Used with the kind permission of Dave Woodhall of Heroes & Villains fame.
A thread on Doug Ellis and those who say he’s Villa through and through. As opposed to many of us, including the sadly departed Graham Taylor, who believe him to be himself through and through.
I’d like to be at the point of letting bygones be bygones but following the call from some fans for a minutes applause, it’s become a hot subject again. Is This Some Sort Of Warped Joke By An Aston Villa Fan?
A poster, cheltenhamlion, in the Herbert Ellis thread said:
“His performance with the Barton family around the testimonial is still classed as unforgivable in my family.”
After being asked, Dave Woodhall replied:
The 7″ version. A date was arranged for a memorial game. The Albion agreed to be the opposition; not the most glamorous but fair play to them for doing it, we hadn’t played them for a while and they were sure to bring a few hundred to boost the gate. Then the date was changed to a night when they had a supporters club function and naturally that took priority for them. At such short notice the only opposition that could be found was a Terry Venables XI.
I was approached by the chair of the organising committee and asked if I could help in any way, which I did, as would everyone else. I asked the company I worked for at the time if they could help and they agreed to handle the PR. As their media officer put it, “I’ve never known anyone as awkward to deal with”.
Mrs Barton went to Villa Park for a meeting with Brian Little. This was when all the stuff about Leicester suing him was happening and as she arrived Ellis was just leaving reception. A couple of minutes later the phone rings: “Yes Mr Ellis. Of course Mr Ellis.” The receptionist then told Mrs Barton that Brian was in a meeting with his solicitors for the rest of the day. Mrs Barton leaves, just as John Gregory arrives on the scene. He sprints up the stairs and lo & behold within seconds Brian Little appears. He invites Mrs Barton up to his office.
On the night before the match a dinner was held at the ICC. The day before, the committee chairman’s car was broken into and his laptop stolen, which of course was pure coincidence but caused no end of aggravation. Prior to that, Villa employees had been warned off attending. The team were there as Brian Little had said it was a three line whip for the playing squad.
The Lord Mayor was due to attend, but at the last minute he pulled out for some reason that has never been explained. Every club imaginable had donated prizes for the auction. Bayern Munich gave an autographed matchball together with a signed note from Franz Beckenbauer, other clubs gave signed shirts and similar stuff. At one point Derby and Forest shirts were being auctioned together when a Forest director stood up and said, “Take the Derby shirt out and we’ll replace it with two directors box tickets for the game with Villa, meals and drinks thrown in.” The bids went up from £50 to £300 immediately.
Well, I say every club donated prizes. Can you guess the one that didn’t?
On the morning of the match I was with Gary Stevens (the Spurs one) as he tried to get a team together. Barry Fry, to his eternal credit, offered any three players (we went for Tait, Dominguez and Donowa) and said with more notice he would have sent the whole Blues team over.
On the evening of the match the Bartons arrived with a commemorative plaque they had been told could be installed in the North Stand reception. It wasn’t. We went round the Trinity Road boxes getting donations from the box holders, who had got in free. We lasted about two minutes before Abdul Rashid stopped us. Lovely old Jack Watts looked at me and said, “What’s he doing here?” Mrs Barton told him I was her guest. Nobody was allowed into the boardroom except Doug and his entourage.
Before the main match the ’82 team played a Midlands veterans XI. They had to change in Stumps and walk across the car park then through the back of the North Stand.
After the game the donations that hadn’t arrived in time for the dinner were auctioned by Peter Withe, who as you can imagine raised more money than anyone else would have. One club’s contribution is still lost in the post. John Sillett walked up to Mrs Barton, told her he hadn’t been able to buy anything and sneaked an indeterminate roll of notes into her pocket. Ron Saunders, manager of the ’82 team, asked if he could get a car anywhere and was told he could call a cab from the North Stand reception.
A few days later the organising committee was sent a bill for the food eaten by Doug’s guests. But he’s Villa through and through.
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