The dust has yet to settle on what was Martin O’Neill’s office and already people from within Aston Villa have come out to drive a dagger into his back.
Board member General Charles C. Krulak has recently blasted the former Aston Villa boss for thinking “he was bigger than the club."
Aston Villa defender Curtis Davies also came out and claimed that O’Neill was biased when it came to picking his starting eleven. Davies claimed that “he never got a fair chance” and that he felt he was perpetually “overlooked.”
Although some Aston Villa players, board members, and fans may feel like Martin O’Neill felt he was bigger than the club, the fact remains that he turned Aston Villa into a legitimate team since taking control of the reigns in 2006.
O’Neill was given the duty of bringing some silverware and success to Villa Park, and he was on the cusp of glory last year, but since his departure, the only way for Aston Villa is backwards.
Names such as Martin Jol and Slaven Bilic have been heavily linked to the vacant position with Villa, but neither of them have the pedigree in management of O’Neill.
Martin Jol previously managed Tottenham. His stint at White Hart Lane ended somewhat unceremoniously as he was forced out of Spurs after a dismal start to his third season at the helm.
Slaven Bilic is very inexperienced as a manager. The only domestic team he managed was Croatian side Hadjuk Split. Despite relative success as the manager of Croatia, the transition from international management to domestic management is difficult. Just ask Fabio Capello and Steve McClaren.
Martin O’Neill was not bigger than the club, and I don’t think he felt that way either. He was brought in to do a job, that job was to bring Aston Villa silverware and Champions League football.
He was on the cusp of Carling Cup and FA Cup glory last year. Aston Villa were treated to two Wembley Stadium appearances.
O’Neill had also cemented them as a solid top tier team in the Premier League. All that hard work was going to be pulled from beneath him with the sale of James Milner to Manchester City, and potential sales of Brad Friedel and Ashley Young.
Selling your team’s best player is never beneficial for your side's chances of glory, just ask Sir Alex Ferguson. The multiple sales of your top players is just suicidal. Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner may just as well hand points to his competition.
Martin O’Neill had his hands tied by Lerner during the summer when he was told he would not have money to invest in new players. O’Neill was going to be placed in front of the firing squad by sitting back and allowing three of his best players to be sold.
Aston Villa were in a pathetic state when O’Neill came in to take over from David O’Leary. Villa had finished just two places off relegation and had a negative goal difference.
In O’Neill’s first year in charge, he took Villa up five places to 11th, and also finished with a positive goal difference.
The following three seasons, he helped Aston Villa firmly rest their feet in sixth position.
O’Neill built a solid backline for Aston Villa and only three teams allowed fewer goals, two of which finished first and second in the league, with Liverpool being the other side.
Villa’s main issue for not progressing further than sixth was scoring goals. They scored the least number of goals of all the teams who finished in the top eight positions.
They scored 21 fewer goals than Manchester City who finished above them, and 9 fewer than Liverpool who finished below them.
O’Neill knew scoring was Villa’s main priority to address in the summer, but with no money available to him, he was unable to sign any new additions. And with the potential sale of James Milner and Ashley Young, his goal-scoring inabilities were only going to be exacerbated in the coming season.
The progress that Villa has made under O’Neill in the past four years has just been erased in a single event. There is no manager available to Villa who could get any more from the group of players at Villa Park.
The progression of James Milner from a decent young player into PFA Young Player of the Year last season, as well as a World Cup call-up for England just proves O’Neill’s talent as a manager...talents that Aston Villa will no longer be reaping.