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Villa Park
Aston Villa v
Queens Park Rangers
Wednesday, February 1st 2012, 3pm
Premier League

By Ben Buckingham
(QPR fan)


1. Why you were looking forward to going to the ground (or not as the case may be):
 
This was my third visit to Birmingham to see QPR take on Villa. I always regard Villa Park as one of the best grounds in the country for how it looks, its history and for its size. Originally QPR fans were asked to pay out £37 for this cold mid-week away day but that was reduced by Aston Villa’s pricing scheme to £25, which made the visit a fair bit cheaper for us all. This was our first mid-week away game this season (unlike in the Championship which are almost weekly!) so with it being only over 100 miles a few of us fancied it. It was another ‘Buckingham Boys’ only away day with Me, Ian and Mark. I was looking forward to the game also to see the new QPR players signed in the January transfer window.

2. How easy was your journey/finding the ground/car parking?
 
Honestly this was a shocker! Mark decided to drive this one (my day off away-day driving) after debating whether he or Ian should drive. We left Ickenham around 4pm and had a very simple journey up the M40. Now the main problem was ‘Breaking the away-day Golden rule’... (find parking first!). We like to head to the Frankie and Benny’s restaurants and generally do a search online to see if one is near the ground were visiting. The Boston 7 pizza’s and few pints each is almost like a tradition now!!. We found one located in Birmingham and was very enjoyable (as always!) and we left there at 7pm to do a 3.5 mile journey via crossing the M6 at Spaghetti Junction onto Villa Park. Needless to say it took 40 minutes to get in the area we wanted to park in. Mark eventually ended dumping the car on a grassed area in the middle of some houses and we (regrettably) had to run 800m quickly to get in for around kick-off. I say regrettably, because for the 3 days after my shins were agonisingly painful (which the boys found very funny!). We grabbed a programme and got into the ground 3 minutes into the game – so not a bad effort!

3. What you did before the game pub/chippy.... home fans friendly?
 
As mentioned above we found our usual Frankie and Benny’s but there wasn’t any football fans in there. When we eventually ‘dumped’ the car a few Villa fans were helpful in pointing out the best way to the ground. When we crossed under the Aston expressway we were amazed by how many Villa fans were walking to the ground at 7.45. Is it really that bad watching them at the moment, or is the parking just awful around the ground? You felt like saying ‘hello... there’s a game on and its started’ we were the only three out of hundreds of people running to get into the ground.

4. What you thought on seeing the ground, first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground?
 
Outside Villa Park the Holte End steps and exterior look is very different and pretty impressive. As it was a night game and we were running to the ground we didn’t take much notice of what it looked like outside but seemed ok. I have sat in 3 different places now at Villa Park, the lower North Stand (2004) the Upper North Stand (2008) and the Doug Ellis lower (2012). The view from the Doug Ellis Stand was pretty decent although probably better in the upper tier. From this side the Trinity Road Stand looks very impressive. I read that the North Stand Villa are looking to replace with a wrap around design. I think this is the only end that could be improved but Villa Park is one of my favourite away grounds.

5. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies, toilets etc..
 
I can’t comment on the opening 3 minutes but.....the first half QPR played pretty well and got into a 2-0 lead. Djibril Cisse scored a lovely goal on his debut after just 11 minutes. Before half time Warnock headed an own-goal to put us 2 up which led to lots of abuse from the home fans towards the manager and players. Chants of ‘embarrassing’ from the home fans were ringing out from all the home sections. Villa actually were playing ok though and on the stroke of half time Ireland crossed beautifully for Bent to slot home. That changed the game completely and Rangers endured wave after wave of Villa attacks in the 2nd half and finally couldn’t hold on with little over ten minutes to play. N’Zogbia levelling the game!

Towards the end Rangers were very lucky to escape hand-ball appeals and had cleared 2 Villa efforts off the line. A great game of football but a shame we couldn’t hold on for the much needed 3 points. The attendance was around 32,000 which was very poor, that’s over 10,000 empty seats which were going for £25. Obviously the Villa fans aren’t a happy bunch right now! The facilities were reasonable enough but they weren’t selling any beers at half time (which I can never understand!!) Do you want our money or not??? At the end of the game, we found it very odd that there were green signs lit up saying ‘Exit, this match has now finished’ underneath the doors. Very pointless!

6. Comment on getting away from the ground after the game:
 
The nervous wait was over... the car wasn’t smashed in or towed away! It took ten minutes to make it back to the Aston Expressway onto the M6. The journey took 2 hours to get back with a 20 minute services stop (while Mark was deciding which Coffee to buy!). There wasn’t any trouble or any hassle leaving the ground and we were reasonably happy with the point gained.

7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out
 
It was an enjoyable away day, my first Premiership experience at Villa Park. My brother Ian missed the 2004 and 2008 cup games but he said he enjoyed it at Villa Park and I’m sure we will all come back again. I would suggest to anyone travelling to Villa Park to get there early and park up, the traffic travelling through Birmingham isn’t particularly free flowing around the M6 areas. My advice is also to head to the other side of the Aston Expressway to that of Villa Park and look for parking off the A5127 Lichfield Road. The 2-2 draw would have been a great point had we have beaten Wolves at home the Saturday after but we threw it away and lost 2-1, now the pressure is on for Blackburn away (where I will be the designated driver... of course!)...you Rs! Please 3 points for QPR!!


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