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Sir Doug Ellis at 90: Great life working somewhere I loved in Villa!
Sir Doug Ellis on milestone birthday.
3rd Jan 2014
Sir Doug Ellis at 90: Great life working somewhere I loved in Villa!


Happy 90th birthday to president emeritus and former chairman Sir Doug Ellis today.

It might be argued that Sir Doug had an influence on Villa from the moment he first drew breath.

He was born in Cheshire on January 3, 1924 - and Villa went on to reach the FA Cup final that year.

But it was from the late 1960s that he really began to make a real impact at Villa Park.

Having made his fortune in the travel industry, he became Villa chairman in December 1968.

When he took over at the helm for the first time, Villa were on the edge of disaster, with a poor team in the old Second Division, falling attendances, heavy financial losses and a ground badly in need of repair.

His first tasks were to instigate a share issue which raised desperately needed finds and to bring in charismatic Tommy Docherty as manager, an appointment which generated tremendous interest in the club.

By the end of the following season, when Villa were relegated to Division Three for the first time in their history, Docherty had been sacked, although Ellis's next two appointments were considerably more successful.

Between them, Vic Crowe and his successor Ron Saunders guided Villa to two League Cup triumphs and eventually back to the top-flight.

Ellis resigned as chairman in September 1975 and four years later departed as a director.

But he returned in 1982 and remained chairman until 2006, when he sold the club to American Randy Lerner.

By the time he took up the honorary position of president emeritus, a total of 13 managers had served him, including Graham Taylor, who had two spells in charge.

Those managers achieved varying degrees of success. Villa were relegated under Billy McNeill in 1987 and nearly went down again when Jo Venglos was in charge for just one season in 1990-91.

But there were also triumphs, most notably promotion in 1988 and runners-up spot two years later under Taylor; runners-up spot in the inaugural Premier League of 1992-93 under Ron Atkinson, who also guided Villa to the League Cup in 1994; another League Cup final triumph under Brian Little two years later; and a run to the 2000 FA Cup final under John Gregory.

Ellis appointed Martin O'Neill before standing aside to make way for the club's new USA owner.

Ellis also had three years as a Birmingham City director from 1965, having failed to win a plae on the Villa board at the time, and had earlier been co-promoter of Birmingham Speedway.

His main sporting interest outside football has been salmon fishing, a sport which earned him the popular nickname, from former England striker Jimmy Greaves, of 'Deadly.'

A former member of the FA's international, finance and Charity Shield committee, as well as FIFA's media and television committee, Ellis was also the founder chairman of the technical control board at the FA and Football League. He was awarded the OBE in 2005 and a Knighthood in 2011.

Sir Doug said the key to a long life was "working hard at somewhere I loved" at Villa.

He said: "There's no substitute for hard work. And I did that somewhere I loved at Villa.

"I was on the board for 35 years of my life, with 31 as chairman. That's something I am very proud of.

"I gave it everything. I gave it my life to the detriment of many of my other businesses.

"But, yes, Villa has been my life. I love the club.

"Also, to have a wife like Heidi, who's been very supportive, has been very important too. We have been married for 50 years!"

Watch an exclusive and in-depth interview with Sir Doug on AVTV now.

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