Belfast Telegraph

Martin O'Neill quits: The writing was on the wall, says Stan Collymore

Former Aston Villa striker Stan Collymore feels Martin O'Neill was sold short by owner Randy Lerner during his time in charge of the club.

The Northern Irishman handed in his resignation yesterday just five days before the start of the new Premier League season.

No reason for the move was given by either party but, with the transfer of James Milner to Manchester City set to go through this week and no new arrivals at Villa Park this week, Collymore believes O'Neill's disillusionment with the lack of progress was a key factor.

“He's eminently frustrated with a lack of movement in the transfer market and a lack of backing to go out and buy players,” said Collymore last night.

“People say he's spent a lot of money over the last couple of seasons but you have to keep spending if you're going to be competitive.

“The club was on its backside (when he took charge). He dragged them up from near the bottom of the table into a position where they were challenging at the top and he's brought in a lot of good, young English players.

“Villa's in a good place as a club and he deserved more backing. It's got a little frustrating for him and, as with all good quality managers, if they're not getting the backing they think they deserve, they'll turn their back on the club.

“Aston Villa needs to kick on. Man City are spending, Liverpool are spending. It's not good enough for a club like Villa to be happy with sixth, seventh or eighth.

“Martin O'Neill wanted to take them on to the next level and he deserved the backing to try to do that.

“He deserved top-dollar investment on an annual basis and I, as a Villa fan, don't feel he got that.”

Ex-Aston Villa manager Graham Taylor agrees O'Neill quit the club because of a dispute over transfer policy.

He said last night: “I'm not totally surprised, I think it's been coming.

“What has happened — and although some of it is guesswork — is that he realises he will need more money to take this club further and it would appear that is not forthcoming and that he would have to sell in order to purchase.

“I think Martin has said ‘hold on a minute, that's not what we're looking for, that's not why I came to this club' and he has decided to walk.”

Asked whether finishing sixth was now the best Villa could hope for, Taylor added: “It could be and it's very sad if it does turn out that way. Martin took over and year by year the club has improved.

“More and more managers are responsible for the first team but not for all football matters, we're following the continent in that respect. Martin was one of those people who was responsible for everything on the football side. Villa were on the way, they were slowly getting into it and it is a shame that this has happened.”

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