ON THE DL
Meet a regular Dubai Lion every few weeks in this new series. This week, its our law expert with the loud laugh - Legal Simon
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 Legal Simon – a midlands-born lad who was born in Cambridgeshire with an abundance of legal expertise (not that we've needed much... yet). You'll recognise him from his signature booming laugh, and, if the game isn't going so well, he'll be the one with the colourful language - legal terminology, of course!
HOW DID YOU START FOLLOWING ASTON VILLA?
You don’t choose the Villa, Villa chooses you! That aside, all my family on both my mother and father’s side are Birmingham born and bred. I am 3rd (possibly 4th) generation Villa fan so there was never any choice re which team to follow. In our family you’re a Villa fan or disowned. I used to go to games with my older cousin – it was a hell of a trek getting to Villa park from Cambridgeshire before they opened the A14!
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST VILLA GAME - HOME OR AWAY?
22 December 1984 – Villa 4 Newcastle 0. I think Allan Evans scored the first with a penalty and Paul Rideout scored a hat-trick. I will never forget catching the first glimpse of the famous ‘A’ ‘V’ floodlights from the motorway, the walk to the ground, the size and majesty of the stadium and the sounds and smells (good not bad!) of match day. Seeing the pitch for the first time having walked up the steps of the stand is indescribable – something I am sure everyone remembers (along with their first hot Bovril). I think like most kids at their first game I probably spent the majority of the game lost in the wonder of Villa Park and the crowd rather than watching the match. Magic. My cousin’s mate was a Newcastle fan who came with us. Even as a young lad I remember giving him grief all the way home.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ASTON VILLA MEMORY?
At the risk of being provocative, for me the 2018/2019 Championship season is probably one of the most enjoyable seasons I can remember for ages – it had absolutely everything right from the start all the way to the finish (and promotion at the end of course). I was at the Stoke away game (we drew 1-1) which was the catalyst for our 10-game winning streak so am taking the credit for being the lucky talisman for that run. It also gave birth to Sweet Caroline (FTB). Absolute scenes when Adomah equalised.
Winning the League Cup in 1994 has to be up there – my first Wembley final with the Villa. Sadly I’m too young to remember 1980/81 and 1981/82! The UEFA cup nights at Villa park (e.g. beating Inter Milan) were also special – I can’t wait until we return to European football.
Finally, along with JC (penalty, red card) I also met and had beers with Gary Shaw in Dubai. That was an absolutely amazing night and something that I will always remember. The beers flowed and the stories of that era were amazing. A true Villa legend and an absolutely gifted player – unbelievable he (and Sid Cowans) didn’t get capped more for England.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE EVER VILLA PLAYER?
There are too many to mention. At the moment we are absolutely blessed with Jack Grealish who has to be one of the most naturally talented players we have ever seen at Villa Park – the fact that he is a Villa fan makes it all the more special. Over the years, Platty was always a favourite, I knew we would lose him when he came of age at Italia ’90. Alan McInally, Yorke, God, Dalian, Barry (prob one of our most underrated players and servants), Bosnich, Ehiogh, Spinksy, Teale, Taylor, Cowans, Staunton etc all are up there. I would love to have seen Collymore emerge as a Villa legend but as we all know he never got consistently firing.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE EVER VILLA MANAGER?
I am too young to remember the Ron Saunders era so for me it’s Graham Taylor and Ron Atkinson. I still believe we would have won something with Taylor had he not gone off to manage England. Around that time I was old enough for football to really mean something (and I was going to games) – seeing us promoted from Div 2, then runners up in Div 1 in 89/90 was unreal. I remember being at Spurs away (Feb 1990) for a midweek game – Ormondroyd scored a banger from the edge of the box and Platty slotted one – both scored in front of the Villa away support – absolute scenes and limbs everywhere. The win took us to the top of the league for the first time since 1981. Still can’t believe we finished 2nd that season.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE VILLA KIT?
The Le Coq Sportif kits from 80/81, 81/82 and 82/83 are just awesome. Aside from that, anything with a round badge. The Luke kits from 2018/2019 season are the best we’ve had for a long while.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO/CONNECTS YOU WITH DUBAI?
I moved to Abu Dhabi in 2004 and then to Dubai in 2006 so am part of the furniture.
HOW DID YOU DISCOVER DUBAI LIONS?
I was never on Facebook so wasn’t dialed in to any of the footy chat groups / fan pages etc. For probably 10+ years I thought I was the only Villa fan in Dubai… I was playing in the local expat league and even there didn’t meet another Villa fan. I can’t quite remember exactly when but I think it was one of the footy lads who pointed me in the right direction having seen something online (presumably FB). I went to the first game and took my Villa beanie from Wembley ’94 to prove I was Villa through and through - I was convinced nobody would believe I was a Villa fan (and that there weren’t other Villa fans in Dubai). I met the Chairman and others and the rest is history.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE AND LEAST FAVOURITE DUBAI LIONS MOMENTS?
There are no least favourite moments as such, but there have been some bitter disappointments. Losing the Playoff final to Fulham in 2018 was hard, as was the ‘cabbage-gate’ period in the Championship. And whilst we always knew our first season back in the Premier League would be tough, we have already had more than our fair share of chokers this season and we have a real fight on our hands to beat the drop. Fingers and toes crossed in that regard…
In terms of favourite moments, there are so many. We really are fortunate to have such a diverse and wonderful group of Villa fans coming together in the Upper Tier in Dubai. It is unquestionable that every one of the Dubai Lions bleeds claret and blue. Our 10-game winning streak followed by winning the Play-Off’s in 2019 was beyond words. I don’t think anywhere in Dubai has ever seen an atmosphere like that – you could hear us singing in Brum. The games against Small Heath have tended to be memorable too (not least because we always stuff them).
Pre-season tours with the Dubai Lions have to get a special mention as they are such great fun – Leipzig in 2019 was beyond brilliant. It is awesome (and humbling) to see and feel the recognition the Dubai Lions get, especially from the UK-based Villa fans who are able to follow the Villa home and away week-in-week-out (the same old faces – you know who you are!). We are all part of a global Villa family.
Re the Villa family, I recently went to Brighton away and due to engineering works there were no direct trains from Brighton to Gatwick meaning I would really be struggling to catch my return flight to Dubai at 8pm after the game. Not a problem for the Villa family – Lisa Higgins and her son Rich gave me a lift from the ground to the airport after the game on their way back to Birmingham. It’s moments like this when you realise what it means to be part of the Villa family. Our club has absolutely amazing support and supporters and the Dubai Lions is our part of the Villa family albeit 4000 miles from home. It is fantastic to be involved and be a part of it.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE DUBAI LION?
Impossible to pick a favourite – the Dubai Lions is such a wonderfully mixed bag of folks, and I am so fortunate to have met so many other souls afflicted by a passion and love for the Villa.
What makes the Dubai Lions so special is that there are genuine friendships that have been forged through a common interest – but those friendships extend beyond the walls of the Upper Tier. Whoever coined the phrase ‘Easy Company’ was not wrong.
It would however be remiss not to give Wolfie a special mention as he is larger than life, has a heart of gold and can out-sing anyone – albeit I’m not sure if he has ever got the words right to anything. Absolutely love you mate!
WHICH DUBAI LION IS THE BIGGEST LIABILITY?
It’s not fair to call this as we have all had our moments (myself included!). We all know it is not easy supporting the Villa so inevitably there may be moments when our frustration/relief/exuberance spills over! That said, it has been a while since anyone Shented or did the Spiral of Shame…
But whilst I may not be sure about the DL’s biggest liability I am 100% sure that the stand out biggest liability in the game is definitely VAR. F*ck VAR.
WHICH OTHER TEAM DO YOU DISLIKE THE MOST?
SHA (obv) and any other team with plastic fans (which these days is regrettably a growing number). And VAR.
AND FINALLY…HAVE YOU EVER SUPPORTED A TEAM OTHER THAN ASTON VILLA?
Easy one this – no. Was never any option. VTID!
Thanks, legal, we'll give you a shout if (when) we hit a law-based snag. Oh, and you're right about Wolfie's singing. He can teach kids but never able to teach himself the proper words to any song.