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28 October 2014

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Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill

Fresh hope for Villa?

by Mike Taylor, BBC WM
BBC WM's Mike Taylor was at the O'Neill press conference. He has shaken the man's hand and looked him in the eye. Read on for Mike's thoughts on the new appointment, Doug Ellis and what Aston Villa does next.

When the cameras rolled the years dropped from the old man's face. No matter that they weren't there to see him; he'd been through this routine before, and knew all the tricks - the hilarious interjection, the humble shrug, the show-stopping "I was there" reminder. 

It was a bit more high-tech now, and beamed immediately around the world rather than just savoured by the local press, but in Doug Ellis' sparkling eyes it might have been 1968, and it might have been Tommy Docherty sat to his left being introduced as the new manager of Aston Villa.

The Villa chairman insisted on telling an impatient roomful of reporters, all wondering whether they'd get back in time for a pint and a Chinese before Friday closing, that the reception for Martin O'Neill from the supporters was just like that which greeted his first new appointment Docherty nearly four decades before.

Doug Ellis
Doug Ellis

That O'Neill had played in two European Cup finals, and did we know that he, Ellis, was present at one of them; and did we know that they were all heading off on the pre-season tour, but he wouldn't be staying for the whole thing, for there was much signing of cheques and polishing of brasses to be done back at Villa Towers. 

O'Neill humoured him like a man who turned up at a wedding of a distant relative and found himself sat next to the slightly batty old uncle.

Martin O'Neill is no fool

For an unkind moment you found yourself thinking what the new manager might be thinking.  "Maybe David had a point - and Graham, and John, and Brian."  "No wonder Randy went home."  Let us be clear - Martin O'Neill is no fool.  He surely won't have taken the job at Aston Villa without a great deal of forethought. 

If we are to believe the media reports that he is indeed one of the most sought-after managers of recent times, and his record at Wycombe, Leicester and Celtic is worthy of
that status, there must have been a good reason why he chose Villa Park to leap back onto the merry-go-round.  He is no longer a young manager, after all; at 54, he may well be into the second half of his managerial career.

He is an impressive character and brings fresh hope to the downtrodden supporters - witness the jubilant scenes on Friday night at his arrival.  He shook hands and spoke respectfully; during our brief interview he looked me in the eye when he was answering my questions, something his predecessor couldn't always bring himself to do. 

He was charming, but not smarmy; rather his first impressions confirmed what you feel when you see him on television, a quietly confident but humble man who enjoys a challenge.  That may prove his greatest weapon in the early stages.

The task in hand

Aston Villa logo

O'Neill's task is to bring together an increasingly disillusioned group of players and convince them both of their worth and that of the club; if he can do that, he will maintain the enthusiasm among the supporters manifest on Friday.  He will need to show patience with his superiors, whomever they may be. 

It is reported that he has already met with Randy Lerner, the American who sought to invest in Villa but turned tail at the first sign of Ellis' intransigence; learned sources insist that Lerner remains favourite to dislodge Doug and take over the club, perhaps bringing fresh investment and the new players the club so obviously needs with him.

Who knows if Lerner will win the race to take over Villa, which so often seems synonymous with the race to save Villa's Premiership status, or at least their credibility as a so-called "big club". I am informed by those who know better that this time Doug's time really is up, that this time he really will sell, that the Ellis era is indeed in twilight. 

The Ellis era

Your correspondent, alas, can't quite bring himself to believe it - for better or worse - at least, not until the cheque is banked, the chauffeur has started the engine and a man with a screwdriver is rearranging the letters on Witton Lane to read the Randy Lerner Stand, or the Michael Neville Stand, or perhaps the Nicholas Padfield Stand (will he insist on including the QC?). 

Losing focus slightly as his interlocutor persisted, and the happy fans sang of Martin-O-Nee-Uls-Barmy-Army, the old man, for the moment still monarch of all he surveyed, couldn't quite let go:

Doug Ellis
Doug Ellis

"They're very appreciative, by and large.  Perhaps not only for bringing in Martin, but looking at this stadium, it takes some beating.  I've got eight thousand more seats to put on. I've got planning consent for another eight thousand! 

"I've got a hotel to build, I've got planning for that!  So there's a lot of things we can do. But we can't talk about takeovers, you know that." 

And with that, a photographer arrived and led Aston Villa's past away for a picture; and who are we to say that Villa's future wasn't in the frame as well?

last updated: 07/08/06
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jay jay
very good players to buy here look alex, digeo, esposito, juan,magno, fabio santos pazzini bojinov diana buy thses players martin oneill there good


has the old man fooled the villa fans yet again,he hasnt bought any players or spent any money and yet he has got the fans buying season tickets.he may well be chairman in another 12 monthes

h.willetts,oldbury,west midlands
i feel villa have been very bold in there choice of martin o'neill as the new manager.i hope he sells the rubbish o'leary left us with ie jp angel,jl samuel,t.sorensen and a hughes.we need to bring the youth through they are the future,it is good to have a mix of youth and experience.

Daniel Barker ( selly oak)
its about time we had a manager we can have faith in & know that he will put players in their place if they are not performing. all the high earners at villa park will have to start showing their worth, instead being hailed a good bunch of lads by o `deary after they have been beaten by teams they should of destroyed easily. the o`neil era will promise alot of great signings, use of the great youth system, to put the club where they should be & most of all he will be a winner with fans just because he is honest. thank u doug for bringing martin but now its time for you to go. come on villa! daniel barker.


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