Chief Sports Writer Hyder Jawad on the millionaire who, unlike Aston Villa, has not known failure...
There was a time, in the Sixties, when Michael Neville needed Aston Villa FC more than it needed him. He was a fan who wore a claret and blue shirt to matches and who boasted an encyclopaedic knowledge of the club's history.
Now, however, the roles have reversed. Villa need him more than he needs it. One might argue that Neville is set to become the most important figure in the club's recent history.
While the perception remains that Villa entered the 20th century before every other club in the world and have stayed there, Neville could be the man to take the club, belatedly, into the 21st century.
Villa have confirmed they have received a " preliminary approach" regarding a takeover of the club but insisted the proposals remained speculative. However, the Aston Villa plc board say no meetings have taken place with Neville or his consortium.
While previous takeover bids have failed, the # 64 million move by Comer Homes Group, an Irish property company, seems the likeliest to succeed so far.
The Irish-based company, which has assets of #1 billion, is set to have a meeting with Doug Ellis, the Villa chairman, and the board this week. Ellis will not be the most important person in the room. That title will be bestowed upon Neville.
His background will certainly delight supporters, for he has been one of them for 45 years - long before Ellis had any affection for the club.
Aged 51 and a self-made millionare, Neville began his career as an electrician and is in charge of various publicly-listed companies. Unlike Villa, he has not known failure.
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Neville was the fan who became a friend of the players. He is close to Charlie Aitken, the club's longest-serving player, and the two men used to walk to Villa Park together to watch matches.
Neville, who lives in Dorwich and spent much of his childhood standing outside Bodymoor Heath collecting autographs, would also play squash with Chris Nicholl, the former Villa captain, and became close to members of the team that won the 1982 European Cup.
Time will tell if the bid will bear fruit but the prospective deal would suit all parties.
The two major shareholders, Doug Ellis and Jack Petchy, will make a significant profit, Neville will acquire ownership of the club he loves, the supporters will benefit from a more successful team, and the manager ( David O'Leary) will have a larger budget.
A statement by Villa to the London Stock Exchange said: "The directors of Aston Villa plc have noted the weekend press comment and confirm that they have received a preliminary approach from Mr Michael Neville on behalf of a consortium group which could lead to an offer for the company.
"However, the board have not met with any other members of the consortium group nor received any confirmation of the availability of sufficient funding to support any potential offer and so they can only treat the approach as speculative at this stage.
"Your board will continue to look at maximising shareholder value and also ensuring that the club is sufficiently funded for the future."
Dave Woodhall, editor of the Heroes and Villans fanzine, welcomed the board's careful stance.
"It is important we don't just assume anything is better than Doug Ellis," Woodhall said. "A takeover of the club is only good for Villa if it takes the club forward. Sometimes you have got to be careful what you wish for.
"It could be the best thing for Villa since Ron Saunders came as manager. It could see us take the same road as Chelsea are on now. At the same time, it could see us take the same road as Chelsea pre-Roman Abramovich."
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