Interview: Mervyn King - Why Aston Villa means so much to me
Mervyn King's interest rate always rises when talk turns to his beloved Aston Villa.
The former Bank of England chief's claret-and-blue love affair began more than 55 years ago in nearby Wolverhampton, where he lived in the same street as legendary goalkeeper Nigel Sims and maverick inside forward Bobby Thomson.
He became captivated by the great Mercer's Minors side of the late 1950s and early 1960s and his passion has burned bright ever since.
Throughout a glittering career in economics, Villa has remained an intrinsic part of Lord King's make-up.
He has discussed inflation targets with former midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, reminisced about our greatest triumph on national radio and even contributed to the Villa News & Record with an appreciation of his first hero, the sharp-shooting left-winger Harry Burrows.
Now his involvement is stepping up a gear following his appointment to the club's board of directors.
"What I can bring is the voice of someone who has been a supporter for many years and has had experience of the wider world," said the 67-year-old.
"It is over 55 years ago now that I went to my first game.
"When we moved to Wolverhampton in 1958, it turned out that Nigel Sims was living opposite and Bobby Thomson lived next to us.
"They had both played for Wolves and kept their houses when they transferred to Villa.
"I remember them getting me an autographed picture of the team that won promotion in 1959/60, when Gerry Hitchens was the great star at centre forward.
"Then in the 1960/61 season, I went to my first match at home against Newcastle.
"We won 2-0, Ron Wylie and Vic Crowe scored, and it went from there.
"This club is a big part of my life. I would like my grandchildren to inherit a love of Aston Villa."
However, Lord King's love of Villa hasn't always been restricted to a watching brief.
In 2013 he shared a pitch with a number of our all-time greats - including European Cup winners Ken McNaught, Tony Morley and Gary Shaw - when a Villa legends team took part in a Bank of England sports day.
The heroes of yesteryear are integral to his vision for the club's future.
"We had a sports day every year for Bank of England employees and their families, and I would try and bring in sportsmen to take part in the competitions," he said.
"Charlie Aitken came and managed the group. We had a number of great players who turned up and were very generous with their time.
"The former players have been wonderful for Villa and one of the things I would like to bring to the club is the sense that once you have played for Villa you are always part of it."
Football and economics are interests Lord King shares with German midfielder Hitzlsperger, who studied investment strategies during his time in England.
They struck up a friendship when the man known as Der Hammer visited the Bank of England to discuss finance.
The pair would later work together on a special edition of BBC Radio 4's Today programme, with Hitzlsperger conducting a report into why intelligence is a valued quality in football.
"I was asked by Gisela Stuart, the Labour MP for Edgbaston and the first German-born MP we have had here, whether Thomas Hitzlsperger could come into the bank and talk to me," he explained.
"He wanted to come in and ask me about the inflation target.
"He's a very remarkable young man and he is carving out a successful career in the media in the US and in Germany, as well as appearing on British radio quite a bit.
"Having come out as gay, he is someone people can look up to and someone they can take inspiration from if they do want to come out."
While that particular media segment made for insightful listening, Lord King admitted one of his choices on another popular BBC Radio 4 show was greeted with less enthusiasm.
His Villa devotion was once again broadcast to the nation when he offered Doug O'Brien's long-lost track Rotterdam 82 as one of his eight song choices on Desert Island Discs.
"I think the presenter, Kirsty Young, was not so enthusiastic about having this," he said.
"But I insisted on having it as they are meant to be songs that mean something to your life.
"Rotterdam 82 captured a key moment in my life and it is still a great song."
Lord King has witnessed all of Villa's highs and lows in nearly six decades as a supporter, from the depths of the Third Division through to more illustrious periods at the top table of English and European football.
Whatever the next few months hold, he is determined to help put his boyhood club back on a sound footing.
"I will do whatever I can to ensure the board takes the right decisions in moving the club forward," he added.
"What we really need is continuity now. We've had a lot of chopping and changing."
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