O’Neills Villa Reign in Perspective

Trying to shed some light on the manager who has just been sacked by the management at Sunderland is to look at some facts.

During the period that Martin O’Neill was in charge at Aston Villa, there was a very real window of opportunity for any club that could get decent backing to break into the TOP 4 and realise Champions League or European competition revenues.

Period at Villa: 4th August 2006 till 9th August 2010
Position finished in the Premier League:

  • 06/07 – 11th
  • 07/08 – 6th
  • 08/09 – 6th
  • 09/10 – 6th

Looks reasonable doesn’t it?

That is until you actually look at the money he spent to get those 6th spots!

Transfer Summary

Nett (£)
-   17,150,000
- 14,100,000
-   17,300,000
-   3,300,000
-   47,900,000
- 32,800,000
-   41,500,000
- 34,000,000
-     123,850,000
- 84,200,000

The number of players released or that walked out the door on a free is the staggering figure of 21, which includes the likes of Ulises De la Cruz, Juan Pablo Angel, Jlloyd Samuel, Lee Hendrie, Patrik Berger, Thomas Sorensen, Eric Lund / Olof Mellberg. For a full list of transfers please visit the Wikipedia or either of these; Aston Villa Central or Transfer League.

The big question is: “If Harry Rednapp or David Moyes had been in charge and had that amount of funds at their disposal over the same 4 year period, would Villa now be playing in Europe?” I wonder if a domestic trophy may have been in the cabinet as well?

With the funds made available at the beginning of the Lerner/O’Neill era, there was a huge opportunity to break into the TOP 4. Manchester City were mid table with no money, Tottenham struggling and trying to avoid relegation before Harry came in /Liverpool going backwards with no money. Everton were the only competition for that 4th spot in the years from 2006 until 2009.

Player transfers and hikes in wages at Villa Park during the O’Neill era is arguably one of the primary reasons Villa are in the mess they are now. Paul Lambert has had to have a major clean up to bring the ship back from the brink of sinking. Habib Beye as an example sat in Reserves on massive weekly wages as well as costing £ 2.5 mil for 2 seasons.

However it’s a case of wrong manager at the right time.

In 2008 a few fans at the Liverpool match went through the team line-ups and were flabbergasted to find that the Villa squad cost more not only in transfer fees but wages as well and this is when Rafa Benitez had the likes of Alonso and Tores playing at their best!

Just have a look at what happened to Leicester City when O’Neill parted ways. They were relegated on the back of financial chaos!

Sadly Mr. Lerner and Paul Faulkner were new to Football, coming from banking backgrounds and the cheque book was flung open to a manager who had been out of the English management game for over 6 years. He was in a 2 horse race in Scotland until 2005, taking leave for a year 05/06 to look after his ill wife, so had to have been completely out of touch and his transfer dealings are proof of this as well as proof that he was not as astute as many thought.

Managerial Style

Martin O'NeillStan Collimore has described Martin O’Neill as a prickly character and if you want evidence of just how prickly, then you can see that at Norwich he lasted for only 20 matches due to his differences with the Norwich Chairman, walking out on them dare I say it right at the start of the winter transfer window. Hmmm sound familiar?

With only a few weeks to the start of a new season O’Neill walked out leaving little or no time for the Villa management to find a replacement or for the incoming manager to do any transfer transactions.

Renowned for playing the least number of players in a season. Very reluctant to rotate the squad or even substitute players during a match even if the team was losing!

Apart from at Celtic, where I think I could win a few things if I was appointed the manager of Celtic up in Scotland, he has only won 2 league cups at Leicester in an era when players had little or no power and the competition was largely ignored by the bigger clubs.

In summary, Sunderland fans should be taking their hats off to their chairman Ellis Short for having the balls to actually make the decision that Mr. Lerner couldn’t.  Maybe he was looking for a way to not have to pay him out, but in reality Lerner should have been questioning O’Neill’s results much earlier than into the 4th year when the window of opportunity had slipped by.

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