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Thursday, December 28, 2000
Ellis in time warp, Gregory on carpet
By Chris Moore

John Gregory is fighting for his future as manager of Aston Villa after chairman Doug Ellis reacted furiously to his latest outburst.

Fans banner Villa v Man City
Fans show their anger at the chairman
Sources close to Ellis confirmed he was red with rage over Gregory's claims that he is 'stuck in a time warp'. The Villa manager was been summoned to a showdown meeting on Thursday to explain his comments.

Ellis made no attempt to disguise his anger but refused to be drawn into a public slanging match with his manager.

'I'm furious with what John has said but as far as I'm concerned, it's a matter I will deal with privately and face to face,' said Ellis, who will celebrate his 77th birthday next week.

Gregory also accused Ellis of 'thinking big but acting small' within days of being given the go-ahead to complete the club-record signing of Colombia striker Juan Pablo Angel from River Plate for £9.5million.

'We're dragging the chairman kicking and screaming into the millennium,' said Gregory.

His outburst followed a survey of Premiership clubs last week which showed that Villa - regarded by Ellis as the 'Manchester United of the Midlands' - have spent less in the transfer market over the last five years than neighbours Coventry City.

'We're very much stuck in our ways here,' said Gregory. 'We're expected to compete with the big boys but we don't match them financially, and that's a fact.

'There's no reason why we should not be aiming for the Champions League. But we need the ammunition for the job, which requires a 20-man first-team squad, not 16.

'The trouble here is that the chairman thinks we're like Manchester United, but acts small. He thinks we're the only club in the area and that everybody has to support Aston Villa.

'In fact, there are people around here who don't know about us and we're not telling them because it costs money to advertise. 'The chairman expects everybody to come to us automatically. He's stuck in a time warp, which does make things more difficult.

'He thinks our training ground is the best in the country and certainly when it was built 25 years ago it was super-duper. But since then other clubs have caught up with us, or gone past us, and ours is like a shanty town now compared to some.

'I'm kicking and screaming, trying to drag us forward but it's hard. If I'm not careful it becomes a personal attack on the chairman because of the way he is.'

Gregory also suggested Ellis had both the wrong priorities and a patronising attitude to other Midlands clubs.

The manager said: 'We've got our own chef now, and the chairman will say to me: "I wonder what those people at Leicester City are having today, John? Probably beans on toast".'

One senior Villa official said Gregory would be well advised to 'think before he speaks' in future.

'The board certainly feel that we are being unjustly maligned at this time,' he added.

Gregory signed a new three-year contract worth £1m a season after leading Villa to last season's FA Cup Final, which they lost 1-0 to Chelsea.

But he has become increasingly frustrated this season with what several of his senior players, including transfer-listed captain Gareth Southgate, believe to be a lack of ambition at Villa Park and last month Gregory was linked with Newcastle United as a possible successor to Bobby Robson.

Ellis earned the nickname Deadly Doug because of his reputation for sacking managers, including his last big-name victim Ron Atkinson.

But when Gregory was under severe pressure a year ago after a dismal run of defeats, Ellis later prided himself for 'putting my arm round him' and giving him the time to turn things round. He may not feel so inclined to do it again if Wednesday's breach isn't healed quickly.

  • Villa have offered a three-year contract to Boca Juniors Colombia midfielder Mauricio 'Chico' Serna, according to the player's agent.

    Gustavo Mascardi said the deal could go through in January despite the Argentine champions being keen to hold on to the player.

    Serna has missed seven months this year through injury but did play in a few games in the build-up to Boca's win in the InterContinental Cup and the opening league championship tournament.


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