My Favourite Goalkeepers #1: Les Sealey

If my dad dreamed of having a little boy who shared his passion for football, I made him sweat a little bit before it came true.

My first ever Villa match was a 3-0 win against Sunderland in the 1990/91 season. One of our most notorious family anecdotes relates to the fact that I showed very little interest in the match itself, preferring to occupy myself with the Sooty and Sweep puppets I’d snuck into Villa Park.

Given that I was showing no signs whatsoever of developing any love of the game, it’s all the more remarkable that my dad wasn’t deterred from buying me a season ticket a few months later. Luckily for him, it would be a campaign that captured my imagination – and it was largely down to one man.

Les Sealey’s time in the Villa team was brief and, for many supporters, unremarkable. But to me, that season, he was the biggest superstar in world football.

For a young boy who had no understanding or appreciation for the finer points of the game, my love of Big Les wasn’t based so much on his performances, but on his character. Nicknamed ‘Mr. Angry’, he played the role of pantomime villain with aplomb, capturing the attention of seven-year-old me.

Barely a game would go by without Sealey berating his defenders or snarling at officials. It was in one game against Sheffield Wednesday that he truly lived up to his monicker. Following a controversial goal, an incensed Sealey, adamant that the ball had not fully crossed the line, practically had to be carried from the field such was his fury towards the referee. It was pure theatre, and I lapped it up.

As an aside, he wasn’t the only one who let frustration get the better of him that day. Later on, perhaps under the influence of a couple of ales, my dad called the BRMB football phone-in to forcefully share his view that the goal shouldn’t have stood.

Sealey’s run in the team began in October 1991. By February the following year, he’d earned a big enough place in my heart that all I wanted for my birthday was a Villa goalkeeper kit. My dad, smug in the knowledge that his brainwashing was going well, was only too happy to oblige. This photo, featuring awful early 90s wallpaper and my best ‘Mr. Angry’ impression, was duly taken:

Heartbreak was just around the corner, though. Just two weeks after my Sealey-themed birthday bash, he lost his place in the team and never played for Villa again.

The following season saw Sealey shipped out on loan to Coventry and then Blues, before returning to his former club, Manchester United, to deputise for Peter Schmeichel in 1993.

The last time I ever saw him play was in Villa’s tremendous 1994 League Cup final triumph over United at Wembley – and while I was caught up amid the euphoria of our shock victory, I couldn’t help but feel some sympathy for my former hero as he sat dejected upon the hallowed turf after the final whistle.

Tragically and cruelly, Les Sealey passed away in 2001, aged just 43.

In total, he played only 18 games for Aston Villa and I honestly can’t tell you whether he was actually any good. Frankly, it doesn’t matter to me if he wasn’t.

I will remember him simply as the man who drove my love of football. I’m forever grateful to him for that.

An ode to Louis Tomlinson

I ruddy love Gabby Agbonlahor. And who wouldn’t?

There’s the endearing stupidity. The last minute goals. His short-lived flirtation with Twitter before he got shut-down, thanks to the aforementioned endearing stupidity.

But one thing that I love about him more than most things is the fact that he’s a world-class wind-up merchant.

‘Shushing’ gestures to opposition fans. Applauding red cards. You’d maybe hate him if he wasn’t one of your own. But he is, so I don’t.

Today, though, Gabby has excelled himself. He’s gone and incited pure, unadulterated rage among millions of teenage girls across the world. And frankly, I couldn’t be more excited about that.

For, at Celtic Park, was a benefit game for the Villa and Celtic legend, Stiliyan Petrov, commemorating his recent retirement following his brave battle with Leukaemia. A team of all-star legends, including our Gabby, up against a team of Celtic legends which included One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson for reasons unknown.

Every touch of the ball from the 1D popster was greeted by a loud chorus of girlish squeals and boarish booing, while everyone looking on was secretly thinking to themselves: “Wouldn’t it be funny if he got clattered?”

Cometh the moment, cometh the man…

It would soon get worse.

After being floored, Tomlinson immediately demanded to be substituted and then, to compound his humilation, promptly vomited as he made his embarrassing exit.

Now, before I incur the wrath of any mental #Directioners, let me be clear: I don’t dislike One Direction. I secretly quite like One Direction. It’s just that I have a bit of an obsession with pro-amateur football, and the bizarre scenarios it can throw up. Think Boris Johnson taking out a German, or Woody Harrelson scoring the winner past Jamie Theakston in front of 76,000 people at Old Trafford. Just so strange, so unlikely, and so very, very brilliant.

Our Gabby, Villa’s Gabby, taking out a global pop sensation could hardly fail to appeal to me, could it?

So, I thought I’d commemorate the event in a fitting manner, by writing a little song.

It’s to the tune of One Direction’s fabulous pop hit, ‘What Makes You Beautiful’. Here’s an instrumental version if you fancy some impromptu karaoke.

Are you ready? Then we’ll begin:

He’s on the floor,
Don’t know what for,
He got knocked down by a lad named Agbonlahor.

His number’s up,
He’s getting subbed,
It’s pretty clear that he just isn’t good enough.

Everyone else in the ground can see it…
Everyone else but you…

Louis, we don’t know why you’re playing for the Celts,
And now the pace of the game’s got you overwhelmed,
Since you fell on the ground, you’re not very well…
Now you know… oh oh,
That boybands shouldn’t play football!

You’re only doing this for charity,
Playing against all the boys from the Premier League.
Right now we’re looking at you and we all believe
That you know… oh oh,
That boybands shouldn’t play football…
Oh oh,
So sing your songs, don’t play football!

So c-c’mon,
You got it wrong,
Should be on stage singing your very catchy songs.

We don’t know why,
You’re in green and white,
Regurgitating your half time pie-ie-ie.

Everyone else in the ground can see it…
Everyone else but you…

Louis, we don’t know why you’re playing for the Celts,
And the pace of the game’s got you overwhelmed,
Since you fell on the ground, you’re not very well…
Now you know… oh oh,
That boybands shouldn’t play football!

You’re only doing this for charity,
Playing against all the boys from the Premier League.
Right now we’re looking at you and we all believe
That you know… oh oh,
That boybands shouldn’t play football…
Oh oh,
So sing your songs, don’t play football! 

Na na na na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na

Na na na na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na

Louis, we don’t know why you’re playing for the Celts,
And the pace of the game’s got you overwhelmed,
Since you fell on the ground, you’re not very well…
Now you know… oh oh,
That boybands shouldn’t play football!

Louis, we don’t know why you’re playing for the Celts,
And the pace of the game’s got you overwhelmed,
Since you fell on the ground, you’re not very well…
Now you know… oh oh,
That boybands shouldn’t play football!

You’re only doing this for charity,
Playing against all the boys from the Premier League.
Right now we’re looking at you and we all believe
That you know… oh oh,
That boybands shouldn’t play football… 

Oh oh,
Boybands shouldn’t play football…

Oh oh,
So sing your songs, don’t play football!

I just spent far too long on that.

You know I did. I really did.