Every fortnight we cover the best and worst football songs from every club in the UK from our book ‘The Sound Of Football: Every Club, Every Song’. You can buy it here
Nickname: The Claret & Blue
Stadium: Villa Park
Stadium Capacity: 42,788
Song: The Bells Are Ringing
Maybe it’s an Eton thing? Both former prime minister David Cameron, and Prince William, ex-Etonians, are fans of Aston Villa.
David Cameron’s the nephew of former Villa chairman Sir William Dugdale. Sir William took the former prime minister to his first ever game when Cameron was a 13-year-old pupil at Eton. The prime minister has (mostly) supported the club ever since*.
The reason why Prince William supports Aston Villa is harder to find. The Prince has never publicly revealed why he supports Villa – though there’s an urban myth that Prince William said he supported Aston Villa because it was in the country’s middle.
We have another theory. It’s a simple one. Aston Villa won the European Cup in May 1982. Prince William was born in June 1982. Coincidence? Quite possibly, but, maybe, just maybe, our future King is a fan of the Claret & Blue because when he was born, he wanted to support the best team in Europe – and, at that time, the best team in Europe was Aston Villa.
Success, however, is fleeting.
For the first part of the decade, Aston Villa has flattered to deceive. Despite promising managers like Martin O’Neill and Paul Lambert; a youth set up that has produced players like Gabriel Agbonlahor, Gareth Barry, and Gary Cahill; and a chairman who could have taught ‘The Joy of Sex’ (his name is Randy Lerner), the team hasn’t delivered on its potential.
It all seemed so different at the European Cup Final in Amsterdam in 1982. Despite two goals disallowed, Aston Villa beat Bayern Munich 1 – 0. It should have sparked a glorious run, but the team lost the cup just a few days later while out drinking in a local pub. An opportunistic thief nabbed it when he spotted the team in The Fox Inn in Hopwas, near Tamworth.
The cup wasn’t lost for long. A couple of hours later, the trophy was anonymously handed into West Midlands police, who did the right thing but not before holding a five-a-side tournament. Of course, the winning team claimed bragging rights and a photo with the trophy. It was only after they’d finished celebrating that the West Midland police phoned the club to tell it the cup had been found.
As success is fleeting, Aston Villa has had a unique approach to its walk on music. Before home games, fans could vote for the song the team will come out to.
Favourite songs have included Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ by Guns N Roses. Other songs featuring prominently in the poll are ‘We Will Rock You’ by Queen, Fatboy Slim’s ‘Right Here Right Now,’ ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ by Jeff Beck, ‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC, U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’ and ‘Song 2’ by Blur. All great songs, but not original songs for the club. For that, we need to turn to ‘The Bells Are Ringing.’
The Bells Are Ringing refers to the bells of Aston Parish Church, which is situated on Witton Lane, only yards from Villa Park. It was a common tradition for the church to ring the bells before every game on home soil. And the song commemorates this strong tradition.
In 2011, the club was brought back by the club as a fan anthem. There was only one problem. The song repeatedly calls Villa the best team in the land. Which even die-hard fans like David Cameron and Prince William know is no longer valid. But, just as success is fleeting, so is a failure, and the glory days may yet return to Villa Park. Or, if not Villa Park, perhaps West Midland Police – if an enterprising fan spots another team celebrating the European Cup triumph down their local boozer and decides to make off with the trophy.
*Though David Cameron is not their biggest fan. He was famously slipped up in 2015 when he urged an audience to support his team, West Ham, when he meant Aston Villa. Although to be fair, many Aston Villa fans that year, watching relegation battles before eventual demotion to the Championship, would have loved to forget they supported the club too.
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