Trouble At Villa

6 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   July 19, 2006  |     12

And the award for Most Chaotic Pre-Season Build-Up goes to… Aston Villa. In a tale of intrigue and double-dealing that would do Ian Fleming proud, Villa’s pre-season has gone up in a cloud of smoke that reeks of intrigue, double-dealing and wheeler-dealing in the corridors of Villa Park. The in-fighting and back-biting are threatening to tear the club in two before the season has even started and, as ever in football, the big issue appears to be a matter of ego.

The central contenders are, of course, Doug Ellis and David O’Leary. In the red corner is Doug Ellis. Ellis is arguably the last of the old-style football barons. He runs Villa Park like his own personal fiefdom – he’s outlasted such wily old boys as Ron Atkinson, Graham Taylor and Ron Saunders. He’s used to (at least off the pitch) getting what he wants. He bulldozed the venerable Trinity Road Stand at Villa Park, and he named the other new stand after himself. He seems to take failure on the pitch as an almost personal affront – perhaps justifiably, considering the amount of money he’s put into them over the years. He is, having survived prostate cancer and a triple heart bypass in the three years, as tough as old boots. He’s used to being told that he’s not wanted at Villa Park, and he doesn’t seem to care very much.

In the blue corner is David O’Leary. I’m unsure what to make of O’Leary. When he talks, he sounds like an informed, erudite coach, but there are certainly question marks over his ability. He spunked away £100m of Peter Ridsdale’s money at Leeds, but gave them precious little in return. He certainly failed to keep control of his more, ahem, “exuberant” young players, and his decision to release the book “Leeds United On Trial” at the height of the club’s financial crisis was, to me at least, ill-advised. Added to that, his performance at Villa Park has been patchy. Sixth place in his first season seemed to bode well, but Villa have slumped considerably since then, and finished just two places above relegation.

The circumstances surrounding the current furore are somewhat extraordinary. First, the players apparently issue a statement criticising Ellis. Then Ellis launches an enquiry into how the whole mess became public. Next, the players claim to have made such a statement. Ellis now wants to see all of O’Leary’s telephone calls over the last couple of months, but O’Leary’s mobile phone providers won’t give it to him. I suspect that, if anyone goes, it’ll be O’Leary. If it was leaked and he was behind it, he’ll have no option. He’ll have no confidence of the players or the owner. If it wasn’t him… who was it? Ellis has seen off bigger fish than David O’Leary.

Elsewhere, in the Intertoto Cup on Saturday, Newcastle laboured to a 1-1 draw against Lillestrom. For those of you that are interested, their team was: Given, Carr, Bramble, Taylor, Babayaro, Solano, Parker, Emre, N’Zogbia, Milner, Luque. So… not a million miles from full strength, then. You’ll have to excuse while I stifle a giggle at this.



Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • July 19, 2006 at 8:55 pm


    I’m absolutely loving (understandably) Villa’s prospects for the next month or so.

  • July 19, 2006 at 10:13 pm


    And he’s gone, you were right.

    Curbishley to replace him?

  • July 20, 2006 at 2:38 am


    Poor Villa. A great old club, and actually quite an ineteresting study these days. They won the league cup during the great “revival” (in English football in general) of ’96, and while every club in the land went through massive changes in the setup, Villa remained one man’s plaything. Even Abramovich lets wiser men spend his money for him.

    I’ve some limited sympathy for Ellis. Of course he wants it all his own way, he pays for everything. What Villa need is investors, and a balanced board with good financial managers, a solid budget, and a long term strategy.

    Anyone know if there’s any youth setup at Villa? I don’t recall seeing a noteable homegrown in their line up for a while.

  • July 20, 2006 at 12:12 pm


    A couple that may have had YTS schemes with Villa may include:

    – Jlloyd Samuel?
    – Steven Davis?

    I dont mean to prove you wrong, I remember them being young and in Davis’ case having a good season.

  • July 20, 2006 at 10:00 pm


    Moore, it exists, but its not up to much.

  • July 21, 2006 at 12:08 pm


    the answer to the increasingly loud question, “is West Midlands football in decline?” is surely here:

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