ON THE DL
Meet a regular Dubai Lion every few weeks in this new series. This week – Chris Nicolaides
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 matchday, you can see that we’re (mainly) just normal folk with an abnormal love for all things ASTON VILLA. This week, we meet one of the first Dubai Lions - Chris Nicolaides whose search for a UAE based Lions club led him to the corner of a dingy pub with questionable Jagermeister and just four other members. He also happens to be one of the only DL regulars without a nickname - despite the obvious angle of his heritage.
Chris originally hails from Walmely, Sutton Coldfield but holds a large family with Cypriot roots. Famed for his love of large bar bills, champagne expenditures, Ouzo and Skittle Bombs, Chris is one of the most affable characters at The Rose & Crown and can be regularly found twatting ex villa players. If you see him drinking water, offer him a Guinness - we guarantee he'll say "yes..."
HOW DID YOU START FOLLOWING ASTON VILLA?
Being brought up in Sutton Coldfield, there really was only one way I could go and especially living in Walmely, I was only really ever exposed to Villa. Back in the day, a lot of Villa players lived around there, Mervyn Day lived around the corner and I still have images in my head of players like Tony Daley and Sid Cowans pulling up outside the local shops in their sponsored MG Montegos with sequential number plates. Also, I went to school in Aston from the age of 11 and spent most lunchtimes with a bag of chips from the chippy opposite the Holte Pub and sitting in the Holte End eating them.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST VILLA GAME - HOME OR AWAY?
August 1985. The first home game of that season against Liverpool. We drew 2-2 and Gary Shaw and Mark Walters scored.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE EVER VILLA PLAYER?
Tough one, but I would say Martin Keown. We only had him for three seasons but he was a no-nonsense defender who went in hard and played a big part in getting us back up in 1988. We had a little football tournament back in Brum in the mid-’80s and I would choose to wear the number 6 shirt because it was his number.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE EVER MANAGER?
Big Ron. Great character. It was lovely to meet him when he came to visit the Dubai Lions. I was at Plough Lane for the match against Wimbledon that turned out to be his last match.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE VILLA KIT?
The Luke shirt is up there as one of my favourites. It looked absolute class, was different from other clubs shirts and was part of a unique season where the manager was a Villa fan, the captain was a Villa fan and the kit manufacturer was a Villa fan. I can’t imagine that happening again at any club any time soon. One of the shirts I feel proudest about was the 08/09 when we first ran Acorns as a sponsor. First English club to do that and a great way to support a local charity like that.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO/CONNECTS YOU WITH DUBAI?
I came to work in UAE
HOW DID YOU DISCOVER DUBAI LIONS?
Just like the football club, the Dubai Lions found me. When I first moved over here in 2008 I found contact details for a Dubai supporters club but the guy never answered his phone. I contacted the club about either getting in touch with the guy or seeing if another supporters club could be set up but no one got back to me so I just left it at that. A few years later I received a random facebook message from Mark Forrester the Chairman saying he’d been trying to send me messages and to come down to the Centre Circle pub as a handful of Villa fans had started meeting for games. I turned up, there were another 4 there.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE WITH DUBAI LIONS?
I introduce the Dubai Lions to new, exciting and exotic drinks. The Skittle Bomb was one of my first which though they may deny it, other Dubai Lions quite like it, however, no one has yet agreed to try the Ouzo Bomb. Other than that, I sit on the Dubai Lions committee and have the responsibility of running the official Dubai Lions Twitter account. Follow us on @DubaiLionsAVFC.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE AND LEAST FAVOURITE DUBAI LIONS MOMENTS?
It is not really a Dubai Lions moment, but a moment experienced with the Dubai Lions was that sinking feeling when we lost the playoff finals to Fulham. My favourite moment was Southampton Villa at the end of the 2015 season. We needed to win to stay up but we lost 6-1, it was the early kick-off that day and the next game was Spurs v Hull where Hull losing would have kept us safe. I think I vowed that I would not leave the pub until we were safe no matter what, and thankfully Spurs won 2-0. I didn’t leave the pub as soon as we were safe as we had a duty to drink all the champagne in the pub and I ended up with a bar tab reminiscent of someone celebrating a champions league win, which is quite an achievement considering it was also a 'dry day' in Dubai for our game. Happy days.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE DUBAI LION?
They are all a great bunch of guys and girls, whether the ones over here in Dubai or those in other countries around the world. it is a great group of people who, other than sharing a love for all things Aston Villa, are also always there to help each other out when needed. The people make the Dubai Lions and they are more than just a bunch of guys who meet up to watch the football. They have become great friends and part of the extended expat family. However, if I have to choose one it is my stepson Greg. Fortunately when I met his mum and was introduced to him we bonded pretty quickly, and not being British he had very little knowledge of football and none of Aston Villa, but he quickly started to show an interest, became a fan (and that will never change now) and is now as passionate about the Villa as someone who has been following them for years.
WHICH DUBAI LIONS IS THE BIGGEST LIABILITY?
Aleks at The Rose And Crown. He keeps force feeding me Guinness whenever I go there convincing me it is full of iron and protein and that it will make me grow into a big strong man.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ASTON VILLA MEMORY?
There’s a lot if I am honest, including the last game of the 93/94 season when the League Cup was being paraded after the match and there was a fella behind us in the Holte End with a “small” mallet chipping away at the stand and giving out bits of the Holte rubble to everyone before it was pulled down. Also, Villa v Everton - 5th November 1989, we won 6-2 and the Holte End gave the biggest cheer for Everton’s first goal - an own goal from Paul McGrath. But my stand out of all would be April 21st, 2008, my last game at Villa Park as a season ticket holder (as I moved over to the UAE the following week), Villa v The Scum 5-1 and Big John Carew lifting the ball boy up in front of the Holte End when he scored.
AND FINALLY…HAVE YOU EVER SUPPORTED A TEAM OTHER THAN ASTON VILLA?
The family originates from Cyprus so also support APOEL Nicosia, however, if they ever came up against each other then it would be Aston Villa first.
Thanks, Chris - but you can keep your Ouzo Bombs. ευχαριστώ