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Martin O’Neill: Champion or Chumpion?

Ok, now we’re finally past the World Cup hangover, lets talk about what every football fan wants to talk about, the new 2010-11 season. Everyone, rightly has their different opinions on their well respected clubs but there is one club that troubles and confuses me, Aston Villa.

Lets go back shall we, back to the 2008-09 season, where lets be honest Villa set the standard for watching entertaining football. Quick, fast, electric individuals that could go from one end to another within the blink of an eye. Agbonlahor, Ashley Young and co. were the cherries on the cake for Martin O’Neill who has transferred a team from a constant relegation battling side to a team who are consistent enough to challenge for not only the Europa League places but for a couple of months at least showing potential for the coveted 4th place standing meaning Champions League football.

So these exciting individuals prove their worth to get Villa back into Europe after a couple of years away and then, bang, back to reality, what does Martin O’Neill do … plays his second string. Ok, that was a mistake, he knows, everyone knows it. So, lets move it on into the 2009-10 season, where Villa’s road running youngsters again qualify for another shot at the Europa League, O’Neill explains that he wont play a second XI again. True to his word, he doesn’t, although makes one or two changes, and once again, bang! They lose to Rapid Vienna in the qualifying rounds. Now Villa fans start to wonder. Do we really want a shot at Europe? Or is it just all too much for a team who are claimed to get “tired” towards the final third of the season, let alone the very beginning. Now the present. Aston Villa in the Europa League, third time lucky? or for at least one more season, Villa lagging behind their rivals

Aston Villa/Tottenham Hotspur Premiership 15.03.09 Photo: Tim Parker Fotosports International Martin O'Neill Aston Villa manager during the game

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Positives I hear you wonder, where are the positives in this blog? Well lets go through Mr. O’Neill’s highlights while being at Villa. First of all, how well O’Neill has done to produce a team, that when at their best could be a match for any team that plays in either the Europa League or even the Champions League, year in, year out. With wins over Manchester United away, Liverpool away, Arsenal away, Chelsea repeatedly at home then you know that your team has got to be on to something. Reaching the Carling Cup final and the F.A Cup semi-final in 2009-10 season.

His transfer acumen. e.g. swapping Milan Baros for John Carew ended up producing a smile the width of the grand canyon from all Villa fans far and wide. Beating clubs for the signature of Ashley Young, even when at the time, critics were questioning how much O’Neill actually signed Young for. But his capture seems to have paid dividends throughout the course of Ashley Young’s stay so far at Villa Park. Nabbing Richard Dunne for £5 million from Manchester City was proved to be a masterstroke, as Dunne’s transfer became arguably the signing of the season after a string of very impressive performances in a Villa shirt.

Although these signings have paid off. Martin O’Neill’s wheelings and dealings haven’t all been up to scratch, to name a few:

Steve Sidwell – £5 million

Marlon Harewood – £4 million

Stewart Downing – £12 million

Carlos Cuellar – £8 million

Now, the way that he has supposedly handled the James Milner saga. Villa fans don’t want it to end up like the Gareth Barry ordeal went. Slugging it out for 12 months waiting and waiting to clarify what is going on. I know that if something is going to be done about Villa’s new ‘star asset’ than Villa fans want a deal to be done sooner rather than later. But with O’Neill talking to the press about how Milner wants to leave and has done since before the World Cup and then 24 hours later, the newspapers contradict it on saying how Milner hasn’t said anything about leaving, then it may well be another long old summer for all Villa fans.

So where does this leave us? Divided?

Martin O’Neill: Champion or Chumpion?

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