ON THE DL
Meet a regular Dubai Lion every few weeks in this new series. This week, our token South African and egg chaser, Dale.
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 in ON THE DL, we meet Dale Welch – a South African with links to Great Barr. Here, Dale tells us about how he came to follow Villa and the time he met fan-favourite Mark Bosnich in South Africa whilst also admitting he recently won the absentee award for his low attendance...
HOW DID YOU START FOLLOWING ASTON VILLA?
The Claret and Blue has been a family tradition for generations. My old man is from Great Barr, and each generation before him were all proud Brummies and Villa. I didn’t choose, I was chosen. It really is as simple as that! I was born in South Africa to English parents. Running around in my Villa shirt at soccer practice while everyone else wore bandwagon red was a character-building experience. But I secretly loved it because it was unique, and even years later I bump into old mates and they still ask or comment about Villa.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST VILLA GAME - HOME OR AWAY?
Very much away! It was Villa vs Liverpool at Ellis Park in Johannesburg during their 1994 preseason tour to South Africa. Neil Cox put us 1 up but we lost 2-1. My first League game would come decades later in 2015, at home to Swansea. Both Ayew brothers on the score sheet that day, but that 2-1 loss proved to be Sherwood’s last.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ASTON VILLA MEMORY?
Staying up way past bed time with my dad to watch the League Cup semi final second leg against Tranmere, cheering each Bosnich save in the shootout while trying not to wake up my little brother and sister. That I got to meet Bosnich and have a photo with him just a few weeks later was a surreal experience. I tweeted that photo not too long ago, and he replied!
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE EVER VILLA PLAYER?
Dion Dublin. His return of 7 goals in his first 3 games may have been unforgettable, but it was his character that inspired me. When he recovered from his freak neck break to score the winning penalty in the FA Cup semi, he was my hero forever. He does a lot of broadcast work here in the Middle East, so I hope to meet him some day.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE EVER VILLA MANAGER?
I loved John Gregory. We had a great run under him, and is sarcastic ways and sharp tongue reminded me of my own grandad.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE VILLA KIT?
The Umbro 1992/93 kit, laces on the neck. Runners up that season, Dalian’s wonder goal and the umbrella moment, players like Deano, McGrath and York all donning that shirt. Just iconic 90s Villa. I’ve got one at home with Saunders on the back.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO/CONNECTS YOU WITH DUBAI?
I left SA for Dubai in 2013 to follow a new career path. A new company, but effectively a promotion working with the same product line I was experienced in, it was a no brainer. For years I was convinced I was the only Villa fan in the city.
HOW DID YOU DISCOVER DUBAI LIONS?
Through a Baggies fan! I met Jude at a work event and commented on her Brummie accent, explaining my family heritage and Villa ways. She told me about Dubai Lions, as they actually shared supporters club HQ with West Brom in those days. I came down for the FA Cup semi vs Liverpool, and the rest is history.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE WITH DUBAI LIONS?
I started out as “Mr Press Officer” in the early days, trying to get us profiled in the local papers or match programs, and running the Twitter account. I stepped down last season, and got the season Absentee Award for my ‘efforts’ - ha ha.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE AND LEAST FAVOURITE DUBAI LIONS MOMENTS?
My highlight was meeting Peter Withe, asking questions, getting photos and signatures. During dinner, I accidentally bumped his leg under the table, and it was only on the drive home it dawned on me I’d kicked the shin that won us the European Cup! My lowest moment was the FA Cup Final loss to Arsenal. To lose like that was just deflating, we didn’t give ourselves a fighting chance. I have never, and will never watch a minute of that match again.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE DUBAI LION?
Heartbreaking to choose one! There are just so many characters that Dubai Lions just wouldn’t be the same without. Chris Nicolaides accompanied me to my first ever trip to VP, and I couldn’t have asked for better company.
WHICH DUBAI LION IS THE BIGGEST LIABILITY?
When your surname becomes a verb, this question was never going to work out well for John Shenton! Easily the fittest among us, he’s an early casualty on many an evening because of it. The video of him “shenting” everywhere while the staff chases him towards the bathrooms is still somewhere :) We love our Shents.
AND FINALLY…HAVE YOU EVER SUPPORTED A TEAM OTHER THAN ASTON VILLA?
We had an uncle who played in the Scottish Premiership during the 90s, so we were probably the only kids in Africa running around in Airdrie kits! Owen Coyle was their star striker, and they even got to the Scottish Cup Final. But Ally McCoist and Mark Hateley made sure it was a runners up medal for Airdrie that day.
Cheers, Dale! Can we see you in the pub more often now, please? Thanks!