ON THE DL
Meet a regular Dubai Lion every few weeks in this new series. This week, it's onesie, Jager, and Allback-loving superfan, Onesie Ben (OB)
Welcome to ON THE DL, where we meet a new Dubai Lion each month. Through this series, you will get to know us better and for those thinking of joining us on a match day, you can see that we’re (mainly) just normal folk with an abnormal love for all things ASTON VILLA.
This week in ON THE DL, we meet serial globetrotter Ben Warrilow. Currently back in the UK and hiding away in the Ribble Valley, Ben is part of DL folklore as one of the founding members way back in the 2014/2015 season. The DL who are still with us to tell the tales, regale stories of points-scoring, Villa-coloured onesies and the introduction of the post-defeat Jagers.
HOW DID YOU START FOLLOWING ASTON VILLA?
As with many of us, I had zero choice in the matter - my family are all huge villa fans. My grandad was on trial at Villa before being told by his parents to give it up and find a job that would provide for his family. So with that in mind, 20 minutes after my birth, he was in the Villa shop and shortly after I was in a Villa shirt, I still have it to this day!
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST VILLA GAME - HOME OR AWAY?
It was away at Blackburn Rovers with my dad and I must’ve been 6/7 years old, I can’t remember the score exactly but know we won. I do recall being picked up by a random villa fan when we scored and thrown in the air like a trophy - didn’t have a clue what was going on.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ASTON VILLA MEMORY?
One that sticks out clearly is the day a 12yr old Ben met his then hero Marcus Allback. A friend of mine had tickets for the players lounge as his cousin was GK for Blackburn Rovers at the time. Before the game we were sat in the lounge bar, with myself proudly wearing a new Aston Villa shirt with “Allback” on. With my back to bar, I hadn’t realised he had walked in until my dad pointed at him. I froze on the spot but he was kind enough to come over, chat for a while and sign my shirt. I never said a word to him! I have the shirt signed and framed in the house now.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE EVER VILLA PLAYER?
Has to be Stan Petrov. The guy is a villa legend, his dedication to the shirt and leadership amongst the players was second to none, always gave his best which is all you can ask for. Absolute devastated for him when he got diagnosed with Lukemia and just as gutted when Di Matteo didn’t offer him a contract! He definitely deserved at least a year long deal, we needed him badly and he had proven his fitness in pre season.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE EVER VILLA MANAGER?
So many names to throw out there, John Gregory, Brian Little (for taking the time to write me a letter as a kid) but the most memorable in terms of excitement would have to be O’Neill. The years we had with him were great, it ended on a bad note and leaving us in the lurch wasn’t ideal, but who knows what went on behind the scenes there. The football he had us playing and the progression was the best I’d seen in my lifetime.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE EVER VILLA KIT?
Ooooooo. Again, so many to choose from, but I’d have to say the Nike white acorns kit, having the children’s hospice as the sponsor was a real class act from the club and Lerner and I’m pretty sure we were first in the league to do it. That and also having Petrov on the back was a real sucker punch to the emotions.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO/CONNECTS YOU WITH DUBAI?
Employment really, I didn’t know a single person in Dubai when I first moved over. My Uncle ran a company there and offered me a job in sales (classic). So took the job and decided to sort the rest once I got there!
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE WITH DUBAI LIONS?
Unfortunately, I am the person to blame for buying the first round of jaegers. Never thought it would stick as a tradition otherwise I wouldn’t have started it. Perhaps that’s why I was never chosen for a serious role within the Dubai Lions......
HOW DID YOU DISCOVER DUBAI LIONS?
I didn’t know a soul in Dubai prior to moving, and one of the first things I did was look for the Dubai Aston Villa supporters club to join, I think I saw a social media account linked to Mark Forrester and him being a villa fan but there was no official club back then. When I joined there were only two members, and another two new additions meeting that day.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE AND LEAST FAVOURITE DUBAI LIONS MOMENTS?
One of the best was the survival night in Fibbers, the overwhelming sense of relief after staying up, quickly turned into a very messy jaeger infused evening. The general all-round camaraderie that comes with being part of the DL is the biggest plus for me. Come win, draw or lose, you’re in it together, it’s like one big dysfunctional family
The worst - losing the FA Cup final to Arsenal 4-0. We were so close to winning a trophy, as we have been many times now, but just didn’t even turn up that game. To make things worse I brought a mate along who was a Gooner. He stopped cheering after the second goal for his own safety.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE DUBAI LION?
Haha can I name a top 5?!? Picking one out is difficult, as every single DL I’ve met is top-notch. From Luke getting me involved in the footy, to Shenton for entertainment purposes, Maynard and Chris N for being stand out gentlemen. Then the Costello couple for being like my second parents out there. Dale S for having a cool sounding accent. Steve H for constantly berating Hutton only for him to turn into the Scottish Cafu. But...... If I had to choose one, it would probably be Fozzy, not only did he welcome me with open arms from day 1 but he also gave me a job so I have no choice but to say him. The guy is stellar and I doubt the club would be as prosperous without him.
WHICH DUBAI LION IS THE BIGGEST LIABILITY?
Without a shadow of a doubt, it was Shenton. I think we realised that very early on into his DL membership when he redecorated the Centre Circle walls with his stomach contents. This turned out to be a more common occurrence than a Villa win back then.
AND FINALLY…HAVE YOU EVER SUPPORTED A TEAM OTHER THAN ASTON VILLA?
Nah, I did think about following a foreign team just for something else to do when we weren’t playing, but I just don’t get the same affiliation or passion associated with them as I do with the Villa.
Thanks, OB. When are you coming back to Dubai to visit us? Onesies are mandatory, of course.
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