There are a number of ways you can be refused entry to a football ground. Turning up without a valid ticket is one, or perhaps having a conviction for football-related violence is another. A time-honoured classic is to arrive behaving in a disorderly manner due to enthusiastic prior refreshment. I was guilty of none of these last season when Aston Villa refused to sell me a ticket.
Villa Park is one of England’s great football grounds. The steps leading up to the Holt End attach every match day fan with a bygone era. One can almost feel the hordes of workmen from years gone by waking alongside as you go up to the ground. But it is a stadium I will not be visiting this Friday night.
Every year I try to get to a few games with my dad, a task made difficult by our conflicting schedules and commitments. Two years ago I was unable to get a ticket through United channels so bought one from the Villa website. Many of us will be familiar with the activity of sitting quietly in amongst the opposition fans.
That was the game of Darren Flecther’s comeback and the travelling fans were terrific as always. United won the game 3-1 and Adnan Januzaj was majestic as he tore into the Villans.
Flash-forward one year and a similar fate befell me. I applied for tickets through the Villa website and that was supposed to be that. Only it wasn’t. The next day I got a call saying that my email address had identified me as a Manchester United fan and that my tickets would be refunded.
Thanks no doubt to their spy-software, they had cannily discovered that I only bought tickets to the United games. Perhaps they were not willing to consider there were Villa fans who might do the same.
With the dignity of a monarch, I explained that I would be escorting my pensioner father to the match and that his behaviour would be monitored in between cups of tea. I also mentioned that my dad is about as pugnacious as an armchair.
They were not interested. At the time, Villa were embroiled in a relegation scrap and under Paul Lambert were playing some of the dullest football in history. The match did not sell out. Villa refunded my tickets but the train company did not.
Of course, if it had been feasible for me to go this Friday night, I probably would still have gone. After all, I have continued to attend Old Trafford since the Glazer takeover, refusing only to buy any products in the ground. It can be difficult to distinguish being a fan and a consumer sometimes.
Nonetheless, Louis and his boys will have to get along without me. One suspects that United should enjoy an easier time than they did against Tottenham. It would be nice if Rooney could find his shooting boots too. We are going to need him this season.
Follow Mark on www.twitter.com/markjpayne