R.I.P Aston Villa PLC
I among many Villa fans were very worried about the past summer and the following Premiership campaign as soon as the whistle was blown after 90 minutes with Sunderland last May. All of sudden questions were ringing around my head, who can we attract? Who will we attract? And I am not just talking about players I am talking about investors and managers aswell. Ellis and O`Leary had taken us to the brink, and almost the point of no return - the very fabric of Aston Villa had nearly been destroyed by complete miss-management at the club from top to bottom.
The one question that Ellis needed to answer honestly was;
'`Do Aston Villa call themselves a forward thinking and forward planning club?``
As fans we all knew that the answer to this question was NO. As chairman he had been lying to himself for five years to long. They say love is blind and I do not doubt Ellis loves Aston Villa Football Club but at times I had to question whether it was the club he loved or the PLC. The PLC was his unforgiving mistress and the club was his first love and his judgement had been clouded completely by honouring shareholder responsibilities, matters on the pitch came second without hesitation - I have absolutely no doubt. I had considered Ellis as the Cancer that has blighted our great club, but upon reflection that is a harsh analogy, the PLC was the Cancer and it always was. Public Limited Company`s have no place in football, you only have to look to the Moore family and recognise what they have achieved with Liverpool to appreciate that.
Ill health had a lot to bear on his final decision to step down as chairman and finally hand over the reigns to 'serious football people`, but how grateful are Aston Villa fans now? I make no bones about it we are EXTATIC! Not only do we have the 242nd richest man in America as chairman but his financial commitment in the club must be closer to £115m opposed to the £65m he initially paid. This financial commitment represented by underwriting a £12m debt, £8m Stiliyan Petrov, and what must have been close to another £30m delisting the company, and ridding us of the evil that comes with a PLC and shareholders.
The very thought evokes images of old grey looking men, in old grey looking suits, with old grey looking BMW`s with black hearts in my mind - and something that has no place in football. This decision alone must have made Ellis realise he is dealing with a 'football person`.
One thing maybe Ellis should consider with his very own words, is he a football person? Because I am still not sure about his financial commitment to the club when you consider he has taken away £29,434,630 from an initial £25,000 investment back in 1968. Personally I don`t think Ellis was clever enough to realise which way the game was going financially in 1968, and if he tells you otherwise it just confirms what we all know and have came to realise over the years - he is an ego-maniac. As for a 'football person`, I don`t think so; more like a power hungry business man who soon realised probably by the early 90`s (as we all did) after the formation of the Premiership he could make serious money out of Aston Villa PLC. A person who claims he rescued the club from self destruction, and although there is some truth in this statement, there is more truth in the statement he nearly took us back there and personally his finger was hovering over the button for way to long.
If he wanted to leave a legacy he should have left £10m on the board room table for Martin O`Neill, and maybe if he had of paid for Stiliyan Petrov for example fans in the thousands would not be calling for his name to be removed from the Witton Lane Stand. Instead Doug Ellis does what Doug Ellis does best and interfere with the transfer of Stiliyan Petrov claiming if Lerner walks away from the takeover (even though by this point its pretty much a done deal) he will be left with an overdraft increased by a further £8m, and the possibility of Aston villa PLC becoming illiquid. As we are led to believe our bankers were satisfied with Lerner`s commitment at this point and had no hesitation increasing our overdraft in the midst of his takeover, as he had already underwritten the overdraft as a pre-requisite of the takeover. This entire saga reeked of that three letter abbreviation again - PLC, and Ellis being a slave to his Mistress once more.
The masterstroke was installing Martin O`Neill as Manager, a man who has twice lifted the European Cup as a player, and captained his country. A man who was stewarded by arguably the greatest English manager who has ever lived in Brian Clough, and a man who plied his management trade in the lower leagues and earning the admiration and abundance of respect piled on him by fellow Premiership/SPL managers alike, along with any real 'football person`. A true gentleman and a very experienced, intelligent, and well educated one at that. As for achievements and trophies, his managerial career is not without them either, and neither is Aston Villa Football Club.
Together he will achieve great things with his new club, and I strongly believe that, it has nothing to do with expectation personally, for me it has more to do with belief. For the first time in a long time the fans believe again, and they are slowly trickling back through the turnstiles at Villa Park. Also, more importantly the players believe again and we are seeing it week in week out on the pitch and that is what it is all about, that`s where success happens for a football club, its not successful ego`s around the boardroom table or share price on the London Stock Exchange - ITS WHAT HAPPENS ON THE PITCH THAT MATTERS !
As for Mr. Lerner, The PLC has gone, the king is dead, long live the king!
By Michael Bakewell