Tuktuk Day 12

Today I am very excited to be (digitally) back at Villa Park, the home of Aston Villa FC. I was superbly treated when I visited them in 2010 as I was at WBA and Birmingham City and Wolves. (Walsall? Hide yourself in shame!)

Back in 2010 the day started badly with driving rain and what a view (!) but just got better. Today was all sunshine and smiles as I chatted with my friend, Dave Baldwin about all things Villa.

I asked Dave about his first memories of Villa and he emptied his photographic memory about all the good times. In his younger days he was a groundhopper and went all over the country watching his beloved Villa. Not surprisingly talk moved to the great Villa players over the years

I reminded him of Gareth Southgate who before he became England manager played almost 200 games for Villa and it was in Birmingham where he won the majority of his England caps after his transfer from Crystal Palace. Withe, Cowans, McGrath, Barry, Gray, York, Shaw, Rioch, Milner, Platt. You just think, why have Villa not “quite” made it. Had some great managers (Saunders, Graham Taylor, Steve Bruce) … and Di Matteo! I think Emery is the guy who will really put them back amongst the very best of England.

Gareth Southgate by Simon Ellinas

We talked about my earliest memories too. Quite vivid! Villa struggled in Division 2 in the late 60s and were relegated in May 1970. Gillingham played them midweek in September in one of their first games of the season. I wanted to go. There was only the little matter of “excusing myself” from school and defying my parents who absolutely forbade me from going to Birmingham on a supporters’ coach from Kent and getting back at about 4am! Cue, temper tantrum. Outcome, grounded! We lost in front of almost 30,000 fans. Yes, 30,000 at level three! That was probably ten times more than I had ever seen in my life! In the Spring we again played midweek and scraped a 0-0 draw in front of our biggest gate in years against a team boasting Lochhead, Gregory, Anderson, Rioch and the enigmatic Chico Hamilton. Sadly the point did not stop us going down but surprisingly Villa had to wait a season to be be promoted. In “our” season, they finished fourth behind Halifax Town!

So, what of Dave? He’s still a huge Villa fan but now lives near Cheltenham so we agreed to meet up again when I hit Gloucestershire. Why? Because he has some BIG stories to tell and here I can only gloss over (pun!) his career as an artist. He started painting in earnest a few years/ seasons ago and now has a huge number of British football grounds in his gallery which he has more recently added to with landscapes, seascapes etc. He has an amazing talent in my opinion with a unique style which is both very easy-on-the-eye and impressive. Let’s look at his Villa creations and next time I will showcase his more recent works. You can check his website here and visit a previous blog of mine

So, a great chat with a great friend who is a great artist …. I sense a theme! Dave does a huge amount of work for charity and has recently set up a foundation. I look forward to hearing more about that at Cheltenham very soon. In the meantime, let me thank Dave for his kind wishes for the continuation of my journey. As Arnie says, “I will be back, amigo.” Hope you all enjoyed “All things Villa.”

As always, your comments are very welcome as are any donations however small to support FC Deportivo Galicia and/or Prostate Cancer UK

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