ON THE DL
Meet a regular Dubai Lion every few weeks in this new series. This week – southern softie - Ryan Eggar
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 Ryan Eggar – a southern softie who felt a soft spot for The Villa as a young delinquent. Here, he tells us about his love for Martin Laursen, how he was tapped up from Abu Dhabi and about his favourite Dubai Lions moment – a preseason trip to watch THE CHAMPIONS OF DUISBURG (You’ll never sing that!).
HOW DID YOU START FOLLOWING ASTON VILLA?
When I was about eight years of age, my dad told me to pick a team and stick to it. That weekend, I took in as many league games as I could and settled on Aston Villa after watching them beat Norwich 2-1. It was Christmas in 1993 and Dean Saunders bagged a goal. I was intoxicated by the colours, the style of football and the away fan base – it was all I could hear. The fans even drowned out the commentators. I’ve never looked back – even when times were tough.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST VILLA GAME - HOME OR AWAY?
Crystal Palace away at Selhurst Park. I sat in the home end but still cheered my team, and I was wearing colours! I got some dodgy looks but made friends with the Villa mascot who was sitting nearby just on the edge of the pitch. My memory tells me that the game finished as a drab 0-0 around April of 1995. I left that game and made my Dad order me a Villa shirt with Shaun Teale’s name on the back. He had a great game that day!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ASTON VILLA MEMORY?
The League Cup win against Leeds was the moment I really felt fully passionate about Aston Villa. It was a great game and the atmosphere seemed insane.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE EVER VILLA PLAYER?
Tough question – this could well be Shaun Teale. As a fellow midget, I also admired Alan Wright and Dean Saunders was always that silky striker that any football fan loves to watch. But overall, I think the one player who really ‘wowed’ me was Martin Laursen. He put so much effort and control into every game and was an absolute powerhouse. I couldn’t quite believe that we had a player of his quality in our team.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE EVER VILLA MANAGER?
It has to be John Gregory. I loved his cockney tones and his honest, passionate and powerful responses to media questions. He really got the team firing for a while and you could see his stamp on the team’s style.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE VILLA KIT?
The green, red and black Asics and Muller kit was just the best. Both horrendous and brilliant at the same time. It was also the first kit I saw Villa play in live.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO/CONNECTS YOU WITH DUBAI?
I moved to Abu Dhabi in 2012 with the wife’s job. I spent four years there before taking a job based at Atlantis The Palm in 2016. I still prefer Abu Dhabi but their Lions club needs a bit of work, so I decided to stay in Dubai. ;)
HOW DID YOU DISCOVER DUBAI LIONS?
Casually watching a pre-season friendly on AVTV before the 2014/2015 season (no, the audio wasn’t working properly, and yes the video did keep cutting out), I posted a message on the chat that I was watching from Abu Dhabi. Jack Woodward reads my message before I get a ‘ping’ from The Chairman urging me to join them in Dubai for a match. A season later and I drive to Dubai after our relegation and join the Lions for the first Rotherham game. We win 3-0 and I have to get a taxi back to Abu Dhabi on the account of too many beverages.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE WITH DUBAI LIONS?
I’ve worked my way into the Dubai Lions Committee as a sort of ‘Press Officer’ position. I’ve scribed three articles that have been published in the matchday programmes, built this very website and worked on ordering The Dubai Lions anniversary shirts.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE AND LEAST FAVOURITE DUBAI LIONS MOMENTS?
My favourite moment has to be heading to a pre-season in Germany with the Lions. Three days in Dusseldorf and Duisburg with much enjoyment. It’s a shame that one game was rained off but that just led to more drinks and more singing. All good, clean Villa fun. My least favourite has to be the morning after Big Ron visited. Too many drinks, too much celebration, and a paralyzer headache at work the next morning.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE DUBAI LION?
At the moment, it’s Chris for inviting me to his wedding in Greece. I’m shallow and fickle like that. Top wedding, too. Seriously though, all the lads are so welcoming and I’m pretty sure that I would not be as happy living in Dubai if it was not for the friendships, banter and excitement of the Dubai Lions.
WHICH DUBAI LION IS THE BIGGEST LIABILITY?
There’s just too many. Wolfie’s singing, Shents can’t handle his fizzy pop and Legal shouts at the TV, Selfish smashes Jagerbombs on the floor and Mark Maynard swears in Greek and smokes too much. However, the group wouldn’t be anything without our leader. Our character and togetherness comes from the top. Chairman Mark – you are both an inspiration and a liability, and I wouldn’t change you for any other Lions Club Chairman.
AND FINALLY…HAVE YOU EVER SUPPORTED A TEAM OTHER THAN ASTON VILLA?
It's a good question and the short answer is NO! However, I have lived extremely close to several stadiums which has given me a soft spot for Woking and Lincoln City. I’ll follow their results with interest but I wouldn’t call myself a supporter of either. Supporting Villa is too exhausting and I don’t have any supporting energy left for another team!