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Saturday, April 24, 1999 Published at 21:02 GMT 22:02 UK

Big Ron retires as Forest relegated

Villa won the game at a canter - Forest rarely threatened

Aston Villa 2-0 Nottm Forest

Ron Atkinson - one of the most colourful figures in English football over the past two decades - has announced he is to retire from management following Nottingham Forest's relegation from the Premiership.

BBC Radio 5 Live's Alan Biggs reports from Villa Park
The 60-year-old, affectionately known as "Big Ron", will finish his career at the end of the season after failing to preserve Forest's top-flight status.

Relegation was confirmed in Saturday's 2-0 defeat at Aston Villa.

"Everything must come to an end eventually and this seems as good a time as any," said Atkinson, who also managed Cambridge, West Brom, Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa and Coventry.

"I've just turned 60, which is a bit of a watershed - but age doesn't come into it."

Macclesfield boss, former Manchester United midfielder Sammy McIroy, has been installed as any early favourite to replace Atkinson.

Bound for the Nationwide

Aston Villa's victory sealed Forest's relegation - and at least one season in the Nationwide League now beckons.

[ image: Big Ron: On his way out of the City Ground]
Big Ron: On his way out of the City Ground
On this display, the First Division could be a difficult league to escape from and following thumping defeats including an 8-1 mauling against Manchester United, the future at the City Ground looks bleak.

With the loss of Steve Stone, Scott Gemmill - and the expected departure of Pierre Van Hooijdonk - as well as most of the Forest board, the hopes of a quick return to the Premiership are slim.

In the game itself, goals from Mark Draper and a first in senior football from Gareth Barry maintained Aston Villa's revival.

Villa seldom moved out of second gear against Atkinson's side who in the first half had played with a confidence and fluency not normally associated with a side doomed to the drop.

But the harsh facts show that visiting keeper Michael Oakes was seldom threatened and Villa still won at a canter as they extended their unbeaten run to six games.

The pace of Julian Joachim always troubled Forest while Stone showed that he is slotting effectively in after his move last month from the City Ground and will surely be a big asset next season.

The biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for the return of Villa defender Ugo Ehiogu as a second-half substitute after his fractured eye socket in January in a clash with Alan Shearer.

[ image: Steve Stone caused his old club problems]
Steve Stone caused his old club problems
Andy Johnson could have done better for Forest in the 23rd minute when he found himself unmarked eight yards out after Jesper Mattsson had stepped over a cross from Jon Olav Hjelde.

However, he was unable to keep his shot down and it flew high over the Villa bar much to the relief of Oakes who had stepped in for the injured Mark Bosnich.

All Villa had to show for their efforts in the opening half hour was a shot over the bar from the recalled Paul Merson following a low centre from Stone.

But towards half-time Villa did finally inject some urgency and in first half injury time they finally broke the deadlock.

Alan Wright sent in a free-kick to the near post and Draper's backward header took a slight deflection off a Forest defender before ending up in the far corner of the net.

Barry replaced the injured Dion Dublin at half-time - and within 12 minutes was celebrating his first goal in senior football.

Stone curled in an inswinging cross and Barry stole in at the far post to bundle the ball over the line.

Shortly before that Oakes had been tested for the first time when he beat out an effort from Johnson.

But after that the game died a slow death with the outcome - and Forest's fate - inevitable as their fans greeted relegation by doing the conga.


Aston Villa: Oakes, Watson, Calderwood, Southgate, Wright, Stone, Draper, Taylor, Merson, Dublin, Joachim. Subs: Ehiogu, Barry, Vassell, Delaney, Enckelman.

Nottm Forest: Crossley, Lyttle, Stensaas, Mattson, Chettle, Hjelde, Johnson, Louis-Jean, Rogers, Harewood, Freedman. Subs: Shipperley, Bart-Williams, Woan, Van Hooijdonk, Beasant.

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