I was looking forward to going to the ground because it is one of the bigger and better stadiums in the league. Also as it was a new years eve game it was one of my only opportunities to see Arsenal play because it was less popular with the more prestigious members of Arsenal's ticketing scheme.
We went by train from the East Midlands which was easy enough, but once we got into Birmingham New Street we had to take a bus to Aston as the trains weren't running. Everyone at New Street was friendly and we were directed to the replacement buses very easily. There seemed to be enough buses to cope with the number of fans making their way to the ground, and once we got to the station it was merely a case of following the fans to the stadium.
We spent a bit of time in the city centre shopping in the sales which was crowded but excellent - the Bull Ring in Birmingham is a very good environment, but there seemed to be nothing around the actual stadium, we got a bite to eat inside the stadium itself. There was no hostility from the Villa fans in the city centre or around the ground so it was quite pleasant really!!
The ground itself looked very impressive, especially the outside of the Holte End. The away end was easy to locate and once we were in, were in a good area of the ground close to the pitch.
The match itself was a very dull 0-0 draw. Arsenal were very flat. We ate before the match when the queues weren't too bad. The atmosphere from the home fans was very poor but the ground wasn't completely full. The away fans made a decent amount of noise in the first half especially but seemed to be too reliant on a handful of fans to actually start the chants. Stewarding was fine and there was no trouble from where we were. My friend visited the toilets but only remarked on the queues, so they can't have been too bad.
After the match was a nightmare. There were hardly any buses (in complete contrast to getting to the ground) so we had to wait ages in the cold to wait for a bus back to New Street. The bright side was that the Villa fans were really friendly commenting on the match and telling us how long the queue was likely to take. This may have been because their team had secured a good result so they may have not been this friendly had Arsenal come away with a victory!! After an hours wait at New Street due to train times we managed to get a train back.
Overall it was a good day out, the Villa fans were friendly and cheap food was readily available. Considering we were travelling on new years eve the transport was reasonable although the lack of buses on the way back was a bit annoying. A few more buses and an Arsenal win would have improved things but that's about it. Considering I was the adult (being 16 years old) and the rest of our party was 14/15 and we were all in Arsenal gear I would recommend it to anyone!
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