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GREGORY LASHES VILLA CASH DROUGHT

Aston Villa boss John Gregory has again launched a veiled criticism of chairman Doug Ellis' refusal to release substantial transfer funds to boost his squad.

Gregory calculates he has spent less than £3 million in the past 12 months - a mere drop in the ocean compared to the sprees of clubs like Leeds United and Manchester United - and insists the squad, currently seventh in the Premiership, has exceeded expectations given the limited amount of investment.

"Where we are at present is where we deserve to be, considering what we have spent," he said. "I think the squad we've got at present, if you look at what we've spent and what we've got in return, has done better.

"In the last two or three years, we've always been in or around that top six and then slipped out of it in the last couple of months of the season.

"We've spent between two and £3 million in the last 12 months and we're in about the same position as this time last year.

"You've got to spend a lot of money to even stand still in the Premiership. You cannot afford to rest on your laurels.

"Look at Manchester United. They won the league by 10 points, were coasting at the end - and then went out and spent nearly £50 million.

"They spent £19 million on probably the best striker in Europe in Ruud van Nistelrooy.

"That's how they viewed it. Despite winning by 10 points and having the league effectively sewn up by New Year's Day, they still wanted more and still wanted to be better than anyone else."
 

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More crap from Ellis!

WE CAN'T KEEP UP WITH RIVALS, WARNS ELLIS

Aston Villa chairman Doug Ellis has told angry supporters that the club cannot match the investments of many Premiership rivals.

Ellis has been vilified by some fans for what they claim has been a persistent under-investment in the team, but he blames huge rises in players' wages.

In a plc statement to shareholders, he said: "I have consistently pointed out to shareholders that in recent years players' salaries have increased at a faster rate than income.

"In 2001/2002 we have made significant investment into improving our squad and, as a consequence, our wages and salary costs have increased by over £3million during the first half-year."

Villa fans are furious that Ellis has not supplied the funds to boost his title challenge, yet he reminded them that he has funded the purchases of five stars: Hassan Kachloul, Mustapha Hadji, Peter Schmeichel, Olof Mellberg and Bosko Balaban.

He added: "Much ill-informed media comment has been made made about our lack of investment in the squad. Before making any investment, your board has a responsibilty to consider all the risks involved, weighed against the possibility of rewards.

"Over the past four years, considerable investment has been made in improving the squad, not only in transfer fee costs but also in significant salaries, with a view to a successful future. However, our pockets are not as deep as some other clubs, nor are we prepared to embark on the very high-risk strategies employed by others.

"As a result we have had to mitigate substantial operating losses by profitable player trading but have done so whilst increasing the quality and size of the squad and reducing the average age."

Villa's turnover for the six-month period had risen to £16.9million compared to £13.2million for the previous half year. However, operating costs had climbed from £17.1million to £21.3million.
 
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