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Can Aston Villa go forward with Martin O'Neill

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.


Date:Tuesday December 1 2009
Time: 8:15AM


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!
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
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.
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.
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
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
01/12/2009 10:04:00
Def mid should be Reo.
chris the villan
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
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
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!
01/12/2009 10:15:00
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