Gameday Opinion

An American’s Aston Villa Pre Play-Off Final Experience

4 in the morning. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. May 24th 2018.

Two days ahead of Aston Villa vs. Fulham in the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Final.

I shot out of bed like I was late for my own funeral. Sitting up like WWE legend The Undertaker, I took a look around my room in a panicked haze. What was I dreaming that made me wake so suddenly? Why in the hell am I awake at 4am? And why do I have this feeling of riddled grief?

Mere hours before, I was laying in bed completely restless. Things happen in all of our lives that keep us up at night. We are human, after all things considered. Attempting to relax and actually get some meaningful rest, I needed to find my happy place. I needed centered. I needed a smile before I closed my eyes and tried yet again to give myself time to recuperate after a busy night at work.

I brought up YouTube on my phone as I often do out of boredom or restlessness. I pressed the search box and there was the blinking line to begin type. Blinking over and over again, my thumbs transfixed in position awaiting orders from my exhausted brain, I typed: Aston Villa.

Depending on your viewing history on YouTube, one could find quite the number of interesting and informative videos about Villa. Some are fan-made, yet still brilliant. Some are podcasts talking about the eventual Play-Off Final, which are informative and generally contain great commentary and factually based opinions. Some videos you’ll find that Aston Villa isn’t a well liked club. No bother. We don’t care anyway, do we Villans? When I searched for Aston Villa late in the morning on this day, I started looking at the highlight video packages from this season. I was watching the highlights of the Sheffield Wednesday/Aston Villa fixture that was played on Februrary 24th of this year.

It wasn’t a memorable game by any means in terms of history. Although it was a game that saw Villa win 4-2 after being down in the game not once, but twice. I remember watching the game. I remember the goal by Sean Clare in the 14th minute. I remember Lewis Grabban scoring seven minutes later to equalise.

I also remember how games like that made me felt after the full-time whistle.

Proud. Excited. Hopeful for the future. Determined to see Villa back where they belong in the Premier League. Sitting next to those emotions were nervousness, stress, anxiety and jitters. At the time, I didn’t think the anxiety could get worse. I just wanted to see Villa do well. In February, playoffs and automatic promotion spots were still wildly talked about but still pretty open for the taking. It still seemed like there was a few twists to the tale in terms of what club will finish where on the table. I had to remind myself, at the time, that there was a large chunk of the season left. And then the feelings of doubt and tentativeness subsided.

That was not the case for me this week. There is no time left. This is it. It’s ‘one and done’. I know, and maybe hope, I am not alone in feeling this way. I know it will sound borderline manic, definitely crazy and maybe a bit daft but… I am absolutely ‘bricking it’ from 3000+ miles away for the Play-Off Final on Saturday. The last time I have felt so genuinely nervous leading up to an Aston Villa game was the FA Cup Final at Wembley in 2015 against Arsenal. I didn’t sleep the night before for the FA Cup game. But, I have never started losing sleep days before the game.

Call it passion, call it stupidity, call it what you will… but in terms of ‘big games’, this coming Saturday will be the most important game that I personally have ever witnessed for Aston Villa under the present circumstances. I was negative-four years old when Villa were crowned Champions Of Europe. Obviously, I do not remember that but I do respect and acknowledge what an amazing feat that was everyone associated with the club. It still means something to the Villa supporters worldwide, as it should for the remainder of eternity.

Aston Villa’s Call to Roar

We are Aston Villa. We ARE a big club. And although nothing is handed to you in football or in life, it’s these kind of moments that make me insanely proud of be a supporter of the majestic Aston Villa. It hasn’t been easy in the past. It will not be any easier in the future. The supporters at Wembley Stadium on Saturday will be in full voice, and so will I. Albeit, I will in a pub in America with only one other Villa supporter, you can bet your ass we will be making noise. We know no other way as Claret & Blue faithful. We, as a Villa family, have been through it all in the past handful of years. Not to discount the troubles of other clubs, but I know no other club that had to sit through a Randy Lerner era.

This is our time. No second chances. No second place. Nobody remembers the runners-up. But, everyone remembers the winner.

Do us proud, Villa. We are all behind you. Every single one of us. Up The Villa!

Words by Mark Jirobe (@VillaMarkPGH) // Follow us on Twitter @claretandview

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