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   Inside Out - West Midlands: Friday January 12, 2007
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Doug Ellis
"I have made some mistakes, but by and large I can look back with pride at what I achieved at Aston Villa."
Doug Ellis - a good or bad thing for Villa?

Aston Villa - the Ellis years

Inside Out meets a figure who has loomed large over Midlands football for nearly 40 years - Mr Aston Villa - Doug Ellis.

Now, as he leaves the club for the final time, Inside Out looks at what Doug Ellis has achieved in that time.

Is he a shrewd businessman and ardent Villa supporter who has done his best to make Villa a successful top flight club - and kept them in the black and in the Premiership?

Or was he - as some critics say - a tight-fisted and unambitious chairman, without a clear plan, who did little more than make a personal fortune from the club?

Nick Owen puts some tough questions to Ellis on manager sacking, lack of ambition and an unwillingness to spend money.

Inside Out also speaks to Villa's former managers including Graham Taylor and Ron Atkinson.

Just how deadly is 'deadly' Doug Ellis?

For nearly 40 years Aston Villa football club was dominated by its controversial chairman, Doug Ellis.

Graham Taylor
Graham Taylor - one of Doug's many managers

His departure in September 2006 ended a reign which spanned nearly 40 years of Aston Villa's history.

Critics accuse Ellis of a reluctance to spend money, and of being unambitious.

In his last few years at the club angry fans even orchestrated an 'Ellis out' campaign.

Now Inside Out examines the legacy of the man fans know as 'Deadly Doug', as he attempts to answer his critics.

"He wouldn't win many popularity contests wherever he goes. I think he thrives on it, I think he knows that - if he doesn't, he wants his money back."
Ron Atkinson

"I have made some mistakes, but by and large I can look back with pride at what I achieved at Aston Villa", he told presenter Nick Owen, who has followed the club's fortunes since the '70s.

Few could disagree that Ellis has left the club in better shape than he found it in 1968.

Languishing in the Second Division, it was a far cry from the glory days of its 1957 FA Cup win.

By the '70s Villa were back on top, but Ellis was already beginning to earn a reputation for getting through managers - 13 in all, eight of whom Ellis fired.

Doug's reputation for sacking manages is almost legendary - it's the reason why some people call him 'Deadly'.

Managers and money

Graham Taylor managed Aston Villa twice under Doug Ellis:

"The story was that Villa was unmanageable because of Doug. 'Don't go to Villa'…"

Ron Atkinson, sacked as manager in 1994, admits that the pair didn't get on well:

"I think he resented the fact I was popular with fans. I think he would have preferred to have lost the final, and had the fans chant his name."

Ron Atkinson
Ron Atkinson admits that he and Ellis didn't get on

Another accusation is that Ellis profiteered from Villa.

But even after selling his shares in the club for £21 million in 2006, he claims to have lost money:

"I have lost a lot of money from leaving businesses I was in and spending my time on Aston Villa. Much more than 30 million I would estimate."

He also reveals how the fans' anger personally affected him and his family.

"It hurts because they do not know the truth," says Ellis.

"It certainly affected my wife's health, and depression, mainly because of nasty and threatening phone calls that I received every day for a period."

Despite criticisms of Ellis, many of his former colleagues at Villa acknowledge his important contribution to the club:

"The club has always been solvent. He has claret and blue blood in his veins."
Tommy Docherty.

"He should take credit for an excellent stadium - no doubt about that at all. Should he be blamed for it not being filled?"
Graham Taylor.

Ellis Out campaigners
Supporters gave Ellis a bumpy ride in his later years

Perhaps Doug Ellis himself should have the last word:

"You don't win them all of course.

"No man can say he was right in every decision he has made, and I have made some mistakes.

"But by and large I can look back with pride of what I have left Aston Villa."

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Doug Ellis Fact File

A young Doug Ellis
Doug Ellis - from entrepreneur to executive at Villa

* Doug first saw Aston Villa play in April 1948.

* Doug made his money in the travel industry and claims to have pioneered the package holiday outside London.

* Doug Ellis became Chairman of Aston Villa in 1968.

* Doug was replaced as Chairman in 1975 and lost his place on the board in 1979.

* Doug missed the greatest moment in the club's history... when Villa won the European Cup in 1982.

* Doug returned as Chairman in 1982, a position he kept until selling his shares in 2006.

* While Doug was on the board, Aston Villa won four League cups - two in the '70s, two in the '90s.

* Doug bought his famous AV1 number plate from a man called "Arthur Vaughn".

* Doug sacked eight out of his 13 managers.

* Doug Ellis now holds the honorary title of "President Emeritus" at Aston Villa and still has an office in the ground.


Readers' Comments

I was named after Villa and have been a season ticket holder for many years, also attending all away games.

Regarding Doug, I would say that whilst there were many frustrating times in that I felt he could have showed more ambition in taking us to that next level, all in all he must be given credit for the foundations he has built.

He will I'm sure look back at missed opportunities when we were sitting high in the league but he didn’t back the manager that little bit more to boost the playing squad which resulted in us not being prepared for the gruelling schedule of a league season and falling away - that has always been the fans' main gripe.

However fans of Leeds, to name a similar sized club, will probably had rather had a Doug than a Ridsdale for instance.

He is an arrogant man and that would also antagonize but I think there is no doubt he is Villa through and through and he did his best.
Aston Bridgwater

People seem to forget that Doug saved the club when in financial difficulty and always kept the club in good financial health.
Bill Evans

My husband Bill worked for Doug Ellis 1957 to 1959 at the Cannon St Travel Agency.

Throughout the whole period we saw only consideration and kindness to us.

At that time we only had Vespa travel and he loaned us a car for several weeks prior to our wedding making planning the wedding so much easier.

Bill tells the story of driving around France and Spain with Doug in a glorious November in an Alpha Romeo sports valocie car checking on possible new hotels for the business.

There was no ill feeling when Bill decided to return to teaching and all we remember again is kindness and consideration.

We wish him and his family all the best for the future.
Edwina Norris

I have supported Aston Villa since 1959 and remember the takeover in 1968 by Pat Matthews and his consortium.

Ellis was brought in as Chairman, as he had experience as a director of Birmingham City FC.

Ellis was never an Aston Villa supporter and from that moment only took from Aston Villa, both financially and prestige wise.

We tasted the glory of winning the Championship and European Cup in his brief absence and upon his return he led us to years of mediocrity.

A sad, self centred figure, who is best forgotten.
John Rastall

Really enjoyed your programme on Doug Ellis. I don't think that he was always right but then again who is?

David O'Leary wasn't. Neither was John Gregory.

They just spent money badly, left with there big severance packages and left others to pick up the mess.

I am a Villa Season Ticket Holder and never jumped on the band wagon of the 'Ellis Out' campaign.

I'm surprised but pleased that Mr Ellis withstood the abuse he got from some of the Villa faithful.

I was sure that he would never hand over the reins of our dear club to just anyone. Mr Lerner has some very big boots to fill.

If Mr Ellis made some money from his investment in the club, then I think he more than deserves it.

He pulled us from the quagmire more than once and put his money where his mouth is. There aren't too many people like that about.

I only pray that when Mr Ellis has to pass to the big football club in the sky (hopefully not for many years), that he watches over the Villa from his claret and blue cloud.

I and my Mum would like to thank Mr Ellis for all that he has done for Aston Villa. We were lucky to have him.

And I would like to thank Mrs Ellis who Mr Ellis mentioned had suffered whilst he was with Aston Villa. After all, behind every great man is a great woman.
Dawn Banks

Aston Villa should be grateful that they have had a man like Doug Ellis. Many clubs would love to have a Chairman with such commitment, passion and genuine love for their team.
David, Nottingham


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