By Lucas Pereira, FootballPredictions.NET, 20:58 26/09/2020
Aston Villa is one of the best-supported clubs in England, and at every home match the players are serenaded with fan chants and songs. The Neil Diamond classic, Sweet Caroline, has quickly become a fan anthem in recent times.
Villa’s love for the song can be traced back to a Championship game against Stoke City in February 2019, when the fans latched on to the tune being played on the stadium speakers and sang it long after the game ended.
How did it start?
Villa’s dalliance with Sweet Caroline started on a cold, windy night at Stoke. The team was struggling in the Championship, and Dean Smith was a few months into his reign as manager.
Villa went behind in the game very early on, but battled back to get a draw and rescue a point from a game they’d have normally lost. Sweet Caroline was being played on the speakers of the Britannia Stadium that afternoon, and the Villa fans latched on to it and continued singing it long after the music stopped.
This game was the springboard for a 12 game unbeaten run. That saw Villa qualify for the playoff spots and eventually a return to the Premier League.
How was the association cemented?
The association with the song really started in the Championship playoff semi-final against arch-rivals West Brom. Going into the 2nd leg at the Hawthorns, Villa were 2-1 up. However, West Brom won the game 1-0 to force the tie into penalties.
In front of their delirious away fans, Villa came out 4-3 winners in the penalty shootout and booked a spot at Wembley to play the playoff final.
Sweet Caroline was played on the speakers at half time in the stadium, and it looks like it stayed in the ears of the players long after the game ended. Through Twitter and Instagram stories and Instagram Lives, players were pictured singing the song and dancing along to it in celebration.
After Villa won the playoff final against Derby County, their fans congregated outside the team hotel. Players like John McGinn, Tyrone Mings took turns to conduct a sing-along with fans. Even at Wembley, the song was repeatedly sung in celebration.
“To be honest I went to bed and I couldn’t get Sweet Caroline out of my head!” said Dean Smith the following day.
Premier League survival celebration
Aston Villa’s subsequent season back in the Premier League was a difficult one, and for the longest time seemed destined for relegation. But, the team discovered form in the tail-end of the season; A four-game unbeaten streak in the run-in ensured they finished 17th and secured another season in the Premier League.
Their survival was confirmed on the last day of the season in dramatic fashion after a 1-1 draw against West Ham and sparked scenes of jubilation on the pitch. The celebrations continued in the dressing room, and a clip of the team singing Sweet Caroline went viral:
Sweet Caroline has become the anthem associated with all the recent success Villa has had. When fans are allowed back in stadiums, Sweet Caroline will most definitely be sung extensively in the Villa Park stands.