Former Aston Villa chairman Sir Doug Ellis has backed the club to bounce back into Premier League at the first attempt after their relegation from the top flight was confirmed on Saturday.
Ellis, 92, sold the club to Randy Lerner in 2006 but has remained ever-present at Villa Park over the course of their dismal 2015/16 campaign.
And despite fears the club could continue their slide next season, Ellis insists he has uncovered some unlikely causes for optimism in recent weeks.
Speaking on BBC Radio Five Live’s Sportsweek programme, Ellis said: “I don’t think I could be any sadder than I am today but it has been obvious since Christmas that we were going down.
“I accept we are going to have great difficulty in returning to the Premier League in one year but nevertheless I am a little bit encouraged by the way we were playing (on Saturday).
“Over the last couple of games I’ve seen some encouraging signs that tell me maybe with the addition of one or two older heads to the squad, they can bring us back straight away.”
Meanwhile, Ellis, who built a reputation for sacking managers during his 35-year reign at the club, urged Lerner to take a more hands-on approach.
He added: “He (Lerner) made a promise to put in £200million and he has kept that promise, and I made my promise not to interfere and I have not broken my word.
“I only wish he could spend a little more time in the UK supporting Aston Villa rather than following them on his phone or on his television.”
Former Villa favourite Dennis Mortimer insists the club could have stayed up if they had appointed Nigel Pearson rather than Remi Garde in November.
And Mortimer, who captained Villa to European Cup glory in 1982, called for Lerner to act swiftly in order to land the former Leicester boss.
Mortimer told the programme: “There’s only one person I would put in, and I said this when Garde was put in place.
“For me if they’d got him (Pearson), with his understanding of the English game and the players, I honestly think he would have given it a better go than what Remi Garde managed.
“Nigel Pearson would be the answer for me to take over and look to bring this club back.”