Sunday, January 6, 2013

Heroes and Villains


A few years ago when I wasn't living in Britain, I wrote about fanzines and the importance they had played and speculated about their decline: (http://footballrambles.blogspot.co.uk/2008/03/football-culture-fanzine-culture.html)

However since my return I hadn't bought a fanzine until yesterday. Back in the day I read them pretty religiously and never missed a copy of 'Heroes and Villains' or later 'Never loved Ellis'. In fact I went as far as to write my dissertation on it and with the social change that was going on in football they had an important role to play culturally as a whole or dealt with issues affecting certain clubs, i.e. 'The Mag' (Newcastle), 'Not the View' (Celtic) and 'King of the Kippax' (Manchester City) or were just plainly hilarious 'A love Supreme' (Sunderland), 'Forever Blowing Bubbles' (West Ham) and 'Bernard of the Bantams' (Bradford City). Nowadays football fanzines are less in evidence, perhaps because of the rise of the Internet and also probably because of the rise of the Middle Class fan. The only reason that I'm saying this is that I noticed that 'the Oatcake' was selling like hot cakes at Stoke, where their brand of football and culture isn't exactly to the taste of the oxymoronic 'Guardian' reading Sky TV watchers. Another reason that I hadn't bought a fanzine was that the clubs that I tend to watch can hardly justify the programmes print runs that they are under duress to produce never mind an independent fanzine. The other and final reason was that the only Villa fanzine left is 'Heroes and Villains'.

I got a bit sick of H&V back in the day, mainly because I thought that it was excessive in its moaning and kind of fed the stereotype of the miserable Villa fan. It seemed to me that they would find anything to be disgruntled about, for example when we had a decent team they spent the most of one issue moaning about a deviation in the kit design from claret with blue sleeves. However, I picked up a copy yesterday and was pleasantly surprised and for the amount of stuff packed in it £2 didn't seem too excessive. Sure, there were some page fillers and the joke about the defence on the back cover is a bit of an easy target and having a go at Doug Ellis seems a bit irrelevant now, even if he still is a dispeakable old git. And having a go at Stoke, well we've heard it all before, it's all true, but I need to hear it again about as much as I need to hear Gangnam Style again.

There was some stuff that I enjoyed though and the stuff that is negative mainly justified and they try to put some perspective to some of the stuff that is going wrong at Villa Park. There's an interesting article on players who had their Villa careers cut short and of course Gary Shaw features heavily there. A decent article about why the media have it in for the Villa (OK, that's negative, but well written). An article on one of the things that I like tub thumping about - how good the German model of football is - ; I have to admit though I've gone on it that much myself I didn't enjoy it that much! An interesting look back at the 1989-90 season that really took me back. And also another article on wins over Man United that took me back to Didier Six's explosive debut back in 1984. There are also a load of other articles, but those were the ones that I enjoyed the most, and there's plenty of positivity about Lambert's young lions despite the disastrous Christmas period and the fanzine finishes with a look at where Villa have missed out on the FA Cup and why 2013 may be our year.

So I am a convert back to 'Heroes and Villains' after about 20 years of not rating it or ignoring it and it has whetted my appetite to keep a look out for other fanzines in the future.

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