I've just read on the BBC an article about Mr O'Neill wanting to keep Gareth Barry and read a single sentence in there that has really got me thinking. Mr O'Neill said ''Being back in the Premier League and having had two seasons to look at it, I believe that for us now to compete we have to add to what we've got.'
Now, that doesn`t seem at first like anything very interesting, more a statement that we all kind of already know. But just take a moment to think about it, and think about it in the context of the five year plan.
With one game to go, we're in with a chance of fifth place, and with several chances of securing sixth place. Whatever happens, if we don't make Europe this season, we'll all-bar-none be massively disappointed. Cast your mind back just two years. The only massive feeling we had at Villa Park was a tidal-wave of relief that we'd got 42 points and had stayed up. My impression of this short snippet is that Mr O'Neill has had enough of not being a side in the top 4. We've shown fleeting glimpses of brilliance this season, but our second 11 isn't (a) there and (b) what is there isn't good enough to hold up the first 11. Hence we're fleetingly brilliant, rather than frequently brilliant.
Saying '..for us now to compete..' draws a line under our achievements to date. And yes, let's be bold and honest - we have truly achieved under Mr O'Neill. Those five words ring like a charging bugle-cry in my mind. What's been has gone, and we've done well. Those two years have served their purpose, the core is formed. We're challenging at the top of the 2nd league in the premiership. Now we're on to another stage. Our targets have shifted. Expectations have grown.
I'm fully charged for a great summer.
Let the new chapter dawn.