I'm going to interrupt my multi-part travelogue briefly to comment on the shocking news from yesterday that Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill had resigned. I say 'shocking' because of the timing of it (five days before the 2010/2011 season starts), I'm not really that shocked that it happened, it was going to happen eventually. O'Neill needed money to strengthen the squad, Randy Lerner (the chairman/owner) needed to sell players to both balance the books after the club recorded a £42 million loss last year and to finance any new transfers. O'Neill didn't want to sell our star player James Milner, Lerner felt he has to, mainly because of the silly money Manchester City are offering. O'Neill feels he should be in charge of transfers, yet he finds out the club have allegedly accepted a bid from Tottenham Hotspur for another star player, Ashley Young, without his consent, and so he felt he had to go as his position was undermined.
There's a lot of Villa supporters saying they're glad he's gone, pointing out his faults as a manager, his bad signings, his lack of a 'Plan B' when we're losing, and his favouritism towards certain players at the expense of more qualified players. All of these points are, to a certain extent, true, but he was a still a fantastic manager for Villa. A lot of these fans have a very short memory and forget where we were when he took over the reins. Aston Villa was on its arse back then, it being the fag-end of Doug Ellis' chairmanship and having just avoided relegation thanks to David O'Leary's clueless and unpopular reign as manager. O' Neill took this great club and made us a Premier League force again, flirting with breaking into the top four two seasons running (our lack of a big squad the only thing that stopped us) , appearing at Wembley twice last season, and regularly getting points from the top four.
Yes, he did make bad signings (Salifou, Shorey, Routledge, Sidwell, Harewood and most of all Heskey) but he's also made some great ones (Young, Milner, Dunne, Collins, Friedel, Warnock, Carew) and ones where it's too early to call but could be fantastic (Downing, Delph). Add to that the good players he's brought into the first team and nurtured into fantastic ones (Agbonlahor, Albrighton, Delfouneso) and he can definitely say he's leaving his successor a much better team than the one he inherited from O'Dreary.
I'm sad to see him go and I know Villa will find it hard to replace him. Good luck Martin, and thanks for all you've done, mate. Especially that 5-1 mauling of them wankers down the road.