IT will be a bit of a shame to lose Villa. The away trip, not the team. It’s an old-school red brick football factory — and one of the last of its kind.
Handily, it’s in the middle of the UK and is an unambiguous there-and-back-in-a-day away job. No deliberations about an overnight mission with Birmingham. You get in, see the game — often win the game — and then get out. Minimum fuss.
The Brummies are affable enough. Stupid songs about unemployment and libraries and the like, but there are worse people.
Their main asset is that their town is home to one of the UK’s oldest and largest Asian populations. This has two benefits. The first is that the away day dining options open up substantially. You can stick your Rusholme and your Brick Lane — the Brum is where the action is.
The second benefit of this large Asian population is that there are more Reds in the ground when we play Villa.
Liverpool have long been the go-to team for much of the UK’s Asian population. Books have been written as to why this is so, but it’s enough for me that we are a bigger contingent of Reds at grounds in the Midlands than in other regions.
It’s actually one of the great things about doing most of the aways. You encounter Liverpool fans who aren’t from Liverpool in situations where you’re more likely to take time out to talk and understand each other’s motivations.
Meeting Norwich-based reds in Norwich is an interesting experience. Chatting with Leicesterite Koppites on their manor is only enjoyable.
Maybe it’s because I’m no Scouser. I’ve lived in Liverpool for over 30 years now, but I wasn’t born there.
My formative Liverpool experiences were hugely about being on trains around the country, but mostly between Euston and Liverpool Lime Street.
I remember what it felt like to be an outsider wanting to belong to something that wasn’t native. I was once the curiosity.
Liverpool people would be mainly tickled and intrigued as to why someone would travel so far, and spend so much time and money, to engage with something they felt as natural a participation as breathing.
In my non-being-in-Liverpool years the make up of the top division was so much more important to me than it is now.
I fancy an away over-nighter to Brighton next season, but it’s no big deal if they don’t get promoted. I’ve always got Anfield and all the Liverpool FC I can handle.
As a kid living in North London, it was vital that I had as many grounds as possible within reach of affordable train journeys.
In the early 80s there was a time when I celebrated Norwich, Ipswich, Luton and Watford being in Division One. Those lads supplemented by London mainstays Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, West Ham and QPR ensured a busy season for a Red that lived far from the Merseyside mothership.
Aston Villa, you know not what you do, then, in becoming so shit. You are letting down a Scouse nation on your doorstep, as well as the descending horde from Liverpool.
Let’s not get overly sentimental though.
It is always nice to see a traditional giant of the British game getting relegated. I love that Leeds are still languishing in the Championship somewhere. I want Newcastle down there, too.
As fate would have it, Villa are sort of rousing themselves as our game approaches. Eight points from their last available 12 at home represents something of a renaissance under new manager Remi Garde and is, staggeringly, half of the points they have managed all season in the league.
The Villa have been good enough to lie down like dogs for all comers this season and it would be just our luck to get them as they’re in the mood for some last defiant act.
It’s a strange game at a strange time for Liverpool. We need a win from somewhere. We need points and respectability. We need form.
Those are all important things but none is a tangible objective in the sense that there is no real end game left for us in the league.
We’re 12 points off fourth spot. We may as well fantasise about winning all our remaining 13 games and winning the title as look to a Champions League qualifying spot as an objective.
Nevertheless, and despite Aston Villa’s diminished status, it still feels like a win there would be decent. Like it would represent an important moment.
Much of this may be to do with the fact that we are now getting significant quantities of players back from injury. Not any old Joes, either. The good players.
Seeing Daniel Sturridge and Phil Coutinho tearing it up down the East End against the lucky West Hammers on Tuesday got the juices flowing.
Close your eyes and you could see the rested Bobby Firmino there, too — the dawning of a new age of Liverpool a distinct possibility.
Exciting front players is why we all get out of bed for football. Being shorn of most of them for best part of the last two seasons has been a slow death.
At the Villa then we hope to see a preview of a new Liverpool. We may not get the Sturridge, Firmino, Coutinho dream ticket from the off, but the prospect of them occupying the same pitch at some point is a distinct possibility.
That we can then look to the understudies and number them as Christian Benteke, Divock Origi, Adam Lallana and Jordon Ibe is exiciting. That is what a squad looks like.
Many of us are hoping Jürgen Klopp is also seeing what we’re seeing in Lucas Leiva the centre back. Our honest but unspectacular midfield mainstay rebooted as the best defender in the league. Maybe.
His cameos in defence in the past couple of month have progressed on to another level and people are talking in hushed tones — as if they’re the only ones it’s occurred to — about Lucas being the future of Liverpool’s central defence. If Barca can do it with Javier Mascherano then we can certainly do it with our boy.
There is no practical reason for Klopp to gamble (if that is indeed the word) on Lucas at Villa. He could pick real centre halves. A few are now fit. There is a sense though that if Lucas is picked for this next one then there need never be another reason not to select him.
The paradigm shift will have been completed.
All to see and play for then. Maybe not for titles or Champions League qualifications. Maybe not even for pride.
We got to Villa for the bonhomie and to say goodbye to an old friend of sorts, and with that hope in our hearts that the day will be the first of many new bolder fresher Liverpool FC days. Days laden with goals from Sturridge and Firmino and the boys, and goals prevented by Leiva and the lads. To the new Reds.
The team to bid adios to the Villa: Mignolet (sigh); Clyne, Lucas, Sakho, Moreno; Can, Henderson, Milner; Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino.