It’s time to take stock. What brought this about and what does it mean?
People had strong feelings about O’Neill. There were those who did not want O’Neill to go (me included) and there were those who thought him useless. Those in favour (the pozzo’s) were often branded “sheep” and were possessed of “blind faith”. It was suggested that we regarded O’Neill as the Messiah.
I saw no evidence of this. Most seemed like me – happy to have an accomplished manager (they’re hard to find) that was prepared to come to the unfashionable Midlands and pleased with the progress and stability that he brought to the Villa.
The way he left was piss-poor. No question. I, and many other pozzo’s, are mightily disappointed. The abrupt departure seemed to indicate a character flaw that we did not know was there. The neggo’s (forgive the shorthand, but it’s convenient) will perhaps say they are not surprised, but I think very few of us, even the neggo’s, thought that O’Neill was a bottler.
The evidence of this flaw – cowardice - presupposes a few more. Stubbornness, (we knew about that one), arrogance, an unwillingness to tolerate dissent, holding grudges (that’s another one we knew about), tactical inflexibility (yeah, and that one), and an overly generous nature regarding players salaries.
Taken as a whole, we would have to say the neggo’s were better grounded than the pozzo’s. The good news is that, with one notable exception, they didn’t flock to the blog to ram it down our throats. Our thanks go to Simeon and members of the sceptics for their forbearance. This has encouraged open debate and open debate will lead to an understanding of the true implications of O’Neill’s weakness and what’s ahead of us.
I’m fortunate to be writing this after the exciting win over West Ham. It’s a lot easier to be positive after a match like that, but I think most of us have been optimistic for many days now. If O’Neill was what he exposed himself to be, then we’re well rid of him. His leaving might have been his last gift to us and we can now move forward.
Several players’ careers have had a new start and those about to embark on one have started earlier than they might have done under O’Neill. It’s as though Kevin MacDonald has been into the transfer market and purchased half a dozen very good players. I have some advice for Lerner: put Albrighton under a very long contract, as soon as possible.
On Saturday, the Villa did what top four teams do regularly: dominate the opposition and play with belief. We went one up and declined the opportunity to go defensive. This team haven’t played like that for a while and we can draw conclusions from that as well. I think it’s possible that O’Neill had lost the dressing room in a big way. From comments last week by senior officials, it was clear he’d lost the board.
The press has speculated that he left as he did to protect his reputation before any of this became clear. I think his reputation is already in tatters. Furthermore, I don’t think you’ll see him installed at a top club, which is what he would have expected. He’s a busted flush.
Well done you neggo’s. You can join the pozzo’s now in support of Lerner and our new hero, Kevin MacDonald. The talk in the media is that Jol has indicated he would be receptive to an approach. One Martin for another. I admire Jol and he was top of my list l but after the assurance shown by MacDonald I’m not sure how to feel about that.
Onwards and upwards.