Villa Noise: Clever Merry/Rudimental in B6/Steer on Mike Bassett
8th Jan 2014
The former Birchfield Harriers 400m runner, who won bronze at the Sydney Olympics of 2000 as well as being the fastest woman in the world over the distance in 2001, was a New Year's Day contestant on Celebrity Mastermind.
The 39-year-old from Dunchurch, now living in Birmingham, chose Aston Villa as her topic of choice for the 90-second quick-fire quiz before two minutes of general knowledge.
She faced comedian Josh Widdicombe, Emmerdale actress Sian Reese-Williams and wildlife presenter Nick Baker.
Their subjects were indie band Blue, sitcom Black Books and pioneering scientist Alfred Russel Wallace respectively.
Merry admitted before the show that she was as nervous heading into the famous black chair as she was preparing for the millennium Olympic final.
She answered eight correctly on Villa and eight on general knowledge, giving her a grand total of 16.
That meant she finished third, ahead of Baker , but behind Reese-Williams  and Widdicombe .
The questions are being published in the Villa News & Record matchday programme against Arsenal on Monday - as well as the answers on a different page - so see how you would have done.
Heart-warming to see Paul Lambert dedicate the win at Sunderland to tragic Villa fan Jody O'Reilly.
O'Reilly was killed in a hit-and-run before Christmas and the club honoured his memory with a minute applause against Crystal Palace on Boxing Day.
But Lambert went further, as he wrote in his manager notes in the next matchday programme.
He said: "That victory at the Stadium of Light we dedicate to Jody, who lost his life in tragic circumstances before he was due to come and support the team against Man Utd just before Christmas.
"Jody was a massive Villa supporter and we would like to let his family and friends know again that everyone at the club has been thinking of them."
Ron Vlaar enjoyed the perfect start to the New Year - skippering the side to a win at Sunderland and watching good pal Michael Van Gerwen win the PDC World Darts Championship.
He said: "It was so frustrating to miss five games during December and, to be honest, if you had asked me on the eve of the Sunderland game if I had a chance of playing, I would probably have said no.
"But my calf improved earlier and I was delighted to lead the team out at the Stadium of Light. It was just a pity it stiffened up again during the second half.
"I returned home in time to watch my fellow countryman Michael win the darts final. He is also now the world number one.
"I know him quite well so I sent him a text message congratulating him immediately after his 7-4 victory over Peter Wright.
"Earlier this year, I went along to watch him in Birmingham and presented him with a replica shirt for his 24th birthday.
"I enjoy a game of darts and I've scored 180 a few times - although I'm not thinking of turning professional."
Another Villa literary reference had come to light - courtesy of Phil Reading, one of the club's matchday hosts.
While reading a book called 'The Boer War' by Tabitha Jackson, Phil couldn't quite believe it when he came to a chapter entitled 'Turning the Tide.'
It begins with a quote by J.B.Lloyd, an Inns of Court volunteer: "This was sport with a vengeance, better than seeing Aston Villa's left forward scoring the winning goal, or WG hitting three successive boundaries from the best Australian bowling."
Phil tells us there's also claret and blue mention in a book about the Second World War.
He says 'The Colditz Story' by Pat.R.Reid includes a passage where a prisoner is taunted by a German guard about Villa refusing to give the Nazi salute before a match in Berlin in 1938.
"He was barely nine stone, dripping wet, but feared no-one. Was he too brave for his own good? He was. Did the way he launched into tackles against people twice his size cost him dearly regarding injuries? It did. But would he have changed the way he played? No he wouldn't!"
The words of Andy Gray in the foreword to Alex Cropley's new book.
Cropley, of course, was a huge fan favourite and the biggest annoyance for supporters is that we never got the chance to see him for longer.
The big question is whether a fully-fit Cropley would have gone on to figure in Villa's 1981 title-winning team and the side that won the European Cup the following year.
Sadly, the classy midfielder's claret and blue career was curtailed by injury before the club's really great glory days, although he won a League Cup medal in the dramatic 1977 final against Everton.
The former Scotland international tells the story of his career, which also took him to Hibernian and Arsenal in a new book 'Crops', which is published by Luath Press at £14.99.
Great to see another former ace, Kenny Swain, at Villa Park over Christmas promoting his new book.
Swain, a League Championship and European Cup ace himself, was in the Indoor Academy selling copies of 'A Game of Three Halves' which tells the tale of his football career aswell as his successful and long stint in coaching.
Swain was only too happy to sign copies and pose for pictures as a plethora of supporters came out to see him.
The official biography, which costs £16.99, is a riveting read and also includes a great colour section of formerly unreleased pictures.
Jed Steer says comedy 'Mike Bassett: England Manager' is his favourite film for two reasons - he thinks it's hilarious and his girlfriend's dad is a star in it.
The 2001 movie told the story of former lower-league player Bassett, played by Royle Family actor Ricky Tomlinson, who was remarkably handed the opportunity to manage the Three Lions in the World Cup after all sensible candidates turned it down.
After a disastrous start and calls for his resignation after a drinking binge, Bassett leads England to victory over Argentina, Romania and France before losing in the semi-finals to hosts Brazil.
Steer revealed this week in an AVTV 'Shoot Q&A' that the movie, starring Pele, Amanda Redman, Bradley Walsh and Martin Bashir, featured his potential future father-in-law Kevin Piper - who played the newsreader in the opening scenes.
Ian Taylor will have some very special guests at the game against Arsenal - music aces Rudimental.
Rudimental are a drum and base phenomenon - a quality quartet of songwriters and producers - from London, who topped the UK singles chart with 'Feel the Love' and 'Waiting All Night' as well as having global anthems like 'Not Giving Up' and 'Right Here.'
Their debut album 'Home' has also been released to critical acclaim.
They are also set to perform at the Brit Awards 2014, which will take place at London's O2 Arena on Wednesday February 19, along with Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, Bastille and the Arctic Monkeys.
But, before that, they will be with Villa icon Taylor for the Gunners clash in B6.
Here's hoping they have a great evening.
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