For all anyone at Aston Villa knows, their chairman might announce that he's finally retiring, that someone richer is coming in to take over the club and a 37-year era in Midland football will be at an end.
But, while he may be 81 years of age and he may not always have been in the best of health of late, Herbert Douglas Ellis does not wear the mantle of a man who is tired of life at Villa Park.
Doug the Chairman looked more like Bob the Builder when he turned up yesterday at Villa?s Bodymoor Heath training ground in his hard, yellow hat to announce the first phase of a two-tier development that will put his club?s facilities on a par with those of Arsenal and Manchester United.
Judging by the stormy reception he got when he faced his annual barrage from Villa?s shareholders just five days earlier, he?d have been best off wearing his hard hat for that appointment too.
But, in answering the question of why he still chooses to face the moans and groans of his public each year and not just head off into the sunset, spend his savings and concentrate on retirement, Ellis has a simple explanation.
?It?s my life,? he said. What is more, he said it with the positive approach of a man who has seen the darker side of life.
Some of the abuse, both verbal and written, Ellis has had to contend with in the four decades since he first became Villa chairman might have finished lesser men. Yet it was forces beyond his control that so nearly saw him off.
?Three years ago, I was diagnosed with a malignant tumour but following day after day of radiotherapy every morning and and subsequently chemotherapy, I beat it,? he said.
?Then, about three or four months ago, I had an angiogram. I was told by the surgeon I had three options.
?I could have medication, which might help, I could have a heart bypass operation which would certainly cure it or I could do nothing. In which case, as the surgeon said, ?You?ll be dead in six months?.?
Ellis took the surgical option this summer, returned to his desk three weeks ago, and, excepting a week?s break salmon fishing (in which he caught 15 of his party?s overall haul of 65, he?d have you know), he?s been there ever since, doing his customary eight hours a day.
His doctor?s heart might have groaned when he heard Ellis was returning to work
Villa have grounds for improvement as Ellis builds new future just in time for Villa?s AGM. But the chairman?s didn?t.
As far as ?Deadly Doug? is concerned, it?s merely business as usual and top of yesterday?s agenda was that appointment with the cameras to officially record the cutting of the first sod of his club ? s new training development.
Such is the sharpness of Ellis?s business mind, and his haste to get things done, that the bulldozers had already beaten him to it, despite the ink being barely dry on Villa?s purchase of this new stretch of land adjoining their current complex next to the M42.
?There have been delays in planning consent to change the land from agricultural use into a sporting ground,? said Ellis. ?But the contract was finally signed a week ago and we?re already on with the job.?
It?s a job that according to John Gregory, one of the
more recent of his 13 managers, was long overdue.
Gregory upset Ellis, not for the only time in their four years together, by describing Bodymoor Heath?s comparatively spartan and invariably windswept facilities as a ?shanty town? but, as the chairman points out, that was not always the case.
?We built Bodymoor in 1969 and I remember Bill Shankly coming down here for the FA Youth Cup final in 1972 against Liverpool and telling us that ours was the best training ground in the country.
?But it has got tired and I?m very proud to be part of opening this.
?I?ve been up to Blackburn, Middlesbrough, then to Manchester United and then to Arsenal together with our architect to do our homework, as I?m never ashamed to copy a good idea and ours will be as good as any of them.
?We have purchased 24 acres and the covering of trees all the way round will make it a lot more comfortable for the players in the depths of winter, when it gets icy and cold.
?There will be six pitches; then, in the second phase, under the supervision of our stadium manager Tony Diffley, we will be building what I call ?The Barn?, where they will play their five-a-side games indoor.?
It is a project that Ellis is visibly excited about and, at the end of an emotional week for all Villa fans, it is one major reason why he is clearly not set to quit until he?s good and ready. ?I suffered at the AGM,? he admits. ?But I feel fine.?
Which is what one would expect of a man given such a heartening demonstration of public support by his manager at St Andrew?s on Sunday ? an emotional gesture so over the top it may yet land David O?Leary in hot water.
?I?ve always said that the best operated club is where the chairman and the manager act like blood brothers with no inhibitions between each other as to what they want, as long as it remains in the confines of a private room,? said Ellis. ?I have a very good personal relationship with the manager.?
The question, though, remains unanswered. In the wake of last Friday?s comments about a potential takeover, just how much longer will he be in charge?
?I daren?t say one little thing,? said Doug. ?Not to anyone, not to my friends, not even to my wife and certainly not to the press!?