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Can Aston Villa go forward with Martin O'Neill

The Tottenham game was always going to be the measure of where Villa under MON`s tenure has left us. So it`s to no surprise that anything but a resounding win was going to result in the backlash and calls for the manager`s head that we`re currently facing

It was a question posed by JBerlin in the forums and amongst some of the usual waffle, I`ve been impressed with some of the comments posted.

Murph- "We're now time and time again head-butting the glass ceiling"

Panchovilla - "As soon as they started to pass we were onto a hiding. Huddleston looked a world beater in the second half as could I if I'd has as much time and space, (and I was shot and killed in 1923)."

Witton_Lane - "Anyone that isn't obsessed with wasting tons of money on sh*t British players would be a step forward."

Upthevilla - "He doesn't try anything adventurous in the transfer market, so, just like the football doesn't give many of us anything to get excited about as Villa supporters on or off the pitch. I can't remember a time when I've been this apathetic a supporter."

The last comment is just a snippet of one I couldn`t help but admire. I don`t think I`ve seen such a fair and well rounded argument from the anti-MON brigade. But if Tottenham truly is the measure of MON`s success - which I believe it to be - then all factors must be considered, not just Saturday`s performance.

The obvious thing many are focusing on is that Redknapp has achieved just as much, and arguably more than MON in just half the time as Spur`s boss than MON has as Villa boss. It`s a fair point but barring the season directly before 'Arry`s appointment, Spur`s had already been top four contenders for a good few years. Martin Jol had given them back-to-back 5th place finishes. I still don`t understand why, but the sacking of Jol followed and despite a League Cup win, Spurs plummeted to 11th with the disastrous Juande Ramos in charge. An awful start to the 2008/09 season, with Ramos undeniably the catalyst with his inability to adapt to the English game saw Redknapp take over in October of last season.

We all know what happened next with Harry hitting the ground running, finishing the season in 8th place and a penalty shootout loss to Manchester United in the Carling Cup Final.

In comparison when MON took over Villa had spent the previous years slumming in the Premier League. Despite O`Leary`s 6th place in his first season, Villa had then finished 10th and 16th before MON was appointed. The squad was threadbare and few can argue the gulf in class between the teams MON & Redknapp inherited.

It`s no coincidence that Gabby Agbonlahor is the sole remaining member of the pre-MON days. The fact that MON has had to make major changes to a Villa team long performing under its potential is missed by so many. His transfer dealings raise so many question marks amongst supporters but for the by and large he`s been massively successful in doing so.

Friedel, Guzan, L. Young, Dunne, Collins, Davies, Warnock, Cuellar, A. Young, Milner, Carew, Petrov, Reo-Coker, Sidwell, Downing, Delph, Heskey & Beye. - All MON signings that make up the core of the first team. It`d be a never-ending argument to get into just which ones have been successes and which have been compounding failures. But the key factor is that collectively they have been a huge success.

We have a team capable of mounting a challenge on the top four without a single player costing more than £12m. That to me is astonishing. The fact is Villa have a strict transfer policy in place. We aren`t likely to go and spend £20m on one player and for good reason. If you look at the Leeds policy at the turn of the decade and you can see why. Throwing money at the problem may get some success for the short term but a crippling wage bill is the last thing that the club needs. MON has completely revamped the whole of the team and done so without spending over the odds. James Milner is the club record buy at £12m and is he any worse than his top-four opposites?

Tottenham won`t think twice about paying £20m for a player, Manchester City could buy just about anyone and the top four have the pulling power of the Champions League so it`s no wonder that Villa are 7th choice of England`s finest. The fact that MON has assembled a squad of such promise in such a short amount of time, despite these obvious limitations is a credit to him.

How his transfer policy is so widely criticised is beyond me. We all know that Villa are now in desperate need of a creative midfielder and a top striker - the same way that we all knew about the shortcomings of the defence last season.

We say how can MON not see what we see, but did he not add the fantastic Warnock, Collins & Dunne in the summer? If you`re all honest how many of you were calling for the signings of these players? Many of you, myself included, have stated that you had no idea who Collins even was, yet he`s turned into one of the signings of the summer.

I feel that MON does indeed see what we see. Which is why I can`t wait for the transfer window to open. I`ve given up trying to second guess who MON will be going in for but I`d bet my bottom dollar we`ll see exactly what we need come in, a striker and a creative midfielder. It could well be someone that leaves us up in arms saying "WHO?" much like Collins, but I`m looking forward to smiling to myself when this "WHO" turns out to be the signing of the January transfer window.

Since MON has come in we`ve seen year on year improvement. Not just on the footballing side of things, but with the behind the scenes work done by the likes of Mr Lerner. The Acorns deal, the McGregor statue, the free away coach transport… All make valid reasons as to why it`s a great time to be a Villa fan. Granted the football may not be some of the most attractive compared to the likes of Tottenham, but with the promise of the team I still can`t shake the feeling that he building something for the years to come.

Look at Alex Ferguson`s first years in charge. His first trophy came four years into his reign after many were calling for his head. He gradually prepared the club for what he had planned when dealing with the drinking culture and laid the foundations by signing the backbone of the team and laying the foundations for the future by developing the youth.

To me, that`s much the same as what we`re facing today. The foundations are very much there, the youth has shown so much potential and now I feel we`re only an Eric Cantona and Mark Hughes away from really achieving something.

Would you all be appeased if we won either the cups this year? FACT is that to upset the hierarchy of the top teams is so much harder today thanks to Champions League money, than it was 20+ years ago when Fergie first took over.

I know the sceptics will laugh at the comparison with the great man himself, in reality there are miles between them. The only comparison I am making is the laying of foundations being the main focus of both managers during their maiden years.

When Villa stop making progress under O`Neill I`ll be the first to reassess the situation. Until then I`m forever behind him, and yes… We can go forward under MON.

The Journalist

Writer: JayVFC Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday December 1 2009

Time: 8:15AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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What an excellent article. Informative and well constructed. Martin O'Neil is a great manager. I do wonder why he has a thing for hard working but limited in skills and vision type midfielders, is it becasue he feels he can motivate the English better? Sidwell, Milner, Reo-Coker etc etc not that inspiring is it? Backed up with Luke Young, Warnock, Dunne, they are all good solid players but you are not going forward buying them you are padding out the squad which I suppose is MON's strategy - I see Villa slipping slightly backwards from last year, Petrov is still the main man (you can tell me why one day) No Barry, big loss and replaced by Sidwell, it aint good enough guys!
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01/12/2009 08:43:00

Great article and spot on. O'Neill is building a good team, agreed it's not the finished article but would anyone swap Villa here and now for the dark days under O'Leary becoming weaker and weaker each season? Compare the team to what we had then. The problem now is to break into the Champions League you need to build slowly, deliberately, gone are the days when you buy a couple of decent players and you're challenging. In order to get a top creative midfielder or a 20 goal a season striker you need to be demonstrating a likelihood that you will be challenging for the top places and I now think Villa are approaching that Anyone who thinks O'Neill should go really needs to abandon being a football supporter and find another simpler sport to watch because they really haven't got a clue
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01/12/2009 08:44:00

In case you were thinking it, my post is NOT a jibe and I mean no disrespect. I like MON, I like the Villa too, and wish you well.
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01/12/2009 08:45:00

My question would be more, Can Villa go Forward? In my opinion maybe one place, but without millions and millions I don't think we can achieve anymore than we currently do. For me beating Pompey tonight would be a better indicator that we can now compete in cups as well as stay in and around the same position in the league, when before it has been either or.
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01/12/2009 08:52:00

excellent article some good writers on vital villa. i think mon is an excellent manager. there could be a million reasons you played as bad as you did. sometimes the players have to hold there hands up and say hey i was pants. we did play well but the manor of the second half wasnt just that we were better it looked like your guys were scared perhaps MON had shown them the wigan video too many times??? we dont spend 20 mil on players i think our record is pav at 16mil only 4 more than you guys. JOL did waht MON is doing bought loads of english young talent hudd lennon etc and it worked so keep the faith i like you guys and want you to be part pf a new top 4 along with us and city come on villains keep the faith
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01/12/2009 09:41:00

I don't rate Petrov, too many sideways and backward passing, we looked better with out him against Bolton, and in the peace cup we was about to get knocked out, he got injured then we won it.
chris the villan
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01/12/2009 10:04:00

Def mid should be Reo.
chris the villan
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01/12/2009 10:05:00

Problem is our big players are not hitting the form they did at the start of last season, Young has been a virtual bystander so far this season and carew has played well in about 2 games, yet we still find ourselves in the top 6. I really hope the introduction of downing will add some much needed freshness and creativity to our midfield
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01/12/2009 10:05:00

Great article as usual JayVFC, very well constructed and a few good points. I am yet to be convinced that MON is a great manager, in fact I'm yet to be convinced he is anything less than just an ok manager BECAUSE of his 90's tactics of hoofball BUT I am hoping as the pieces of the jigsaw are slotted in that will change and maybe things will become clear. I don't think we can move that much higher the way we are playing but also totally agree with jljyid that sometimes the players have to stand up and take some responsibility for how we play with the likes of Ash Young way off form so far this season and John Carew forever being the enigma (read 1 in 10 player - read lazy - which is a shame as he could be a total menace and a REAL hero)

All in all, not convinced by the manager and those who know me will know I've felt like that since the second summer so this isn't a knee jerk as we have been 6th and 6th and are up there again, I WANT to see what he can do, I'm just not overly sure we'll get what we want. Unlike some I want my doubts totally dismissed as that will be nothing but positive for Villa. Given the money, the owner and the freedom the manager gets, I suspect others might have got a more complete jigsaw by now but hey, who knows... interesting times.
The Fear
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01/12/2009 10:10:00

"Tottenham won't think twice about spending £20m on one player" I think you'll find Tottenham have never spent £20m on one player!
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01/12/2009 10:15:00

brilliant article, i think another question to go with that is who out there would be better should the MON haters get their way? steady progress can be frustrating at times but its progress!
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01/12/2009 10:20:00

The finest article I've ever read on VV. We'd all love nothing more than to wipe the floor withthe Sky 4 and show Man Citeh how to do it with dignity, but as JayVFC says, things have changed so much with the CL money being handed out for so many years creating a MASSIVE gulf. Many overseas think they're the only 4 teams in the PL!!! We have to be patient and we all know we are relying on Gabby alone to perform week in, week out. He needs help and we also need that bit of flair in midfield. MON has shown we can beat the Sky 4 (apart from the hoodoo that is Man Ure) and have nothing to be afraid of. Why we often look lost is beyond me??? Do we need a certain type of leader on the pitch still? When Laursen played last year we were fearless - are we still missing that presence? Is Downing or Delph that missing piece? Who knows???????
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01/12/2009 10:29:00

'finest article' apart from everything I write is what you meant ljkal obvioulsy... cough cough!!!!!!!!!!!! Don't big him up too much, he'll want paying ffs! :o)
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01/12/2009 10:33:00

Good article. I think some of us do need to be reminded sometimes that it aint all bad for us at the moment. I really hope MON does a Fergie because i want him to bring succuss. But heres the problem.....MON has built a good solid team and arguably the best defence in the league with two of the finest wingers in the country. And on our bench sit some of the most exciting young English players we have had in years. This is largely due to all the great work MON and his back room staff have done since they took over. They have steadied the ship and it looks good for the future. So whats the problem? MON doesn't shuffle the team around enough. When we were pegged back by Spurs the other day he should have shown more faith in the squad. Delph and Downing could have changed the game. He should have encouraged us to play football and not be scared. We never go through the middle because there is no spark in midfield. I could be wrong but i see this as the main thing holding us back, it's frustrating because i think he has the squad but he needs to use it more. Ashley Young NEEDS to be used differently, he is being kicked out of games and it has shattered his confidence to attack, he is turning into a second left back. Its hard to understand why MON won't play him back in the free role where he was so so effective. Also say what you will about Spurs and their signing policy but they have never spent £20m on one player. Their record signing is Bentley at £17m. Also they don't mess around when they see a potential bargain. Talk about Ashley Young justifying a £9m price tag? How about Krancjar and Palacios at just under £15 for the pair. Brilliant buys.
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01/12/2009 10:55:00

I do sometimes think O'Neill is too careful in the transfer market, this can be good especially as I reckon he takes time to under the background and charecter of a player but on occasions it has stopped us making swift bids and losing out
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01/12/2009 12:18:00

Great article. Agree with 99% of it. I believe we WILL move forward WHEN we have replaced Gareth Barry. Is Stewart Downing the man? We will know by the end of the season, but can we wait that long? Rafael Van de Vart would be my main January target. We only need one or maybe two TOP quality players. The squad is good enough with a couple of class additions. Torres and Gerrard anyone?
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01/12/2009 13:25:00

Wasn't krancjar 2.5 mil??? I remember thinking at the time that was well worth a punt, but of course he plays attractive football so now I understand.
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01/12/2009 13:28:00

just a thought but surely it would be easier to attract the top notch player or two that we need now we have the foundation built than it would of been a couple of years ago when we needed help in so many areas if we would of gotten an elite striker or creative force a couple of years back they would probably be asking to leave by now anyway which would just set us back. not sure if january will be the time as the market always seem tougher then but if not i think next season will see the final product MON has been steadily building as part of the " 5 year plan " maybe im naive but ill stick with him until then anyway.
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01/12/2009 13:46:00

by the way great read...thanks
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01/12/2009 13:46:00

Great Article before I start! I love MO'N & I love the 'Buy British' policy (although I'd love it more if all he bought was British.) I think MO'N is making steady progress but the fact that Agbonlahor is the only Villa youngster who has established himself (for us) under MO'N is alarming. I fear for players like Gardner, Bannan (who was a cut above last night in his cameo for Blackpool) Clark, Delfouneso, Albrighton & others having players like Sidwell, Beye, Petrov & Heskey taking their place in the team. It will be more difficult for English teams to bring in foreigners when this new tax law comes in Jan 2010. (Yippee! - unless they get their wages as interest-free loans) Only teams like Citeh with deep pockets will be able to attract the Johnny's. I bet MO'N was keeping a close eye on Joe Cole's return to see if he figured in Ancelotti's plans ... unfortunately he does. Can Delph, Downing or even Bannan not be the creativity we need? (Or a cheeky £10m+ bid for Wilshere or on loan?) As for the striker issue, MO'N should start tracking Darren Bent after his own fans racially abused his mother. James Beattie perhaps? Whoever he has in mind for upfront, I don't think Bothroyd is the answer. BTW, a win off 3rd isn't bad ... A 3 POINT WIN, NOT A 1-1 WIN!
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01/12/2009 14:22:00

after the game, a strangely quiet 20 minutes in the car back to cambridge was un-earthed by my dad asking "is the premiership too big for MON?" I myself feel that he has the ability to breathe confidence and quality into teams. he's saved villa, raised villa and now, settled villa. for the past 20 years, we have been chokers. I don't see that changing under MON. last season epitimised that. Everton will be back up our bums before we know it, tottenham are winning games, playing well, and (despite their unjustifiably arrogant following), look like they could pose a serious challenge. everyone knows liverpool will fix-up. and i don't see arsenal falling far enough. man city are playing awful and I hope that win stays out of their reach forever. but what are we going to do? no consistency has been found this season. we have beaten two of the big boys but lost to tiny teams. a loss tonight will seriously bother me. is the premiership too big for MON?
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01/12/2009 15:38:00

As I stated at the beginning of the season - MON is not our man... He has had a budget that no other manager villa manager has had and he can't produce the football or the results that the fans would want. I am getting sick of watching our matches as our tactics are shocking. I am tired of watching hoofball... I am tired of us scraping results with awful performances... I am tired of us paying over the odds for distinctly average players... Two years ago we finished 6th under MON with a tiny squad. He has had the time and the money to build his own squad and he has not improved us. Rafa Benitz is on the chopping block for dropping out of europe and for poor performances in the league. Should MON not be underpressure considering we are out of europe and potentially in 7th position in the log?
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01/12/2009 16:19:00

This is just pure class, I agree with everything and has given me a chance to re-think Villas position. We do actually have more money then Tottenham and I've noticed that weve been buying one big player per season. Although I think that MON has a big plan. While the others are spending just to get into that top 4 MON is buying small quality players. And I think when we do actually get into that top 4 MON will be given a huge pile of cash to keep that place. I think we could go further, but the thing that Im really afraid off is that if MON does get sacked who will replace him? I've seen this so many times, when a good side changes managers it all goes wrong: Examples: Portsmouth, Blackburn, Bolton and Tottenham
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01/12/2009 16:28:00

'finest article' apart from everything I write is what you meant ljkal obvioulsy... cough cough!!!!!!!!!!!! Don't big him up too much, he'll want paying ffs! :o)
The Fear
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01/12/2009 16:35:00

no he shouldnt because we have a top 7 squad. liverpool being honist, with gerrard and torres, have a top 4 squad (without they stuggle to be top 10). They also wanted to chalenge the title after last year. Points wise we are exactly were i expected to be. We are living up to where we should be, and not exceeding expectations. This, i think, is the first year we havent exceeded expectations at the beggining of the season and people begin to say sack manager. that suprises me. Sometimes MON drives me man (like the westham game, playing 3-3-3 in the dying minutes) but i will not call for a sacking until we are blow expectations
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01/12/2009 16:41:00

Fine article. I just think its a shame though how through Sky TV money and the big four monopoly (Can you really call Chelsea a big club?) that 2 great old clubs like ourselves are now stooping around for that 4th/5th spot and comparing ourselves as rivals.
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01/12/2009 17:46:00

The same people criticising the Tottenham game are probably the same praising MO'N after the Liverpool win. Tottenham look a strong outfit and having won their previous game 9-1 were in form and confident. There was probably not a worse time to play them and whilst the display may not have been great we could have quite easily lost the game. Had Heskey's header gone in near the end the story would be quite different. My one criticism is that we've drawn too many games this season as we do seem to lack some creativity at times, but hopefully that will be addressed come January.
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01/12/2009 17:50:00

agreed Huddersfield Yiddo, to think 4th is now success is mad. Used to have to win the league to be deemed succesful. Modern footie eh?
The Fear
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01/12/2009 19:12:00

Not really paintnothing, after the Wigan game and the drop off last season from Jan onward, there was plenty of debate about what was happening, if we were moving forward etc. The fans aren't that fickle to go match to match. Most/all? were happy with the Liverpool win but we did have some fortune and got out of jail with 3 Liverpool misses. The Chelsea win however was class and not luck. Agreed the header by Emile would have been a class goal as well!
The Fear
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01/12/2009 19:14:00

What? I'm not getting paid? You may aswel delete my log-ins now then Fear... Just kidding :) Glad you all like it and cheers for the great comments. Surely I'm worth a christmas hamper at least?
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01/12/2009 19:47:00

Sorry, but can someone show me where MON talked about a 5 year plan and what he said he would provide us after the 5 year plan. I've seen it mentioned a lot but I must have missed him talking about a 5 year plan. Seriously like, I'm not trying to be smart ares, but I honestly don't ever recall him talking about a 5 year plan.
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01/12/2009 20:31:00


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