MX23RW : Friday, February 15 19:42:57

Former Villa players lead tributes following the death of Sir Doug Ellis

Ellis spent 31 years at the helm at Villa Park.

Former players have led the tributes following the death of former Aston Villa chairman Sir Doug Ellis.

The news of Ellis’ death was confirmed by the Championship club on Thursday morning. He was aged 94.

Ellis had two spells in charge at Villa Park, firstly from 1968 to 1975 and then between 1982 and 2006, rejoining shortly after Villa’s European Cup win.

Villa won the League Cup three times during his reign – in 1975, 1994 and 1996 – and were runners-up in the inaugural season of the Premier League in 1992-93.

Knighted in 2012 for charitable services, Ellis is survived by second wife Heidi and his three sons.

Ellis allowed Stan Collymore to sign for his boyhood club, paying Liverpool £7million for his services in 1997.

“Extremely sad to hear Doug Ellis has passed away today,” he tweeted.

“Made it possible to fulfil my dream of playing for Villa, something I’ll be eternally grateful to him for.

“Rest in Peace, chairman, sincere gratitude from me and mine.”

Paul McGrath – one of Villa’s greatest ever players – was the bedrock of several teams built while Ellis was at the helm.

“Devastated, just heard the news about Sir Doug Ellis, absolute gentleman to me throughout my career my thoughts and prayers are with Heidi and his family,” the Irishman wrote on Instagram.

Brian Little was Villa’s manager when they won at Wembley in 1996, beating Leeds in the League Cup final.

“I was always taught to speak as you find,” he said on Twitter. “To me you were fantastic. R.I.P Sir Doug. El Presidente.”

Ellis’ lasting legacy at the club is the rebuilding work he did at Villa Park, with the Doug Ellis Stand on Witton Lane now bearing his name.

He oversaw 15 different managerial reigns – earning him the nickname “deadly Doug Ellis” – from Tommy Cummings when he first took control to Martin O’Neill, whose stint continued beyond Ellis’ sale of the club to American businessman Randy Lerner in 2006.

Like Collymore, Ian Taylor was a young Villa fan who went on to play for the club – in his case close to 300 times – under Ellis. He is under no illusion the impact Ellis had.

“No matter what people thought of Doug he played a massive part in our football club,” Taylor wrote on Twitter.

“He loved his football club and still attended until his last days. The man was Villa through and through and was always gracious with myself. RIP Sir Doug.”

Appreciation of Ellis’ work and time at Villa extended beyond Villa Park, with rivals Birmingham, Wolves and West Brom also offering their condolences.

Gareth Southgate paid tribute to Doug Ellis during his press conference before England's game against Croatia
Gareth Southgate paid tribute to Doug Ellis during his press conference before England’s game against Croatia (Tim Goode/PA)

His death was also marked by the Football Association and EFL.Villa announced that a minute’s silence will be held at Villa Park when the club resume Championship action against Swansea on October 20, for what will be Dean Smith’s first game as manager. The players will also wear black armbands.

England head coach and former Villa defender Gareth Southgate described Ellis as a “fantastic custodian for the club”.

Southgate paid tribute to Ellis during his press conference for England’s Nations League game in Croatia on Friday.

“Very sad,” said Southgate, who spent six years as a player at Villa before moving on to Middlesbrough in 2001. “I mean, he’s had a good innings at 94.

“He was a brilliant chairman from a player’s perspective. I think slightly harder work for some of the managers, but brilliant as a player.

“The day I signed, he took me to dinner with Brian Little and then I stayed at his house rather than travelling back to London. He made me welcome right from the start.

“He was hugely passionate about the club. When you look at his period in charge, not only were they always competitive in the top six, but they owned their own training ground, fantastic training ground and ground, and had no debt when he sold it on.

“So, he was a fantastic custodian for the club. It’s very sad to hear the news.”

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