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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 July 2006, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
Villa dismiss player unrest claim
Villa chairman Doug Ellis
Ellis has failed to find a buyer for struggling Villa
Aston Villa have strongly denied suggestions their players released a joint statement criticising chairman Doug Ellis for his running of the club.

A local newspaper claimed the statement was issued by the first-team squad.

But Villa's response on their official website read: "The reporter has acknowledged players did not yesterday make a collective statement.

"There is no evidence any such squad statement exists. Players are furious they have been portrayed in this way."

The statement, which criticised Ellis' lack of commitment to the club, first appeared in the Express and Star newspaper on Friday.

However, Villa subsequently cast doubt on the claim that all the first-team squad had agreed to its release.

Head of communications Phil Mepham said: "Several senior members of the first-team squad had no knowledge of it. All were surprised at its content.

"So to suggest this is a collective statement is ridiculous."

The chairman is furious. It has come as a great surprise

Aston Villa head of communications

Mepham's response was posted on the club's website under the headline 'Players and chairman unite'.

It added: "The chairman is furious, because he has had no indication from any member of the playing or coaching staff of any dissatisfaction at the training ground.

"This has come as a great surprise."

Ellis, 81, had heart surgery last year and has been in talks to sell the Premiership club.

But no deal has yet materialised, upsetting fans who feel the club has stagnated because of a lack of investment.

Bill Howell, a journalist with the Birmingham Mail newspaper, told radio station talkSPORT on Saturday that the statement actually came from one player only.

Issued on Friday, it read: "The chairman should be behind the club and not working against what we're trying to achieve.

"There've been a series of cutbacks and we feel we have to mention this because they are now starting to affect us.

"People talk about Aston Villa being a big club and winning the European Cup in 1982.

"We feel it should be a big club but if the chairman has got ambition, he needs to start showing it. It has to come from the top.

"So many other clubs are doing so much to show their ambition apart from us. As players we're all ambitious and we want to improve on last season.

"At the end of last season, the chairman refused to pay 300 for the pitches to be watered. The training ground development, which we were all looking forward to working in, has stopped.

"Now we have lost a masseur because the club refuse to pay for one and are clubbing together to pay for our own.

"We have also heard that the physio, who was on his way to see Martin Laursen, could not claim back for a cup of coffee at the airport.

"We've had no explanation for the cutbacks and we feel if the manager (David O'Leary) can't get one, then we have no chance.

"Maybe the chairman thought he would have left by now because of the takeover. Supporters are concerned with what happens on the pitch and rightly so.

"But we feel with all the cutbacks, it is difficult to attain the targets we all share.

"There are no positives coming out of the club. We need to see a plan where the club is going and all the players feel the same. Every penny is being watched."



SEE ALSO
Villa chief gives O'Leary backing
25 May 06 |  Aston Villa
Villa fans urging Ellis to resign
15 May 06 |  Aston Villa
Villa chairman upbeat on takeover
26 Jan 06 |  Business


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