Doug Ellis was last night forced to attend to arguably his biggest crisis since becoming Aston Villa chairman after finding himself the target of a verbal dressing-room revolt by senior players.
Ellis is well used to hearing the moans from fed-up Villa fans, not to mention many a previous Villa manager. But it will have come as a shock to the octogenarian chairman when he found himself under an unprecedented public attack from several frustrated players too.
Ellis was quick to respond. The club said on its website last night that the chairman and senior Villa players had reacted furiously to the statement.
The club said that every senior squad member contacted by them denied knowledge of the statement.
Several Villa players, acting independently of their manager David O'Leary, complain that Ellis's stringent financial policies, at a time when the club is still awaiting a takeover, are seriously holding them back.
Ellis, aged 82, has made no secret of the fact that he has actively been trying to sell Villa for ten months. But he has also made it quite clear, despite reported interest from the Ireland-based Comer Brothers last October, that there has been no proper bid. He also made a rare public statement last week, refuting claims that he had 'placed barriers' in the way of prospective purchasers.
The saga has left the club in a state of limbo, waiting to be sold, but with seemingly no buyers. There can be little doubt that it is having a detrimental effect.
The lack of funds being poured into team-strengthening has been glaringly obvious since Villa were denied the chance to bring in new players during the January transfer window.
That has remained the case throughout the summer, O'Leary having been told that he would have to sell before he could buy. A series of petty savings at the club which have even reached first-team level has stretched the patience of the Villa dressing-room to the limit.
The Villa players first showed their signs of frustration last January when noises were made in the dressing-room following a heartening 0-0 draw at Tottenham Hotspur.
It had just been made clear to them by Ellis that not only was their autumn loan signing Eirik Bakke being sent back to Leeds United but that no January transfer window signings would be made. A dressing-room source described the players as being "sickened".
Villa's well-paid players have since become increasingly frustrated by cutbacks - the sort that face workers in many walks of life when funds are tight. But now, in the wake of the increasing realisation that there will be no new blood unless their most marketable asset Milan Baros is sold, the players have made their frustration public. As Blues and West Bromwich Albion make considerable investment planning to get back in the Premiership, the economising at Villa is thrown into stark relief.
"People talk about Aston Villa being a big club and winning the European Cup in 1982.
"We feel it should be a big club but if the chairman has got ambition, he needs to start showing it. It has to come from the top.
"So many other clubs are doing so much to show their ambition apart from us. As players we're all ambitious and we want to improve on last season.
"The chairman should be behind the club and not working against what we're trying to achieve.
"There have been a series of cutbacks and we feel we have to mention this because they are now starting to affect us.
"At the end of last season, the chairman refused to pay £300 for the pitches to be watered. The training ground development which we were all looking forward to working in, has stopped.
"Now we have lost a masseur because the club refuse to pay for one and are clubbing together to pay for our own.
"We've had no explanation for the cutbacks and we feel if the manager can't get one, then we have no chance.
"Supporters are concerned with what happens on the pitch and rightly so. But we feel, with all the cutbacks, it is difficult to attain the targets we all share.
"In the second half of last season, there was no investment in the team, a loan player - Eirik Bakke - was sent back, and now we're unable to sign James Milner.
"There are no positives coming out of the club. We need to see a plan where the club is going and all the players feel the same. Every penny is being watched."