Author Topic: the holte & i  (Read 6657 times)

martin@

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the holte & i
« on: June 10, 2010, 01:11:44 PM »
[float=left][/float]I set out to create an authoritative and objective item about the Holte, it’s times and it’s part in the history of the club that has been the focus of so much of my emotion and cash over the years. I soon realised that, because of what it is to me and the experiences I’ve had on it’s terraces, I had set myself an impossible task. Anyway, what follows may not be objective but it is how I remember a few of the happenings which were important to me. (With acknowledgement to Simon Inglis for pinching his format if not his ideas.)

v Rotherham February 1968 (0-1)……. Seven times we’ve won it, no one else can catch us up!’

Tradition has it that football supporters are introduced to their fate by their fathers. Coming from a totally non-sporting family, my initiation onto the Holte was left to the persuasive wiles of a nine-year-old classmate. How he convinced his dad to take another unruly lad to see the Villa I’ll never know. But it is Graham Attwood I have to thank for the beginnings of an obsession.

It was on a murky but magical Saturday in winter that I took my place on ‘ the Holte. Left of goal, face peering through the low railings which passed as crowd control in those days, I strained to make sense of a fourth round FA cup tie viewed from boot level.

For me it was a delight to view five Villa players, but the real wonder was simply to see all those thousands of people in the same place at the same time. We spent a fair part of the second-half leaping on each other’s shoulders in a precarious effort to see the very back of the steep bank of faces behind us. I learned a lot that afternoon – the stoical acceptance of defeat, a few new words, and the fact that given the right angle, you could frame the whole Witton End in Johnny MacLeod’s bandy legs.

v Hull City September 1969 (3-2). “I want to be in that number…….. .

Two seasons on from my Holte End debut and I had graduated up the terracing. The front was for wimps and my group of eleven year old toughs congregated behind the white tunnel wall on the Trinity Road side of the Holte. The fact that we rarely won hardly mattered. Some Saturdays were special, and this was one of them.

Much of the second half was spent willing on the team as even the outpost we occupied was engulfed in the collective roaring of thousands of Holtenders. Between us we turned a two goal half-time deficit into a glorious single goal victory.

I came away nursing a sore throat, a drained nervous system and a stupid grin. But it didn’t matter. I’d done my bit, I was part of the Holte. I was absolutely hooked.

v Portsmouth January 1970 (3-5). ‘We’ll support you evermore………..

By now die Holte was mine. Actually, I grudgingly shared it with two friends. We re-affirmed our ownership on alternate Saturdays by arriving at one o’clock and queuing to get in (this for games attracting less than half the ground’s capacity). I could not understand why everyone didn’t do this, little knowing of the more adult pleasures of another Holte a hundred yards down Trinity Road.

Once through the turnstiles The Holte became our playground with the labyrinth of tunnels

under it’s steep slopes serving as secret passages in a host of war games.

In our mind the Holte was the best there could be. We simply ignored the crumbling terracing, sprouting weeds and ancient drainage system which spilled waste water from the pitch onto the feet of supporters. Like the team we followed, the Holte was falling apart.

v Blackburn March 1970 (1-1)…….. born is the King of Villa Park.’

Another excursion to the front (due to the presence of television cameras) and a rendezvous with fame. At the age of eleven I was the person responsible for a crucial Villa equaliser. In reality, for the first time ever, I knocked back the matchball to Bruce Rioch who, in his eagerness to get on with the corner, sprayed us all with that orange shale mud which still surrounds the pitch. A quick corner and George Curtis bundled home the ball. I’m told by those allowed to stay up to watch the match that my point saving heroics were only visible as a musty grey smudge through the goalnet. But who cared, the point I had won would herald the start of a relegation-avoiding revival to lead to next season’s championship. For good measure I vowed never to wash the Rioch mud from my face and clothes.

v Bournemouth February 1972 (2-1). ‘…Sing a song of victory, we will win Division Three”

Two seasons on, we had been relegated and I had washed again (football supporters are fickle like that). For me this game captures what the early seventies Holte was all about more than any other. By now the clubs’ support, focused on the Holte, was gaining recognition. The club and it’s support were one and the same. This was a game we would win simply because we wanted it that way. The match is now history; MacDougall’s headed goal setting off a passion, volume and intensity of support rarely equalled. Hugging strangers, people climbing floodlights, etc. But my mind’s eye focuses on a lanky youth scrambling from the Holte End masses to join the on-pitch celebrations. Crombie clad, booted and sporting an unfortunate seventies haircut, his absolute joy is probably more representative of what it was to be a Holte Ender then than any amount of thirtysomething reminiscences. Perhaps more significantly there were no dire threats of fines or officious notification of recordings taking place. He was simply shepherded back onto the terrace.
Division two days………. but Villa we love you’

We knew that the first division was our destiny, it was simply a question of waiting. Supporting the team from the Holte had become a ritual around which adolescent life was built. We were time-served members of the Holte and delighted at the growing numbers sharing the experience.

Matchday still meant early arrival but more to secure our spot three quarters up the terrace than anything else. War games had given way to a collection of carefully honed superstitions from the pre-match cheering of Terry Weir to his goal line pitch to the collective willing of the Trinity Road pigeons onto the field (if they landed in the centre circle a Villa win was assured) every fate was called to the Villa cause.

Relationships between club and supporters were healthy. A Wembley win and exciting league form had helped cement a mutually beneficial relationship. Within it all the Holte was a focus for the sometimes exaggerated emotions which supporters nurture, reflecting a new pride in the club’s resurgence and it’s young squad.

v Sunderland April 1975(2-0). “…We’re going right up to the top!”

Our second division Holte End days were to end before a buoyant full house in brilliant sunshine and with no pressure whatsoever. The Holte was a solid bank of support in celebratory mood, the final whistle heralding the on-pitch party which had threatened all afternoon as the Holte poured forward putting the wilderness years firmly into the past.

As the celebrations ended I walked back towards the Holte. Pausing on the eighteen yard line I looked upwards into the scene of so many triumphs and disappointments. From pitch level, in brilliant sunshine and devoid of ifs masses, it looked smaller than I imagined it should. I did not realise it at the time but that moment marked the end of an era for us also. We were sixteen and about to leave school. From now on our Holte End days would be set against the pressures of an adult world.

Division One. “A.V.F.C. Aston Villa are magic, are magic…….

Back in its rightful place and with more vocal opposition the Holte simply got better and better over the following seasons. Always original, it developed a repertoire of songs and behaviour that was pure spectacle. A few balloons brought to one early season game became a blizzard of colour that welcomed the team onto the pitch for the rest of the season. And the fervour was not confined to the young. Many was the middle-aged man seen shamelessly clutching handfuls of balloons at 2.50 on Saturday afternoon.

More athletic and absolutely unique was the ‘V’ for Villa routine where volunteers would be held upside down over the heads of the crowd, legs in a ‘V’ shape. This occurred at most games but on one glorious occasion some spirit of the Holte orchestrated scores of people to attempt it simultaneously. Legs in a ‘V’, scarves tied between ankles swaying throughout a rendering of ‘Walk On’. Goodness knows what a psychologist would make of it but at the time it was tremendous.

v Manchester City August 1977 (1-4).’The fence must go…’

Feelings between Holte and club still existed but with a little less trust than when we had been fighting our way back together. This game demonstrated the club’s view of the Holte. Without warning a fence was erected down the centre of the terrace. Certain Holte-enders reacted and more attention was focused on rocking the fence from it’s foundations than backing the team. The fence went but the sour taste remained.

The pain and glory of supporting Villa is well known. Villa teams possess an infuse capacity for self-destruction which explains the fatalistic attitude displayed by supporters. Of course this means that when things do turn out correctly the delight is so much more pronounced. This was never demonstrated better than in two games I days apart during our championship season.

v Ipswich Town April 1981 (1-2). ‘We’re going to win the lea……. !’

Billed as the championship decider, the queues stretching an hour before kick-off reflected the fact. So it was with smug season-ticket holders smile that I cut across the line to battle my way up the terrace. The Holte was absolutely packed and radiated a sharp-edged tension relieved slightly at kick-off, but turned to grim stoicism when McNaught bungled a backpass to allow Ipswich to score. Despite desperate backing and Herculean efforts from the team we lost the game. My despondency hurt almost physically. Seventy-one years and we had blown it. For once I just wanted to get away from the Holte.

v Middlesborough April 1981 (3-0). ‘Villa, Villa, top of the league’

A series of good results and the championship was back on again. Although we didn’t know it, the points which were to win the league were gained on this day. A goal by ex-Holtender Gary Shaw settled the nerves and then the rumours started – Ipswich had won/lost/conceded the title. Whatever, part way into the second half the anxiety was lost in a wave of pure noise. It was carnival time in B6 and the Holte was leading the band. The team picked up the mood and produced some of its purest football in years. Once again we were working together.

This game closed a significant chapter in Holte history. ill-conceived changes to the end and rank performances killed a little of the spirit. We now watched football from a high security corral.

v Coventry City May 1992 (2-0). “Son, you are a Villa fan, and that’s the way to stay’

An end of season game meaning little to most Villa supporters. For me, though, the -match was special. This was the match I had chosen to take my eldest son onto the Holte for the first time. We stood a few yards from where my Holte End days had begun twenty-three years earlier. Such a lot had happened on the terrace behind us that had shaped my life that I held a nagging fear he might reject the place. In the event a Cyrille Regis goal in @ seconds dispelled those doubts. This day represented one of those occasions any parent will recognise when a natural cycle was completed.

1993-94. ‘Big Fat Ron’s claret and blue army ……… .

I expected it all to end on a depressing note – a frustrating final season and the Holte going out with a whimper. Then came the Tranmere game and the old shared focus was back. A gutsy team willed on by the collective force of it’s supporters. But perhaps the most fitting Holte End epitaph came a hundred and more miles south of Villa Park at Wembley. The cup was won, the celebrations underway then, cutting clean through the bedlam and echoing round the stadium, the sound of thousands of voices:

‘Yippee yie aye,
Yippee yie yoh,
Holte Enders in the sky!’

The spirit lives on.

John Harris
« Last Edit: August 05, 2010, 11:53:56 AM by spritzer »