Aston Villa at Toyota Park
There’s good reason to be curious about the famed English Premier League squad Aston Villa. (And who doesn’t want to be English for the day?)
On July 21, Chicago Fire fans will more than likely root for our own boys in red. But there’s good reason to cheer on the competitor, famed English Premier League squad Aston Villa. (And who doesn’t want to be English for the day?) Villa is one of only five English clubs to win the European Cup. And, playing on the same ground since 1897, it has some of the richest football culture you’ll find on the planet—online and real fan communities of “Villans” exist all over the globe.
We’re here to make sure you’re prepared—because the Birmingham, England, football club’s motto is just that: “prepared.” So we present you with five easy ways to make like a Villa fan.
1 Say “cheers” with a real ale
This year, the squad hired a new manager, the popular Paul Lambert, who replaced controversial Alex McLeish. Have a pre-match flagon and toast Lambert at Owen & Engine, Fountainhead or Map Room—and try “real ale,” cask-conditioned, unpasteurized beer, enjoying a resurgence in Birmingham pubs. Like the drink, we hope to see Villa revitalized. Some background: Aston Villa Football Club is old, founded 138 years ago by Birmingham residents looking to find a good winter sport. Villa director William McGregor started the world’s first professional football organization, the Football League, in 1888. But it is the 1980s that Villa fans remember as a heyday. The team clinched the European Cup final in 1982 and the European Super Cup in 1983.
Before every home game, a rewrite of “For Me and My Gal”—a song made famous on film by Gene Kelly and Judy Garland—plays with adjusted lyrics: “The bells are ringing, for the claret and blue.” Learn it and YouTube terrace anthem “Holte Enders in the Sky.” It refers to the famous Holte End—the part of the team’s stadium where diehard fans sit.
3 Wear claret
We’re not asking you to spill wine on yourself—wear the red-wine color fans know as claret. The club originally sported black shirts with a red lion (Scottish roots, you know), but switched to sky blue and chocolate stripes in 1886. The chocolate evidently didn’t look too classy, as in 1887 it was subbed for claret which we know today. The 2012–2013 unis have just been released—so we’ll presumably be among the first to see them in action.
4 Applaud in the 19th minute
These days Villa fans clap in the 19th minute of every home and away game in recognition of the club captain, No. 19 Stiliyan Petrov, recently diagnosed with acute leukemia.
5 Pray to God
Bring a glow to the Villa fans around you and name-drop the legends. The official team-website poll voted Gordon Cowans, the first-team coach who played on the winning teams of 1981 and 1982, the club’s greatest player ever. Irish great Paul McGrath won two League Cups for Villa in the 1990s. He’s nicknamed God by the fans. To pay homage, sing folk song “Kumbaya, My Lord” and replace “Kumbaya” with “Paul McGrath.” Ohhh, lo-ord, Paul McGrath.
Aston Villa plays Chicago Fire at Toyota Park, July 21.