal my enjoyment of the game into a small box.
I do understand that Football is everyone's game, but the Holte End, to be harsh, isn't a place for people who aren't too fit. People stand up & down all the time and there's more than a few steps to ascend to get to the top. It's not really on me to tell other people what to do, especially when we're all paying good money to go down to the Villa. I'm pretty sure there's more accepting areas for people to stay seated all the time, not sing and have a little picnic: it's not the Holte End though. I'm a Brummie lad, born a few miles from Aston - I won't accept anyone telling me how to enjoy my Aston Villa.
Because after all that we've put up with, they are still our escape from the world. No matter how bad the play, how vapid the tactics, or how quiet the stands, Villa are still a respite from the horrors of the world that surrounds us. Maybe that is the justification for still spending what is, admittedly, too much money to see this club. Twenty is plenty, but unfortunately this club and this sport have me across the barrel and they know that I'll pay more. It's a drug, after all, and I'm addicted, even when I know how bad it is for me. Because when I'm in the midst of that escape, it still feels right.