Tuesday, 10 August 2010

O’Neill departure leaves Villa fans singing the blues!

As the dust settles on Martin O’Neill’s departure, the rumour mill is going into overdrive. Who will replace the fiery Irishman? What forced him to quit? Was he as popular as we thought?

Apparently according to the Daily Mirror, players toasted their gaffer’s resignation by texting each other pictures of champagne bottles – sparking debate about O’Neill’s relationship with his squad, something which has always been considered exemplary.

But whilst there may be some truth in the players falling out with him, most of the fans seem sorry to see him go. Pictures on Midlands Today last night showed how he was greeted by thousands of optimistic Villa fans when he was appointed 4 years ago, and it certainly takes a hell of a lot for Villa fans to be optimistic about something!

After a fairly successful reign which included regular 6th place finishes, another season in Europe and Carling Cup final and FA Cup semi final appearances last term, most Villa fans were still very much in support of O’Neill. But the question remains, will they ever really know if he jumped before he was pushed, whether he had lost the dressing room, or if mild-mannered American owner Randy Lerner just didn’t have the transfer cash to keep him happy anymore.

The Birmingham Mail seems sure that Lerner’s failure to back O’Neill in the transfer market for the first summer in his four year tenure was the straw that broke the camal’s back. After all, he was given £40m last summer, and with just 3 weeks left until the transfer window slams shut Villa are yet to spend a penny, while prize asset James Milner is certain to leave for big spending Man City, and other first termers Emile Heskey, Ashley Young, John Carew and Luke Young have all be linked with moves away from Villa Park.

After steady improvement under O’Neill, you have to fear for the club a little, no manager with 4 days until the big Premier League kick off, no new players in while stars look set to leave, and the teams around Villa all looking to improve. I can only see Villa taking a few backwards steps now, unless Lerner makes a big statement of intent with a high profile managerial appointment – Van Basten or Hiddink, perhaps? I just don’t think Curbishley, Southgate or Zola would appease the oh so pessimistic Villa faithful.

Once a new boss is selected, one question will remain, who is the real Villain of the piece? O’Neill for leaving a club he calls ‘magnificent’ in the lurch a few days before they face West Ham, Lerner for pulling the plug on the transfer pot, James Milner for leaving? One thing is for sure, the potential for staunch rivals Birmingham City to overtake Villa as the Midlands highest place team since the Premier League began is now higher than ever, and that will leave a far more bitter taste in the mouth than O’Neill’s surprise departure.

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