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Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 20:19 GMT
Gregory resigns as Villa boss
John Gregory watches in anguish as Villa are knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester United
Gregory feels the pain during Villa's FA Cup exit
John Gregory has resigned as manager of Aston Villa - with the club blaming the "the pressures of the job".

Gregory - who would have celebrated four years in charge next month - had been under pressure from fans after Villa suffered a slump in league form and surrendered a 2-0 lead in an FA Cup tie at home to Manchester United.

A "Gregory out" banner was displayed in the crowd recently and the 47-year-old was involved in an angry verbal altercation with a supporter towards the end of the recent home game with Derby.

Yet only two weeks ago Gregory said he would "never walk away" from Villa and as recently as Tuesday was talking about a Champions League place being a realistic aim for his side this season.

Chairman Doug Ellis said on Thursday evening: "John's resignation is sad. It was most unexpected but has been amicable."

First team coaches John Deehan and Stuart Gray - boasting managerial experience at Norwich and Southampton respectively - have been placed in caretaker charge until the board can consider applications for the job.

Aston Villa chairman Doug Ellis
Doug Ellis says the move is amicable

Gregory - whose contract at Villa Park had 18 months left to run - has said he wants to take a break from football before deciding what his future holds.

Nevertheless the 47-year-old's name is bound to be linked with the vacant position across the Midlands at Derby County.

Ellis added: "I can understand how John feels regarding his need for break and this is a reflection of the pressures that managers endure in modern day Premier League football."

The Villa chairman insisted the parting was an amicable affair and that Gregory, who took over in February 1998, would be welcome back at the club.

The chairman - famously dubbed `Deadly Doug' for the frequency with which he has replaced under-performing managers - claims he will bide his time in appointing a successor.

He said: "I personally wish John and his family well in all they do in the future and he will always be welcome at Villa Park.

  John Gregory factfile
1954: Born Scunthorpe, May 11
1970: Joins Northampton Town as a trainee - the first of five clubs
1977: Joins Aston Villa for 40,000
1988: Retires from playing and becomes assistant manager to Alan Ball at Portsmouth
1989: Made Pompey manager
1990: Sacked by Portsmouth
1991: Joins Leicester as coach to Brian Little
1994: Follows Little to Aston Villa as coach
1996: Appointed manager of Wycombe
1998: Succeeds Little as Villa manager
2002: Resigns as Villa boss, 24 January

"We will not rush into a replacement appointment as John and Stuart both have previous management experience."

The statement released on Thursday evening said: "Aston Villa FC announce that manager John Gregory has today tended his resignation which has reluctantly been accepted by the board.

"This arrangement has been dealt with on an amicable basis and the board wish to place on record their appreciation of John's services during his four years as manager of the club."

Gregory is the fifth Premiership manager to leave his club this season - with his former coach Gray ironically being one of the others. Derby County's Jim Smith and Colin Todd and Peter Taylor of Leicester City are the others.

The former QPR and England midfielder succeeded Brian Little at Villa Park in February 1998 and took Villa to the top of the league in October.

But the team then suffered a run of one win in 11 games before victories in their last two matches moved them back up to seventh place in the table.

Aston Villa's joint caretaker manager John Deehan
John Deehan will take temporary charge with Stuart Gray

Gregory has had long battles with Ellis over finances - and it was said that the chairman was responsible for signing winger David Ginola who the manager consistently left on the bench.

But Gregory said this week that he got on well with his chairman and added that they both had the best interests of the club at heart.

Ellis said on Thursday that his manager needed to "take a break" but the timing of the departure is surprising given that Villa have won their last two league matches after a spell of one victory in the previous 13 games.

Gregory had been due to attend a Football Association disciplinary hearing in Manchester on Thursday to answer a misconduct charge after he had been sent from the dug-out during the recent match with Liverpool.

He requested an adjournment and just a few hours later the reason became clear.

BBC football correspondent Mike Ingham
"Even Ellis seems shocked by the decision"
Former Villa star Paul McGrath
"This is a huge shock"
Former Villa player Stan Collymore
"Many fans didn't like what he was doing"
BBC Sport's Owen Williams
"The news is a huge surprise"
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