The atmosphere at Villa Park of late is suffering – and with plans to expand, the stadium needs to become a fortress once again.

Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy

The atmosphere at Villa Park is not as it once was. In the past, the ground has been referred to as a fortress and fans in B6 have been lauded and applauded for the atmosphere they were creating at matches. However, this season especially, fans have been questioning why things seem a little more damp and a little more dreary – and that’s not talking about the weather.

Social media can be polarising at the best of times, but when fans are disagreeing about atmosphere, that’s not going to create a positive one at games. It’s a moot starting point. But those who have questioned why the atmosphere is faltering are well within their rights – because they’re certainly not wrong.

As Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens lay down plans for the expansion of Villa Park, the atmosphere at home games is something that needs to be addressed. If there’s quiet fans now, is that only going to get worse with a bigger stadium? There’s always the argument of more fans equalling more atmosphere, possibly.

There are, it seems, a number of reasons for the poor home atmosphere at Villa Park this season. We’ve spoken to a range of fans, from season ticket holders to those who attend once in a blue moon to gain a deeper understanding of these.

What’s wrong with Villa Park?

First and foremost, there is the gatekeeping of other fans. A TikTok shared to Twitter went viral this past week, in which what seems to be two teenage girls (or a teenage girl and her mother) record directly in front of them, in an attempt to capture a young boy signing “Allez, Allez, Allez“. The boy is singing alone, perhaps in an attempt to get others to join him, while the girl(s) laugh at him and mutter under their breath. The video was posted with the text to speech caption of “This kid at the ground wouldn’t be quiet, nobody was even singing with him”. Other fans have shared their experiences about those around them making comments about clapping, singing or even cheering for a specific player. Judgement, or fear of it, is having an impact.

One comment that continually crops up is that the atmosphere certainly isn’t toxic – but flat. Fans feel like it hasn’t worsened too much from last season, but it has become poorer. There are comments about the Holte End “doing their thing” but that being the be all and end all much of the time, with fans saying if it’s only the Holte singing, that the stadium may as well be empty. Perhaps when the stadium is updated, the North Stand may find their voice again?

A common mention is the pre-game. The sound system in the stadium is of fine quality, but does nothing but fire loud, obnoxious music into the crowd. Fans state that the pre-game needs to be improved, acting like the kindling for a roaring fire.

One thing that is continually mentioned too is that many fans feel like the atmosphere is too reliant on the game in font of them, stating that there’s displeasure in having little to play for in mid table mediocrity, that some fans have a chip on their shoulder, and that some are too jaded by the “same old Aston Villa” to sing for a full 90 minutes. Most who mentioned this seemed to feel like the atmosphere should dictate the performance on the pitch, not the other way around.

There is also the issue of fans leaving their seats for various reasons during the game. While going to the toilet or taking little ones out of the stands is a given, some fans feel that swathes take to the concourse during the game for a drink instead of backing the side – while others are unhappy with those who attempt to leave early to beat traffic, stating that the stadium is sometimes half empty by the time the final whistle is blown.

How do we fix the Villa Park atmosphere?

While we quizzed fans on the issues currently surrounding the atmosphere, we also asked them for their thoughts on improving it.

Some suggestions are outside the realms of possibility for fans, with exciting signings and exciting football both listed as potential solutions, however other suggestions are more than feasible for fans to play a hand in.

Pre-game should see a shift from what is currently is. Hi Ho Silver Lining has a welcome place here, but obnoxious music as the stands fill needs to be replaced, and more needs to be done from Aston Villa to amp up those who are there to watch. Displays are also possible – we’ve seen pyrotechnics, light shows and even huge banners unfurled in the past. Sides like West Ham and Sheffield United have pre-game anthems – which is a suggestion thrown in by fans here too.

Other suggestions state that the tired and boring songbook is an issue, and that fans should be more receptive to change and newer anthems. There is mention of dedicated fan groups making a visual and audible presence at Villa Park to facilitate and encourage the growth of atmosphere and enhance the matchday experience. Assigned “singing sections” which have been seen at other clubs should be encouraged, and drums even picked up a mention.

Closing thoughts

Fans can be forgiven for a dreary atmosphere against lower league opposition in the FA Cup, but the home game before that, against local rivals Wolves, saw a subdued atmosphere. Fans applauded World Cup winner Emiliano Martinez before breaking into song for a few minutes, and then, silence. And then, Wolves score and there’s an air of unease in the stands. Any noise that does come, comes from the Holte End. Boos ring out at half-time, which many don’t agree with, but others will state their right to express an opinion. (Perhaps find better ways to express it?)

The second half was better, and that can be directly linked to the improvement on the pitch. While it was better though, a solid fifteen minutes of “Unai Emery’s Claret and Blue army” isn’t the most imaginative. It’s not the Blues or the Baggies, but Wolves have been a fiery affair in the past – and it just didn’t feel like there was any teeth or grit to the game, in the stands or on the pitch.

The fact that the above has been stated from fans that we’ve surveyed shows that there is an issue. But there needs to be a proactive approach from fan groups and the club in an attempt to improve things, before the fortress that was Villa Park becomes little more than a theatre.

4 thoughts on “Gatekeeping, quiet fans and the same old: Why Villa Park is suffering”

  1. The atmosphere at villa park has always been driven by what happens on the pitch ,if the game is dull no amount of singing and cheering is going to turn it into a Fantastic game .
    We can only support what happens on the pitch and to be fair its been drab in recent seasons despite staying in the league.
    A constant change of manager hasn’t helped to bringing consistency to a club who desperately need consistency to help them stabilize .
    On top of all that we dont have players who really have the club at there hearts ,i could point to some great players who would run through a wall for this club but you know who they are already .
    The clubs transfer policy hasn’t helped either bringing in players like coutinho who isn’t the player he once was ,who really is coning a wage out of the club ,there are a few others too ,sanson ,guilber,traore all make a mockery of our owners, spending massive money on players who offer nothing in terms of improvement to the team .so yes the atmosphere is flat ,and it will be until players who actually offer the club more of an impact to the overall performance of the team and who can give the fans consistent performances and who take the club to there hearts in the same way as the fans do .
    Weve seen some cracking team put together over the year ,those by saunders ,atkinson ,o-neil all generated fantastic atmospheres at villa park .

  2. An easy way for new fans to learn the words to anthems, especially new chants for any new signing, would certainly help. Where would someone new to Villa Park go to learn and to be confident when joining in with those in the Holte? Maybe even a link on the Villa web page to an approved fan group would help. I just feel that some fans don’t join in because they can’t!

  3. A good entertaining dj. One that knows how to rouse an audience. On pitch comps. Some of the squad walking around talking to or giving selfies for the fans. Cheerleaders as in American football. Old retired player appearances. I would offer my dj service’s but im in Hull. Although I support Villa.

  4. The subdued atmosphere at Villa Park is down to one simple issue. You don’t need exciting music or pre-match video shows. Aston Villa has a history of playing attractive attacking football. The crossfield passing game backwards and forwards is boring everyone rigid! Good entertaining football equals noisy crowd! It really is that simple.

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