Ellis is one of the last of a breed that was once to be seen roaming in great, braying herds through the football grounds of Britain – self-made local men, penny-pinching and prone to pomposity. They might sack a manager, as Manchester City’s Peter Swales did Mel Machin, for having “no repartee” with the crowd, or claim, as Ellis has done, to have invented the bicycle-kick, and their whereabouts could usually be discovered simply by following the angry chants of “Sack the board”.
Over the past decade these creatures have been driven out of the Premiership players’ lounges, where they were to be found complaining that sandwiches were going to waste, and the directors’ boxes, where they arranged the delivery of a nice bit of carpeting from their opposite number, by philanthropists such as Steve Gibson, foreign billionaires like Roman Abramovich or corporate suits indistinguishable from the grey plc slop in which they float. Now only Doug Ellis and Freddy “homme du monde” Shepherd are left.
You could say it is nature’s way. Like many who grew up listening to the unmistakable song of Bob Lord, however, I can’t help feeling a slight pang of regret at their passing. We might not like wasps but a picnic would not be quite the same if you didn’t have to spend your time fishing them out of the lemonade. Surely there is room for at least one old-style British chairman at the top level of the modern game?
To my mind Doug Ellis is an endangered species, as worth preserving as the natterjack toad, the corncrake and the chalkhill blue. Villa fans will disagree, of course, but I would remind them that just because a creature is potentially harmful doesn’t mean you have to eradicate it. Rattlesnakes, venomous lizards and elderly West Midlands travel agents all have their part to play in what the erstwhile Watford chairman Elton John identified as The Circle of Life. After all, when they have gone, who will there be to shout at?
Dennis Bergkamp will make his final appearance in an Arsenal shirt when the Gunners’ new Emirates Stadium is christened with Bergkamp’s testimonial match against Ajax. Amongst the few regrets from the flying-phobic striker’s spectacular career — he didn’t play long enough to witness more comparisons between Arsenal and the Phoenix Suns.
Former Republic Of Ireland / Sunderland chief Mick McCarthy has been named the new manager of recently relegated Wolverhampton Wanderers. Glenn Hoddle predicts McCarthy will be reincarnated as an unemployed person in 12 months.