Saturday 7 December 2019

Villa rubbish rumours of O'Neill's exit

Sandy Macaskill

ASTON VILLA last night denied rumours that Martin O'Neill had resigned after reports circulated that the 58-year-old had walked out following a disagreement with club owner Randy Lerner.

The unsubstantiated claims, which originated on the internet, suggested that the Villa manager had left after Lerner informed him of the transfer budget for next season. The club dismissed the allegations as "pure nonsense".

The timing was certainly strange. Villa have an FA Cup semi-final with Chelsea on Saturday week at Wembley and, until last Saturday, they were unbeaten in 2010. Even so, it is understood that frustration is mounting at Villa Park. O'Neill has certainly cut an increasingly dejected figure in recent weeks.

His reaction to supporters' disenchantment with a 1-1 draw with Wolves was one of resignation and he revealed that the 7-1 defeat at Chelsea, which has left Villa's chances of breaking into the top four looking slim, was his worst day in management.

O'Neill's rapport with Lerner, which has been regarded as one of the strongest owner-manager relationships in the Premier League, is faltering because of a disagreement over funds.

The club's hierarchy is keen to reduce the wage bill, which by last summer had risen from £50.4m to £70.6m, and Lerner has made no secret of his desire to cut down on year-on-year spending. O'Neill, however, is adamant that fresh injection is the only way of breaking into the top four.

Lerner might well ask what the money would be used for. The American has invested a total of £179m since he bought the club in 2006, yet his manager patently does not make the most of the squad players he has brought in.

The fact that some of his acquisitions earn up to £50,000 per week without even looking like starting a match has not gone unnoticed by the board. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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