This is the second weekend of my stroll around the midlands football landscape to scope out the ritual and routine of football. This weekend two games Wolverhampton Wanderers v Birmingham City a huge local derby and then off to near relegated Aston Villa at home to some club called Tottenham Hotspur. It was going to be interesting to see how Villa fans took to the game seeing as they have pretty much given up 28 years of top flight football. For such a football rich part of the world to have Villa relegated, and probably be playing Wolves and Birmingham next season in the Championship is not the best look.
The tools for this set of games, same as last week simple 50mm on my Nikon D750 perfect for the stealth shooter in what can be the wild and slightly unpredictable world of local football. The walk in offers the chance to take in the local surroundings, surprising how poorly I know Wolverhampton but good to have the walk in and take the visuals and sounds.
All these clubs are currently up for sale, but as yet no sugar daddy or consortium has come forward to take the responsibility of making one of these clubs relevant at the sharp end again. Strikes me as odd and sad as the potential of these clubs is beyond scope Villa European Cup winners, Blues have lived in the shadows but their support is just as big, just as loyal, and then Wolves proud big club league champions of the past. But the lies the issue these clubs and supporters are burdened with the weight of winning, less than 20 miles splits West Brom, Villa, Blues and Wolves from each other but their struggles echo around this part of the world. But that aside footie is still footie a day to get out the house hit the stadium, part of the ritual is to get togged up. So part of me kept an eye out for casuals or the keen sneaker head or just someone making an effort. Part of the routine and ritual is to be seen, terraces have always been a spot to dress well, waiting around the ground in Sunday best be it shoes, jackets or fan wear.
I've got mates who are supporters of all these clubs and the general feeling isn't of wanting to be a super power
but, longing for clubs with good stable ownership and teams that play to a standard. Birmingham City are the club I look at out of the bunch in the Midlands even though a staunch Gooner, i've a soft spot for Blues my grandad used to go down when he moved from Ireland. When my old dear and aunts were younger they would do the short walk with from Bordesley Green to St Andrews with Patrick( my grandpa). For me as a someone from the city originally this is the missing link to making the area stellar... football gives you wings a spotlight from which to shine. Look at Manchester, two giant clubs showcasing the city and wider area bringing in fans from all over the world, giving the city identity. I read that Norwich City bring in around 20% revenue toward the Norfolk tourist economy just by being in the Premier League... Can you imagine what Leicester City's bean counters are thinking currently.
Plenty of good looks going on, sneaker game very good, and the footie casuals defiantly did a job the weekend, never failed to be impressed with the efforts put in. The growth of sneaker culture was evident and the mix of more traditional terrace wear is now helped along with the sneaker fixation.
I ended up talking the guy who lived in the block pictured below, he came out and asked me why I was snapping his building wasn't upset or angry just curious as to why, so told him saw this and it looked cool showed him and he was fine. We then had a chat about how he used to always go but now finds better value in his Sky box as he was priced out of going the 100 feet across the road and how it's bittersweet to follow Wolves now.
Conscious of time and traffic it was time to head out of Wolverhampton and head to Aston for the second stroll, my expectations where of a slightly different mood to await me.
Not sure what to say here really the drive to Brum felt like an anti climax, Wolverhampton and Brum are linked by West Brom and Dudley so you never leave the urban make up... Aston Villa is deep Birmingham, a club right in the heart of the busy multicultural district of Aston, Handsworth and Prerry Barr are five minutes one way, and the leafier suburbs toward Sutton Coldfield and Great Barr five to ten in the other direction. Fact Ozzy Osborune was born in Aston in fact, the sounds that fellow Villa fans Black Sabbath made were shaped in this part of Brum that, dark bluesy score ? made right here .
Not a fan as said before but to see a club get a kicking the way Villa has, hasn't been nice at all. It reflects on the city. The drive over had me thinking where does these club go from here? Relegation has been certain for ages some say years. Will there be a hostile mood toward the owners? To gauge it I parked up at Witton Cemetery about a mile away, my grand parents are buried there so least family was close and I could give them a pre St Patrick's day hello.
The closer Villa park got the more the sense of acceptance that for them for now this is it relegation a new routine and ritual starts in August. But for now Tottenham going for the title a club the size of Villa but centuries apart, Spurs new stadium on the way for Harry Kane to own. Villa just reminders of how far the have fallen in the past six years. Martin O'Neill left in 2010 since then five managers have seen how tough a gig this is including Gérard Houllier its been a long time coming. But not here for sentiment just to see the rituals.
Similar to my club Villa fans question ownership, Arsenal seem to have a better grasp on affairs but suffer higher and more critical supporter and media attention. I've wondered what the vibe of a soon to be relegated club is... Its not great a sense of anger, apathy and resignation. But the show must go on scarf sellers doing their best, merch selling but with a differing message than to the past protest over celebration.
I have banter with Villa fans and yeah I do dig them out a fair bit but, the fans and city deserve more from their owners and players, I mean posting pics of Merc's with your bum after being bounced 6 nil by Liverpool ? not a good look. The feeling is when Villa go they will not return in a hurry and some say the club will suffer further falls before it gets better. Regardless the routine and ritual will be the same but not the same I guess.
The most complicated love affair is between self and a football club, mostly because 90% of the time you give so much and get very little back, the odd great goal or special game and that's about it . We still go though still do the ritual, still do the routine. And long may that continue because football is that one thing we hold out hope for right? The best escapism is saved for football.
So, just as I was ready to post this blog news broke that Tom Fox the CEO of Aston Villa had resigned this week, the news was greeted sarcastically by most seeing as Tom took over one million pounds home in wages last year... I'm sure he tried he best but that's a lot of cash to take home each month to ultimately fail the supporters and not have to deal with the painful last months of Aston Villa's Premiership shelf life.