"We thought he was indestructible" - Former players and fans pay tribute to Aston Villa giant Doug Ellis
Club hero Brian Little led the tributes to Sir Doug Ellis following the former Villa chairman’s death at the age of 94, saying: “We thought he was indestructible.”
The pair had an association dating back nearly 50 years to when Little arrived at Villa Park as an apprentice in 1969.
Little would later go on to manage the club during Ellis’s second spell as chairman in the 1990s.
He said: “It is a really sad day. There were a number of us who believed Doug was simply indestructible.
“There are a few things he had battled and beaten over the last couple of years. He was still coming to the games and he loved the club.
“We had known each other for nearly 50 years, first when I was a player, then manager and most recently when I have been helping out in the boardroom.
“We have had a lot of good times together. Yes, there were times when he made me want to pull my hair out.
“But overall, there are a lot happy memories. He loved his football, he loved the players and he loved the club.”
Ellis, who died in the early hours of yesterday morning, will be remembered as a giant of Midlands football.
First appointed chairman in December 1968 after a brief spell on the board at Blues, he helped save the club from extinction during his first few months in the job.
After being ousted in 1979, Ellis spent a handful of months on the board at Wolves before beginning a second, longer tenure at the helm of Villa in 1982.
Villa twice finished runners-up in the top flight and won the League Cup in both 1994 and 1996, the second during Little’s reign as manager. But Ellis was heavily criticised by some supporters for his perceived lack of ambition.
He eventually sold his majority shareholding in 2006 to American Randy Lerner for £62.5million, before being knighted in 2012 for his services to charity.
Former Villa defender Paul McGrath also joined the tributes, posting a message on Instagram, which read: “Devastated, just heard the news about Sir Doug Ellis, absolute gentleman to me throughout my career my thoughts and prayers are with his wife Heidi and his family.”
Howard Hodgson, a director of the Villa Supporters’ Trust and a close friend of the Ellis family, believes he should be fondly remembered.
He said: “Doug was a larger-than-life character, He had a real presence and made a long-lasting impression on the game.
“Of course, he made mistakes. He had his critics. But if you look back on his time now, Villa were always well-run and they got very close to winning the league on a couple of occasions.
“All in all you have to say he was a pretty good custodian. Ultimately, he was a real Aston Villa man.”
Villa will hold a minute’s silence in tribute to Ellis before their next home match against Swansea on Saturday week. Players will also wear black armbands.