first things first, a very Happy New Year to everybody, I know its a bit of a few days ago now, but Happy New Year all the same, and I hope everyone had a great time!, and thanks to everyone for their messages and best wishes, much appreciated all.
Our Grand Day Out!
Gromit, theyv’e pinched our title!
Regular readers will know that for my 50th birthday a couple of weeks ago ( actually it was nearer a month.. where did that go??
.), one of my presents was an all expenses paid day out at Villa Park in the Directors Suite & seating area for the game against The Arsenal on the 26th December 2008..well what a day!
We arrived early..so early in fact, that we turned up at the same time as some of the staff (thats because we got a lift off a friend who works there )
, and had to wait around for a bit.
This was not a problem for us & we were quite happy to sit in theTrinity Road reception area until we could go up,which did us a favour, as we got talking to one of th Villa commisionaires, who when he found out we were,
a) season ticket holders
b) there for my 50th,
took us on an impromptu and unoffical tour of the lounge/coporate area and directors boxes…what a great start!
When we got upstairs to the Directors suite
Directors Lounge.. plush or what!
we were given a glass of champers, while we waited to go on the stadium tour.
This is a glimpse of the behind the scenes workings at Villa Park, and is something I have been wanting to do for some time.
We made our way downstairs to the players changing rooms first, very plush, all the kit laid out, and all with personal safes as well ( a sad comment on todays society)
Villa changing rooms
then moved on to the showers ( we didn’t have one ..it was too cold!
Villa 1st team showers..where’s the cubicules??
then off down the tunnel to the Sky room , which is where they do all the post match interviews with the players & managers, and where we had a bit of fun pretending we were TV presenters.
Me interviewing Mr. Ron Manager..actually he wasn’t
really a manager, he just looked like one!
After that we moved outside (brrr!) down the players tunnel and onto the Hallowed Turf ( actually that’s not entirely true, as we weren’t allowed on the pitch, but we were as near as dammit ), to get a players eye view of the ground
The Holte End, Home End at Villa Park, and awesome!
and also to see things from the managers view in the dug out
Mr.O’Neil likes to keep this area spartan so that the subs dont
get too comfy..no wonder Marlon is always keen to get on!
We had a look at where we were going to be sitting in the Directors Area, ours were in the middle of the picture ,3 rows from the barrier, right by the gangway, seats 50 (nice touch! ) and 51.
Directors Seating Area, plush padded seats, arm rest, very nice!
then moved back inside ( phew it was cold out there! ) for a look around the inside of the stadiums hospitality areas, the 82 lounge ( named in honour of the 1982 European Cup winning squad
The 82 Lounge
Stained glass windows, rescued from the old Trinity Road Stand
And now used in the Mcgregor Suite..class
through the Mcgregor Suite, then up to the boxes for a view of the pitch from there.
All too soon we were back at the Directors lounge for lunch & our tour was over…
Let the roistering begin!
We were shown to our table , where we found team sheets, programs, a Villa embossed note pad each, balloons & party poppers, and a commemorative glass plaque for us to keep, very classy , and boy was I impressed!
Part of this fabulous day was a complimentary bar ( oh dear oh dear! ),so we tested the water so to speak, by asking for a pint of lager, a bacardi & lemonade and…2 glasses of champagne please…
2 minutes later Amber ( our waitress ) returned with…all the aforementioned beverages on a tray for us..
RESULT!!, sod the lager, I know what I’M
going to be drinking all day..mmmm
Dinner was served, terrine of salmon to start, ,( we did have a choice, but I can’t remember the rest of the dishes),with a nice glass of Chablis, rack of lamb for main course (with more Chablis AND champers ), then chocolate pudding, more champers and dessert wine, which is "very sweet and will go perfectly with your dessert Sir"….and more champers, followed by a cheese course..and champers..
Fucking hell, I was so full I thought I was going to burst!
Dinner finished, and well refreshed with bubbly, Sarah, the Hospitality co-ordinator, came over to us and explained the we were to receive a bottle of champagne (never too much! ) and some glasses presented to us by Gordon Cowans & Pat Heard.
You might never have heard of these two chaps, but for us..well, they were both members of the 1982 European Cup winning squad, Villa through & through and without a doubt, footballing Heroes.
Pat Heard, ME, Sid Cowans & a very nice champagne set
After a short chat, Sid introduced us to Dennis Mortimer, and Tony Morely, ( more 82 cup winners) who said they would come over for a chat after the match (brilliant! ) and we returned to our table,pleased as punch and excited, both from the pleasure of meeting Sid & Pat ( first name terms now eh! ), and anticipation of the coming match.
View from our seats of the Holte End just before kick off… full now, and roaring!
Well fuck me, all over the Arsenal, 5 seriously good chances on goal…..
and we go in at half time,one down, how the fuck did that happen…
Back up stairs in the lounge for a warm, and some pre ordered half time refreshments, champers for me, and coffee for Mrs.Dog ( it was cold),15 minutes later, the bell rang ( it’s like the theatre you know), and was back outside.
Never mind, second half coming, the way we were playing we would definitely score…
Only we didn’t..fucking hell, 2-0 down now, they nearly got a third, which would have been the end of it, then out of the blue…
PENALTY….to the Villa…
Come on you lions.. Gareth Barry stepped up, bang, in it went…. 2-1 game on.
By now you all know the result of this game, a last gasp goal by Zat Knight of all people, a 2-2 draw and the crowd ( me especially ) going absolutely mental!
After cheering the team off, back inside we went, for some warmth, where there were another 2 glasses of champers waiting ( good old Amber ), and some hot/cold buffet items.
By now, suprisingly I was quite hungry, so these got dispatched post haste, and were sitting at the table digesting the days events, recovering our voices, and generally enjoying the ambiance of the lounge, and an experience we are very unikely to get again, when out of the blue, Dennis Mortimer and Tony Morely come over to say hello…
Bugger me I had quite forgotten they had said they would see us later..
Dennis Mortimer, Mrs. Dog, Me, and Tony Morely
European Cup winnimg Heroes
(them , not us! )
What a pair of gents, they put up with us ( mainly me) talking bollocks, asked about my birthday,chatted about the match and all sorts of stuff, before having to move on…
Very nice of them, I must say, and very appreciated that they took the time to come over.
We were both sitting back in our chairs, letting the moment wash over us, when who walks by…
Gary Shaw, 1982 European Cup winner, Villa old boy, and yet another hero
Me and Gary Shaw
Fuck me… it doesn’t get much better than this does it??….
Oh yes it does…
Mr. Randy Lerner, American BILLIONAIRE, owner of the club, and thoroughly nice chap….
Mrs.Dog, Mr. Randy Lerner and Me
I couldn’t get my arse over to his table quick enough…..
I just dont get to meet people like this on a daily basis , and I was in serious danger of becoming a football groupie…..
when round the corner comes Charlie Aitken, a former player from the 60’s / 70’s and one of Villa’s all time great left backs
CharlieAitken and a by now very much the worse
By this stage it was all becoming too much for me, champers all day, chablis, lager, top bollocks food, a brilliant match, last minute equaliser for us, more champers, ex footy stars by the dozen(almost), and the OWNER of the club.
look at the expression on my face…how much more could I take..
Des Bremner..another 1982 Cup winner… thats how much more…
Me and Des Bremner
Happily by this stage I had recovered mysef a bit, so managed to not disgrace myself too much , and we talked about Gareth Barry, his on off transfer during the summer, and generally how Gareth had been misrepresented in the press.
It’s alway good to get a different view on things, and Des, being closer to the club and its workings, ought to know.
Another 2 glasses of champers later, I looked around, blimey… where had everyone gone???
Arrived with the staff, leaving with the staff, it was now nearly 9pm and we had been there since 1.45…taxi time!
What a day, what a treat, then out of the blue, the phone rung, and its our friend who gave us a lift earlier in the day, wanting to know if we were still there, and would we like a lift home….
There was one thing though…we would have to wait for her husband to come and pick us up, so would we mind if we went to the Holte Pub ( exclusive on match days, and invitation only AND I’ve been trying to get in there for fucking ages!) for a drink…..
2 hours later , we arrived home,and sat down exhausted with a nice glass of wine to round the day off,the perfect end to a brilliant day, I owe a debt of thanks to my sister for an experience of a lifetime, to everyone at Villa Park who took the the time to make the day really special,and to everyone who rallied round to get us there and back.
I can’t wait to do it again….but I think I will have to wait until I am 60.
And on a serious note, next years birthday / christmas is going to be a bit of an anticlimax after this… ungrateful bastard me… only joking folks
I hope you have enjoyed reading about our grand day out, because it WAS a grand day out, and will take some beating, and if you have managed to get this far, congratulations!
Let me know will you please, so that I know I haven’t bored the tits of you, and also that I haven’t wasted a weekend doing this
If you can be bothered, I have uploaded a load of pictures from the day, for you to have a look at, in the Our Grand Day Out Album, enjoy.