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Special feature: Huge flurry of USA fans start supporting Villa
Paul Brown chats to Alan Perrins about fan flux across the pond.
19th Feb 2014
Special feature: Huge flurry of USA fans start supporting Villa


Brown

There's a new sensation sweeping across the USA - and it's called Aston Villa!

The formation of a whopping 12 new American Lions Clubs already this season means there are now 41 branches in the USA and Canada.

This fantastic figure has increased massively due in large part to the extensive Barclays Premier League coverage on NBC Sports - and the amazing efforts of Simon Leach, Rick Leong, Chris Fetters, Mike Pearson and Donal Neligan.

The huge USA broadcaster is now in the first term of showing the Barclays Premier League for the next three seasons - and they are promising to show an unprecedented 380 games across a host of channels.

As well as live games, NBC will be broadcasting more than 600 hours of Premier League original programming.

This has increased the appetite for football across the pond - and the claret and blues have certainly been reaping the benefits.

Manno

Carolyn Manno - one of NBC's lead sport hosts - elected to support Villa after being impressed by the history, colours and emerging team. We have one of the most famous actors in the business - Tom Hanks - as a celebrity fan too.

Hanks is eager to get across to B6 to watch this favourite team in action, telling club television channel AVTV in a rare interview in Portland: "My dream of watch the team at Villa Park will come true for me one day. I will be at Villa Park with wings!

"My life will not be complete until I'm at Villa Park! I want to be rooting on the claret and blues to a magnificent win over those suckers like Stoke City or Wolverhampton Wanderers or Queen's Park Rangers!"

Hanks's good friend, Bob Stephenson - who was in movies such as Seven and Fight Club - is also a huge claret and blue fanatic, following the team each matchday from California.

Stephenson is well versed in Villa matters and even wrote a personal blog about the claret and blues at the start of the season for the official website.

The profile of Villa is clearly growing all the time.

Strudley

Villa stalwarts Leach, Leong, Fetters and Pearson - in charge of Chicago, California, Seattle, Detroit and New York Lions respectively - have also done sterling work helping this fan flux far and wide in the USA.

Leach, in particular, has been a force for claret and blue good - organising regular get-togethers in the Windy City as supporters flock from all across the States to watch Villa in early-morning action.

Neligan also worked impressively to push the might of Villa in the "city that never sleeps", helping promote NBC's cab coverage - whether various taxis in the Big Apple were painted in club colours.

In fact, Leach, Fetters and Pearson showed their unstinting support by coming over to B6 earlier this month to present Acorns chief executive David Strudley with a cheque for £900, donated in fundraising activities.

"The interest from across the Atlantic is amazing," said Lions Clubs liaison office Alan Perrins.

"Villa has seemingly taken USA by storm - and our popularity continues to increase with each passing day.

"All the Lions Club chairman I work with across the pond are great to deal with. Simon deserves a special mention because his matchday meetings are popular events.

"They gather at the Globe Pub in Chicago to watch Villa in live action. They flock from all over the country! Apparently it's absolutely teeming with claret and blue shirts! It's a real Villa hotbed."

USA

Among the latest additions to the Stateside network are San Diego, whose chairman is Simon Tissington.

Then there's North Carolina, under the guidance of Michael Smoak and Arizona, run by Bill Green.

Green, who is 57, is originally from Quinton and attended his first game in 1964, a derby against West Bromwich Albion.

"I've been a huge fan ever since," said Bill.

"I saw hundreds of games from the 1960s through to the 1980s, when I moved to Bahrain.

"In 1995 I moved to the USA, but I always plan my trip home to include a game or two."

And just in case anyone doubts Green's devotion to the cause, he has even decorated his bathroom with a Villa crest!

Villa fans can now also meet in St Louis, where Conrad Mortimer has set up a new branch.

Several other new American branches have also sprung up, including North Illinois run by Mike Reed and Richmond Virginia run by David Simpson.

There's also two new branches in Canada. Stewart Evens has set up the Nova Scotia club while Alberta is run by Brett Kerly.

And let's forget the host of well-established USA and Canadian clubs like Boston, Central Ohio, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Toronto and Vancouver.

Find out about your nearest branch.

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