Competition: English Premier League
Date: 28 May 2023
Result: Aston Villa 2 – 1 Brighton
Tickets: £39.50 (adult), Doug Ellis Lower
Game/ Experience Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
The Game: With Villa needing to win (or some complicated stuff involving Spurs and Brentford’s results if they didn’t – both won as it turned out) to qualify for Europe for the first time in 13 years, this was a game that I simply had to get over for, the culmination of a season that for Villa has had a redemptive story arc worthy of a full season Netflix series.
To say Villa fans were up for this is a huge understatement. Two hours before kick off, the team coach was welcomed into the club car park by thousands of fans chanting and a few flares. The ground was packed half an hour before kick off, and the atmospehre was electric in a way I haven’t expereinced at Villa in a very long time, probably going back to cup games in the late 00s (I don’t get to a lot of games, to be fair!).
Thankfully, the game lived up to it. Brighton are a remarkable club, considering their resources, and this match was properly toe-to-toe from the off, with Villa scoring two early-ish goals, from Douglas Luiz and Ollie Watkins, both assisted by an absolutely marauding local lad Jacob Ramsey, suddenly a really key player in a side transformed by Unai Emery.
Brighton got one back through Undav, but while they threatened, there’s a change in feel around Villa at the moment, a lack of the vulnerability that long felt like it lingered in the background of these kinds of games, and I felt we were more likely to add another than they were to score. That final whistle – after which I had to almost sprint to the exit to catch my late flight back – was nothing short of ecstatic.
The ground: I love Villa Park and have attended dozens – possibly over a hundred – Villa games over the years, but this was the first time I sat in the Doug Ellis stand (I’ve been in all the others). I think the atmosphere was electric everywhere today, so it didn’t matter too much where you were sitting, but this was fiery fromt start to finish. Love the feel of Villa Park, too, and the mixing of Brighton and Villa fans outside without any issue was nice to see.
Extras: I couldn’t resist the end of season shirt prices (£20 for the away), and found a programme from a 2008 game against Ajax I attended in the charity box alongside the matchday programme, so pleased with that. The currywurst van was good, too.
Assorted asides: European football, baby! Sure, it’s not the Champions League, but if you flick through my groundhopping posts, you’ll see I’ve a bit of an affection for the Europa Conference League, so I’m all for this.
My totals for the year so far:
Games: 13. Home wins: 8 Draws: 4 Away wins: 1
Goals: 38. Home goals: 26. Away goals: 12. Goals per game: 2.92