Sir Doug Ellis believes relegation is "inevitable" for Aston Villa. The 92-year-old former chairman of the Midlands club does not see how they can escape demotion from the Premier League, despite the recent appointment of Remi Garde as manager.
Ellis, known as "Deadly Doug" during his time at Villa Park, sold the club to American billionaire Randy Lerner in 2006, in a deal worth £63m ($92.4m). The nonagenarian has admitted to being shocked by the team's fall from grace.
He said, as reported by The Mirror: "It never entered my head then when I sold the club but I don't regret selling to Randy. I am a great believer in a gentleman's handshake.
"To me I sold to a good man in Randy Lerner. I had a lot of business with 18 or 19 chairmanships throughout my business life. I have always valued the ones where there hasn't been a lot of paperwork and just a simple shake of hands.
"If both sides agree to what we said at the shake of a hand then I am a happy man. To me he is a perfect example of that. He said he will put money in, I think it was £200m, he did do and has done. He has shaken hands and kept his word but it is just a pity the people he has appointed as managers and the amount of money he has given them hasn't worked out I am afraid."
Lerner attempted to sell the club himself last year, and has been based almost exclusively in the US in recent times. Ellis admitted he felt the American should attend more games.
The former chairman explained: "It is a pity Randy's circumstances have changed to such an extent he has to be in the US. It is a pity Randy can't come over a bit more often. I would like him to do that but that is his choice.
"When chairman I was very much involved with the football side, I'd encourage the players because I used to go into the dressing room after each game. Not immediately, I gave them 5 or 10 minutes for the manager to have some quick words.
"I was a football chairman and as such understood the game a little more than the majority of chairmen these days, who haven't got the background I had. I was a triallist at Tranmere Rovers, played in Portsmouth reserves, all the things you do as a youngster if you are football-mad."
Ellis – who was in charge at Villa for 31 years – added: "Randy hasn't professed to say he has a football background. He has people with football know-how instead but things have not worked out. It looks a certainty that we are going to get relegated, I can't see us being saved."
Villa currently languish at the bottom of the Premier League table, with just eight points from 20 games.