MARTIN KEOWN: A £125k fee was agreed for me to join Aston Villa… and Sir Doug Ellis shook his head

I always felt that, deep down, Doug Ellis really wanted to be a footballer and owning a club was the next best thing.

He had a great love for Aston Villa and wanted to be involved in everything.

I was there when Graham Taylor slammed the dressing-room door on Doug’s fingers.

Sir Doug Ellis (left) hires Graham Taylor for the second time in 2002, the first time was in 1987

Sir Doug Ellis (left) hires Graham Taylor for the second time in 2002, the first time was in 1987

Sir Doug Ellis (left) hires Graham Taylor for the second time in 2002, the first time was in 1987

He would regularly come in before matches, even though Graham told him not to.

Once, Graham told me to sit with him and said: ‘When that door opens, I’m shutting it.’ 

Doug’s hand appeared and Graham trapped it in the door. The chairman didn’t come in so often after that!

Bringing Graham to the club was Doug’s shrewdest appointment. Villa had dropped out of the First Division and there was a fear that if we did not arrest the slide, the club could go through the divisions.

Aston Villa signed Martin Keown in 1986 and Ellis questioned whether he was worth the fee

Aston Villa signed Martin Keown in 1986 and Ellis questioned whether he was worth the fee

Aston Villa signed Martin Keown in 1986 and Ellis questioned whether he was worth the fee

Winning promotion back to the top flight with Villa is the most satisfying thing I ever achieved in football.

Doug would do anything for the players, but he had a reputation for counting the pennies, too. I suppose that is what made him such a successful businessman.

As soon as we had won promotion, he told us he would show us his villa in Majorca and take us for a day on his boat to celebrate. 

He arrived at the airport with a huge bag and beckoned me over to help him carry it. It weighed a ton. I asked him what was inside and he replied: ‘It’s all the meat for the barbecue.’ He’d got it from one of his butchers!

Doug Ellis (right) poses for a photo with Everton chairman Bill Kenwright in 2011

Doug Ellis (right) poses for a photo with Everton chairman Bill Kenwright in 2011

Doug Ellis (right) poses for a photo with Everton chairman Bill Kenwright in 2011

But there was one story he would always tell whenever I was in his company. It was about the car journey back from the tribunal which set my transfer fee when I joined Villa from Arsenal in 1986.

A £125,000 fee had been agreed and Doug was shaking his head. ‘We’ve spent too much money this summer,’ he said to Graham Turner, the manager. ‘We’d better be successful.’

Sitting in the back of the car, I tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘Sorry, Mr Chairman, I couldn’t help overhearing. I’m offended by what you have just said. This is the best £125,000 you’ll ever spend — and I’ll prove it.’

He replied: ‘You’d better!’ Years later, I would bump into him at England get-togethers when he was involved with the FA. Every time, he kept trying to get me back to Villa!

Doug Ellis oversaw the appointment of 15 different managers at Aston Villa

Doug Ellis oversaw the appointment of 15 different managers at Aston Villa

Doug Ellis oversaw the appointment of 15 different managers at Aston Villa

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