Paul Lambert stands in the opposite corner to where we were sat on Saturday. He probably had a bet and a brew too!(Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)
Sat in my room whilst away on tour with a team of Under 15 elite footballers I had to think hard about a topic to rant about, and given the fact that Everton haven't started too badly I was finding it hard to come up with something to write. But then I thought a little bit outside the box. Let's have a look at one of the oldest, more traditional grounds in the Premier League - Villa Park.
As readers may (or may not) know, I attend every game possible. I have been the length and breadth of the country following Everton. I have seen us play in older facilities, such as Southampton's "Dell," Oxford United's old Manor Ground, and Coventry City's Highfield Road. In contrast, I have also been to the Emirates, St Mary's, Stamford Bridge amongst others, so I believe I am suitably "qualified" so to speak to discuss football grounds.
As you head South on the M6 from Merseyside and pass through Walsall, you see a small ground on your left. That is, funnily enough, Walsall's ground. A few miles on, on the right, the unmistakable sign on a building rising above the slated roofs tells you you are looking at "Aston Villa Football Club." As you get closer you see the very impressive steps leading into the Holte End.
The away fans used to be situated behind the goal in the opposite end to the Holte End. It was very cramped and you had to balance yourself on the edge of a step and when you jumped up you often found yourself holding onto each other to stay on your feet! There was also one way in and one way out. But, you could have a bet, buy a drink, have a bite to eat, it was alright.
Now, they have us situated to the side, in the corner, opposite the dugout (the same side as the TV Gantry is situated.) When we picked up our ticket from the players entrance, it said Enter via Turnstile P10. We made our way around and queued up in front of the four turnstiles under the signs saying "Turnstiles P9 to P11." This is where simplicity stopped. We couldn't use three of the four turnstiles, and only found this out once we reached the front of the queue. Turn around, and join the back of the next queue, that's for the Upper. Simple signs anyone??!!
Once we entered the ground there were a few flights of stairs to walk up before going through the double doors to... nothing. There was a very small, under stocked hatch which had no tea, no coffee, didn't sell beer and only had chicken balti pies left. This was fifteen minuted BEFORE the game. Come half time, nothing left except a few pies, some Powerade and £2.50 cans of Monster Energy.
What about a bet? Well, unless you had registered to bet online or via a mobile phone you had no chance to place any bet in there. There was only one toilet, and it took us fifteen minutes to get out after the final whistle. Good job we won eh?
I'm clutching at straws here, as we do very well on the field. However, for a ground of Premier League standard, the home of a club with a prestigious history we really did expect more.
Happy to say that cup competitions aside I don't have to go back there now for at least a year!
Did you go? What did you think? Comment below....