A posthumous apology to Sir Doug Ellis

12th October 2018

(This post is not directly about Brexit, but you will see that it is.)

Sir Doug Ellis, the former chairman of the football team I follow, has died.

I used to think that all Aston Villa needed so as to be be great again was to be rid of him as chairman.

The thinking was this: he had been a chairman of and associated with the club in the 1970s, but when he was ousted the club then had its greatest successes, winning the league in 1981 and the European Cup in 1982.

And when Sir Doug returned in 1982 the club fell into (relative) mediocrity: runners-up here and a league cup or two there.  The books were balanced, certainly, but there was “no ambition”.

So the reasoning was simple: if Sir Doug could be replaced, Villa would spring back into its rightful place as champions at home and in Europe.


How wrong and idiotic I was in holding this view.

One day Sir Doug did leave the club to be replaced by an American businessman.

And the club’s recent decline began.

(I date the beginning of the decline to the then manager Martin O’Neill’s dreadful and eternally unforgivable decision to deliberately play an under-strength team in a UEFA cup match in Moscow in 2009.  Your mileage may differ, if you care at all.)

Of course, Sir Doug was not blameless: the sacking of Tony Barton in 1984 still rankles.

But after Sir Doug left, Villa become far, far worse.

And now we are in our third season in the wrong division, and in the bottom half as well.  Yet another manager has just been sacked, and there are further absent or distant millionaires in charge.  The club almost went bankrupt in the summer.

The truth appears to be that without Ellis, the club may well have sunk sooner and deeper.

Being a runner-up here and winning a league cup or two there now seems like a golden age.


Simple solutions are often false, especially when they are premised on memories of national and international greatness.

(You see, this post was about Brexit.)

And so I offer the ghost of Sir Doug Ellis an apology.

Sorry, Sir Doug,


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