The O'Neill Achievement
There's plenty we don't know of, I'm sure both Randy and the General will have gained tremendously by his input, especially in the early days.
His signing for the club, despite the 'vague' circumstances was a tremendous boost, after the Ellis / O'Leary debacle. His New Manager impetus lasted well into the second half of the season, and his signings last January worked at the season end to give us a decent 9 match run, to finish twelfth.
He brought a more defensive approach initially, which led to more draws than wins or losses, but it stopped the slide and though whilst not as impressive as some previous managers first seasons at Villa, Villa showed a tenacity not to lose often missing before his entrance.
Work in clearing out as many dissidents as possible led to a much smaller squad than ever before and a failure to lure players, meant this season started with a squad well below even I'd guess his own meagre requirements.
Still, he now had a defence that although without a real right back for the first time in a long time, looked the business. In goal he put a top prospect which must have helped in the early days, as few goals were conceded until October when they conceded 4 too often.
Midfield was strengthened, just, and the form of Ashley Young gave all a huge boost, although the in and out form and appearance levels of Petrov and Carew didn't help.
Later in the year saw a new resilience and fight about the team, they no longer appreciated when they were beaten and subsequently they rarely are.There are still problems of course but should O'Neill leave tomorrow what he would leave is a far better prepared squad than the one he originally took over. It is at last a squad not a number of individuals.
The players know what to expect, what is expected, the stability he has brought allied to the generosity and wise head of the Owner, has meant there is no longer the publicly fought out unrest, we associate at Villa, under Ellis. These days, on and off the field, its generally good news. So the climate under O'Neill is one of stability and promise for the future, which can only be good.
On the field the first 14 can do a decent job without fear, and as long as the medics keep their fitness levels up, a small improvement to a top half finish is assured come May. There are downsides of course, but others can elucidate, but for me Martin O'Neill hasn't done a bad job, for the club, its far bellow what I'd hoped when I heard Lerner had bought the club, but its far better than what would have happened if he hadn't and if O'Neill had not signed.
That's a big achievement, well done Martin, now lets see you really take us forward.