In the first of a new series of features about away days to be published in 2013-14, journalist and Liverpool fan Joel Richards describes the atmosphere among the travelling supporters who headed to Villa Park on Saturday.
It's Saturday morning, it's 10.30am and I am standing outside the Empire Theatre in Liverpool underneath a gloomy sky accompanied by a brisk wind. I guess that's summer officially over.
Not much to smile about, for most people. But we're not most people.
Today is the first away day of a new season. Alongside me are 50 other hardy souls who have been waiting for the same thing for more than three months, and as our coach slowly pulls up (10 minutes late) excitement builds as a rush ensues to board our mode of transport for the day.
As we make our way towards The Rocket and on to the motorway, the coach is a utopia on wheels as our weekends are back. Although some may scratch their heads at why anyone in their right mind would salivate at the prospect of travelling up and down the motorways of this country for nine months of their lives, spending/wasting vast amounts of money that could be better spent elsewhere, they are quick to overlook the fact that there is more to an away day than the match itself.
It's the chance to spend a day with friends you wouldn't have known had it not been for meeting them on the way home from an away game, or even being stuck with them in some foreign airport waiting for a flight back home that's been delayed. It's the chance to visit places that you are not accustomed to as well as to reassure yourself that nowhere compares to Liverpool, not just in terms of our support, but also in terms of cities/towns.
And today's destination happens to be Villa Park, with a stop off in a town called Penkridge planned for our travelling party. With optimism high following last weekend's opening day win against Stoke City, the consensus is that today is going to be another glorious victory for the Liverpool FC (to quote a well known chant).
One of the main talking points from last weekend's win is the performance of our new centre-half. It seems Kolo Toure has already earned himself a place in the hearts of Kopites thanks to his role in our 1-0 win. Another new player to earn plaudits is Simon Mignolet, though various aspects of his game are still being scrutinised in engaging conversations at the front of the coach.
With the day in full flow we arrive at our stop-off point, which sees our coach joined by others in taking over a small Midlands village giving us a chance to stock up on refreshments and a break from the sweat-inducing experience that is our coach.
Whilst at our temporary base, all sorts of debates break out. From arguing about what year a particular game/goal happened to what bets will/won't win there is plenty to discuss the afternoon away before our next port of call.
After leaving Penkridge we encounter an unwelcome sight of traffic after an apparent accident on the M6 which means that we arrive at Villa Park just as the two teams are coming on to the pitch ahead of kick-off.
After finally finding my seat right in the corner of the Doug Ellis Stand, I stand and watch on as a scrappy encounter is settled by a well-taken goal from Daniel Sturridge, to send myself and almost 3,000 other Reds wild with glee and to make our day out all the better in just one moment.
Although there are a few close calls, we manage to see the game out and that sends us all home happy back up the M6 to Merseyside. By now our coach is a party on wheels as new chants are made up on the spot to old 90s dance classics and everyone is eagerly awaiting the next day out. Even if it is Swansea on a Monday night with the prospect of not getting home until the next day, the majority, it seems, will travel anywhere and anytime to support our team.