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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 July 2006, 07:37 GMT 08:37 UK
Phillips calling for Villa unity
Kevin Phillips
Phillips wants the players to put aside the off-field problems
Aston Villa striker Kevin Phillips says the players are behind manager David O'Leary and chairman Doug Ellis amid the Midlands club's off-field problems.

The dispute stems from reports that the players had released a statement criticising Ellis and club policy.

But Phillips said: "We all think there has been too much discussion about matters off the field at Villa.

"The players are completely supportive of our manager David O'Leary, all his staff and our chairman Doug Ellis."

Operations director Steve Stride and non-executive directors David Owen and Steven Kind are investigating the alleged comments that were published by a local newspaper.

The club said there was no proof such a statement existed.

Some of the Villa players have spoken to the club's directors about the situation and Phillips is confident the team can put the conflict behind them and focus on the new season.

He added: "Unfortunately this seems to have broken into a feeding frenzy. The fact is the players just want to play football and our squad is no different.

"I am sure the board, the manager and I know the team will pull together."

Doug Ellis should have stepped down three or four seasons ago

Former Villa boss John Gregory

But former Aston Villa manager John Gregory believes the ongoing unrest at the club will not end until Ellis quits.

Ellis has been attacked for his spending policy and Gregory, who was in charge at Villa Park between 1998-2002, accused Ellis of a lack of ambition.

He said: "In my opinion he should have stepped down three or four seasons ago and allowed somebody younger with more enthusiasm, ambition and drive to chair the club and push them in the right direction.

"Unfortunately, until Doug Ellis does that I think this is the kind of scenario that will continue to rear its ugly head from time to time."

Another former Villa manager Ron Atkinson, who was at the helm between 1991-94, feels the issue could fire up the players and work to their advantage.

He said: "It could be a kick up the backside, and the players need that because they have been pretty abject over the last couple of years.

"They have to start looking at themselves because there are some decent players there, yet they haven't performed to anything like the level they should have done."

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