There has been plenty of speculation surrounding Martin O’Neill’s position at the club this week, especially in the aftermath of the 7-1 mauling by Chelsea. However, to prevent this uncertainty from affecting the Aston Villa players in the run-up to their important game on Saturday against Bolton, Martin O’Neill quelled any rumours that he was going to leave the club in the near future.
The Villa manager rubbished the reports that claimed he had fallen out with club owner Randy Lerner, over his transfer policy: “There is not an ounce of truth in the story that I have had a fall-out with Randy Lerner. In fact, he called me earlier in the week to see where these stories were coming from. He was pretty surprised and also very supportive and it was good to hear that. I have been delighted with the investment put into the club. I have been allowed to invest £80m on players.” He then added: “If the chairman decided to sell, and he has no intention of doing so, then he could get his money back with interest on four or five of those players. It is nonsense to say that I want to walk away now. There is still so much to play for and there is a renewed determination to see it through.”
With seven fixtures remaining in the league, it would be unwise for O’Neill to leave the club after what has been his most successful season at Villa Park. The Northern Irishman still has the chance to see his team to their second final of the season if they beat Chelsea in the semi-final and as well as that, a string of good results may see the Midlanders rise up the table before the season is over, securing European football next season. From this, it would seem a bizarre reason for O’Neill to leave the club so close to the end of the campaign.
However, when the 58-year-old was questioned on his long-term future at the club, he made his thoughts unclear: “I will assess everything at the end of the season. I will sit down with the chairman and see where we are going. There will be a number of determining factors – the supporters, the chairman – who will have a big part in proceedings, and I will also play a part because it is my life.” He finally said: “There is no such thing as a manager saying he is in it for the long haul. I have been here four years, and four years ago the club was in a pretty depressed state. I still have the energy and vitality of someone who is 15 years younger and that zest has kept me going. In terms of the Champions League, we are going to still give it a go as long as it is possible and I expect a positive response from the players after what happened at Chelsea.”
After his side’s continued success in the Premier League and cup involvement this season, it would not be surprising if some of the bigger clubs – Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea – enquire about some of Villa’s starlets such as James Milner, Ashley Young, and Gabriel Agbonlahor to name a few. If the money is right, perhaps then O’Neill will be obliged to sell some of these players, despite the fact that they are central to the Villans’ success. If this happens, O’Neill cannot be blamed for not wanting to remain at Villa for the long haul, especially if offers appear at bigger clubs such as Liverpool – a club that he has been constantly linked with all season.
With only three points out of a possible 15 in their last five matches, O’Neill will feel that his side must emerge victorious from their clash against Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium this Saturday. The players have had a week to recuperate from their defeat at Stamford Bridge and they can know fully focus on ending their season positively, bar the semi-final against Chelsea next Saturday. Mathematically the Villans are not out of the chase for the Champions League spot, but they will have to win the majority of their remaining seven games if they are to stand any chance of leapfrogging the three teams above them.