The Holte End was once the largest terrace in English football, holding 22,500 fans who created an incredible atmosphere, spurring on the team regardless of the occasion or the opposition.
However, the fans in the famous stand were barely heard on Sunday during the first half, prompting Bournemouth fans to chant “Is this a library?” and “Shall we sing a song for you?”
After the magnificent individual goal from new signing Carles Gil, the Holte End was in full voice and the players’ confidence rose. It has been stated many times by the players and Paul Lambert that when the Holte Enders get behind the team there is nothing better. Lambert even stated, “Shooting into that Holte End can be a magnet at times. They draw the ball in.” This was said after the Sunderland game which ended 6-1, when the players didn’t have any fears of a goal drought and as a team had the mentality of scoring more goals than the opposition.
Lambert and the players are bound to praise the atmosphere when it is positive, as they want to have the supporters on their side. Times have changed and the supporters are more prone to creating a poisonous atmosphere when the team isn’t playing well, whereas in seasons gone by the supporters would have been more sympathetic and backed the team for the whole ninety minutes.
Villa fans deserve great credit for how they stuck behind Paul Lambert and the team during Lambert’s first season in charge, which was definitely a roller-coaster ride. The club may have hit rock bottom towards the end of December 2012, with the team conceding fifteen goals in three games and scoring none, but the Holte Enders still supported the team, most notably against Tottenham Hotspur, when fans sang Paul Lambert’s name for the last ten minutes, despite being 4-0 down.
Are English clubs renowned for their home support? Arguably, the only Premier League team whose fans are constantly supportive is Crystal Palace. The Eagles have a designated stand for singing, where their supporters bring flags and banners to create an atmosphere – and they certainly succeed.
Why does this not happen in the Holte End? The Holte End is a stand where the atmosphere is created, particularly in the upper tier, but there are supporters in the lower who often goes unnoticed – members of ‘Brigada 1874’. They sit in the lower tier of the Holte End, in the corner so they are away from supporters who just want to watch the game without the hindrance of flags or banners. If fans want to make Villa Park’s atmosphere one to be feared, we may have to look at what ‘Brigada 1874’ and ‘The Homesdale Fanatics’ are trying to achieve, as the ideas behind these groups only add positively to the atmosphere and the groups need fans’ support to carry out their ideologies.
Most importantly, the team has to perform. When the team does produce good quality football, the supporters will react, just like they did during the game against Bournemouth at the weekend. This win can be a turning point of the season: before Sunday, the ‘new style’ hadn’t been successful, as there was no end product, but, with the signing of Carles Gil, the tactic could kick-start our season.
Let’s try to replicate the atmosphere of the old Holte End and do our bit for the team even if, at times, the players do not.