Aston Villa Change

Aston Villa Damon Green

My strongest memories of watching Villa are from the days my dad first took me to the ground.
I was six, and everything seemed huge, and very strange. Firstly, how jumpy and excited my dad became the closer we got to the ground. He would start talking nineteen to the dozen, and begin long rambling sentences he never finished. Pointing things out: this is where a bomb fell in the war. This is the pub where your great uncle went in and challenged every Albion supporter in the place to a fight. This is the spot where your uncle Val swore he would never come down the Villa again.

We would get closer to the Holte End and suddenly he would demand that I look for a milk crate. This was baffling the first time. Why would you need a milk crate at a football ground? Was it full of empty milk bottles?

But it only became clear once we pushed our way through the turnstiles - the clacking was incredibly loud, and right next to my ear - and I realised I was the smallest person in Villa park.

Everyone in the crowd seemed huge. And suddenly in the space under the Holte, the noise of them was deafening. Shouting, laughing, gossiping... and swearing. Everybody seemed to be swearing non-stop, including my dad, and they all smelled strongly of beer and cigarette smoke.

If we'd found a crate of some kind, I would perch on top of it and look back at the crowd. it went back and back and back, it seemed an impossibly large space full of an impossibly big number of people. I had no idea you could get so many people in one place at one time.

And when the game started the noise that they made was just astonishing. In an especially big crowd, you could feel the weight of people surging against the crush barriers if Villa attacked the goal. When we scored the ground seemed to vibrate and shake with the noise of jumping feet.

But the thing that sticks in my mind most clearly was the first visit I made to the gents' toilet under the Holte. It wasn't a toilet in any way that I recognised. It was a black, lightless hole that stank unbelievably, full of men pissing up the walls, pissing on the floor, pissing on themselves and each other.

Suddenly I didn't need to go. And every time I came to Villa Park after that, I would make sure I'd been to the toilet before I arrived. I never wanted to see that toilet again.

Damon Green

Follow on Twitter @damongreenITV

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