News sadly arrived earlier regarding the death of Aston Villa President Emeritus, Sir Doug Ellis at the grand age of 94.
Ellis, a famed chairman during his two separate spells with the club, was infamous within English football. A larger-than-life character, he was all business, all Villa, all the time.
While I personally have no memories of Ellis’ reign at Villa due to my age, I did have the pleasure of meeting him once - on February 14th 2017. I’d been lucky enough to earn a seat, or two, in the Villa directors box. Honestly, dining alongside Keith Wyness and Brian Little was one thing, but feeling the aura in the room - stemming from one man alone, was incredible. Doug Ellis. Covered in Villa colours. He, of course, was aged - but there was an stunning glow that surrounded him. He was more than just a man. That was clear.
He looked over to me and my dad, and at first I thought he recognised my dad, and I was praying that he wasn’t about to kick the pair of us out. He didn’t recognise us, and that’s what led to him wishing us his best as we enjoyed the game, and the night.
He didn’t have to do that. Nobody else did. We sat alone, and while we were close to the head honchos - the real people making the real decisions, including my dad’s lifelong hero, Brian Little, it was Doug Ellis, at 92, who left the biggest impression - and all for five seconds of our time. I’m not going to act like me and my dad are ‘simple folk’ who aren’t used to the finer things - but we were certainly out of our depth in the directors box. We’d never had people wait on us, for everything. Cleaning crumbs off our jackets - all of that. It was surreal, and for me - uncomfortable, in a sense. I think it was, for Dad as well. Doug Ellis coming over? That was something special. Something welcoming. Again. He didn’t need to do that, especially when it was so clearly taxing for him to cross the room. He was almost mythical with roots stretching into Villa Park, a great old being beyond scope.
We’ll never meet again, but I’m thankful that we did.
Ellis didn’t have a always enjoy brilliant relationship with Aston Villa fans. People have went to great lengths to ignore his name, which rides alongside the top of the stand to the right of the Holte End. It’s the Witton Lane Stand, people would say.
The Witton Lane Stand. Not the Doug Ellis Stand. I’ve always thought that was rather unfair of people to do. As much as Ellis had an ego, so did Aston Villa. You’ve got to have some bravado to go about with that name, right? In a sense, Ellis was Aston Villa - someone born with the football club in mind. The complete and utter personification of the place, for better and for worse.
Since the turn of the century, we’ve come to learn that there are plenty worse in football than Doug. Plenty who have taken clubs for rides, and destroyed them. Ellis had taken shots for a ‘lack of ambition’ and rather cruelly, we are now all aware, or should be aware, that that is far from the worst case scenario. At all. Clubs don’t need to win things, or spend huge money, to be an asset to the community - and what we have, rooted deep into B6, is an asset to the community. Ellis is responsible, at least partly, for that. Villa Park is like nowhere else in the world. We’re lucky and now maybe we’ll all take a bit of time to smile when we see the Doug Ellis Stand, as it has so much more meaning now to some, than it did yesterday.
Rest in peace, Doug. And thanks.