Because there’s no better time for Aston Villa to search for a new manager…a month before the start of the new season. From the Independent’s Phil Shaw.
Twenty-four hours after the 48-year-old former Leeds United manager David O’Leary appeared before a three-man panel looking into who was responsible for a statement by players who were critical of the Villa chairman, Doug Ellis, the club issued a statement of their own. It cleared O’Leary of involvement in the mutiny, yet stated that Villa deemed the time right for a change – with the names of Martin O’Neill and Alan Curbishley sure to figure prominently in fans’ polls over the coming days.
The players’ statement, which was put together by a local-newspaper reporter last Friday, had accused Ellis, 82, of penny-pinching in terms of spending on players and facilities, and of not having ambition. The chairman, who was on holiday on his yacht off the coast of Majorca at the time, was furious about what he saw as untruths being peddled. He resolved to find out whether O’Leary had effectively “set up” the statement by inviting the journalist in question to the players’ lounge at the Bodymoor Heath training complex.
Leading players, including the goalkeeper Thomas Sorenson, also gave evidence to the panel convened by Ellis (above) and headed by the club’s operations director, Steve Stride. Several of the squad were known to be disaffected with O’Leary, although Kevin Phillips, a senior professional, had backed him in an attempt to smooth over the situation on Tuesday.
Dave Woodhall, editor of the Villa fanzine Heroes & Villans, articulated the “plague-on-both-their-houses” views of many fans. “Villa are now halfway to recovery,” he said, hailing O’Leary’s exit as a positive move. “Now Ellis should go. He really shouldn’t be running a football club in the 21st century.”