Football: `Chairman wanted me to stay' - Little

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BRIAN LITTLE was yesterday busy clearing up the circumstances of his surprise departure as manager of Aston Villa on Tuesday. No, he was not pushed; in fact Doug Ellis, the chairman, had pleaded with him not to resign, as he had done on two previous occasions, Little said. This time, however, he could not be turned.

Little visited Ellis at his home on Thursday where the chairman and Villa's secretary-director, Steve Stride, tried to persuade him to change his mind, he said.

"Both he [Ellis] and Steve Stride tried at length to persuade me to stay on Tuesday. I know they did not want me to go," he said. "I have had nothing but support from him.

"But I had made up my mind and I still feel that I made the right decision. The team's performances were being affected in an adverse way such was the speculation about things.

"But I repeat - I have never had anything other than 100 per cent support from the chairman and I am deeply upset that people should think otherwise.

"The chairman forced me out? Nothing could be further from the truth. I said there had been certain things going on behind the scenes that led to things being difficult for me and it has been suggested that was a direct reference to the chairman.

"But I will say to anyone that that is wrong. Those things were personal and I retain the right to keep them that way. In more than three years together we have not had a problem."

Ellis himself was deadly serious yesterday, contending that he had been hurt by reports that he had forced Little out to replace him with John Gregory.

"It's all terrible lies," Ellis said. "It is hurtful to me to think that people reckon I would damage my relationship with Brian in any way like that."

Little added that Ellis had supported fully his transfer dealings, including the purchases if the strikers Stan Collymore and Savo Milosevic: "The chairman always allowed me to buy who I wanted to buy."

Little added: "There is no secret that we have talked about my position in the past but the chairman did everything he could to talk me out of it - and managed it twice."