THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Villa's autocratic chairman, as seen by Brad Woodhouse

Distinguishing Features: Aside from the Mr Whippy wavy quiff (and a faint air of campness), he looks like any other 73 year-old self-made West Midlands businessman – rotund, besuited, drives a Rolls Royce with personalized number plate (AV 1).

Habitat: Board rooms and FA committee rooms, as befits a man of his standing in society. Away from football he’s chairman of a local hospital and also of the Ellis Group of Companies, which includes such household names as Ellman Construction and Ellmanton Estates. We’re lucky that the club hasn’t been renamed Ellston Villa.

Quote, unquote: “Perhaps I’d be wrong to describe him as a female, but females are very similar; they need a lot of persuading but they want it really. They say no but they mean yes.” New Man Doug on Terry Venables’ resignation from the England manager’s job.

What use is he?: In the current climate of huge transfer fees and astronomical wages if you don’t have the money (and a chairman that is willing to spend it) then you can’t compete. Whatever Doug has done behind the scenes in the last few years, it’s worked. Villa Park is one of the best grounds in the country and on the whole the players that Brian Little is linked with are top quality (even if most of them turn out to be happy where they are). But we shouldn’t get carried away. Doug has had two spells as Villa chairman, from 1968 to 1979 and then from 1982 to date. During the first period the club slipped into the old Third Division for the first time, and during the second Villa were relegated from the old First Division. In the three-year period when Doug wasn’t chairman we won the League and the European Cup. Maybe he should have a break until the year 2000.

Do you remember his b’day?: If you live in the West Midlands you can’t really avoid it because it’s odds-on that there will be a picture of a beaming Doug on the back page of the Birmingham Evening Mail holding a big cake with a Villa crest on it.He’s probably on more people’s card lists since he turned seventy, simply because Villa have been doing well for the last couple of years. During the 1980s he was more likely to get sent a horse’s head. To his credit he has been known to reply personally to supporter’s letters, and does come across as a polished public spokesman for the club, useful when you have a manager such as the lugubrious Brian Little who doesn’t seek the media limelight.

Which international celebrity would he get on best with?:
A forceful personality, Doug wouldn’t be shouted down if ever stuck in a room with, say, Genghis Khan, Hitler or Mussolini.

Other offenses:
The most heinous crime committed during his chairmanship is naming the new Witton Lane stand the Doug Ellis Stand. He claims that he knew nothing about it as the board made the decision behind his back, but Aston Villa is an autocracy so that doesn’t really wash. The crime that the nation will never forgive him for is not fighting hard enough to keep Graham Taylor at Villa when the FA were appointing Bobby Robson’s successor.

From WSC 120 February 1997. What was happening this month

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