Former Aston Villa chairman Sir William Dugdale has lifted the lid on his battles with Doug Ellis in his revealing new memoirs.
Sir William, known as Bill, outlines how he and other board members spent hours persuading a sceptical Ellis, then himself chairman, that Ron Saunders was the right man for the manager’s job in 1974, in his autobiography.
Saunders went on to assemble the squad that won the European Cup in 1982 and is widely regarded as Villa’s greatest manager.
Sir William, now aged 89, took over as chairman of the club in 1975 and left the board shortly before the 1-0 victory over Bayern Munich in Rotterdam.
Writing in his book, Settling The Bill, Sir William said: “Doug was very anti-Saunders and tried to veto his appointment but (board member) Harry Cressman said, ‘Who else is there?’ and moved that we appoint him.
“After much argument and discussion regarding re-advertising, we left Doug to discuss terms with Ron. Whatever happened next we shall never know, but Ron and Doug were not on the same wavelength from day one.”
Between his appointment and resignation in January 1982, Saunders won two league cups and the First Division title.
He bought players such as Andy Gray and Dennis Mortimer, who became Villa legends.
Dugdale, an uncle of Prime Minister David Cameron, eventually left the board in 1982 after a split among directors saw Eliis return as chairman.
He claims in the book that he was sent a tie by his successor – who earned the nickname Deadly Doug for ruthlessly firing underachieving managers – embroidered with the letters SBE, which stood for “Sacked by Ellis”.
The lifelong Villa fan’s memoirs chart his privileged childhood at Blyth Hall in Coleshill – where he still lives with second wife Cylla – and his bravery as a young officer in the Grenadier Guards which earned him a Military Cross.
He went on to lead a life as a colliery owner, farmer, lawyer, country gent and jockey, which saw him compete in the 1952 Grand National.
Before becoming a Villa director in 1973, he led the Conservative group on Warwickshire County Council and helped oversee the building of Chelmsley Wood and the Collector Road to clear Birmingham slums in the 1960s.
• Settling The Bill, published by Endeavour, is on sale in most bookstores, priced £20.