A bad day at the office for Martin O'Neill

This thing with Heskey. What’s going on? This thing with Reo-Coker. What am I missing? For the first time in three years, I was rattled on Saturday. Heskey at right wing? What’s that all about?

If it had worked, we’d all have said 'brilliant'. But it didn’t and, in the end, everyone has to answer for the consequences. I do. You do. And so does O’Neill.


I don’t understand this thing with Reo-Coker. If he’s punishing him why put him on the bench? If, come what may, you’re not going to play him, why put him in the squad and deny yourself a player. Exposing Delph in a stripped down midfield was also dodgy, but it’s not the main issue.

Just so’s you know. I ain’t calling for his head. Nowhere close. But I don’t understand and these are serious issues. This on-going argy-bargy over formation is not a serious issue. I know it’s close to a lot of people’s hearts but it’s only an issue to armchair managers.

Flexibility is what counts. Substitutions as an issue gets folks here riled up and it’s not important because I understand O’Neill’s basic philosophy – decide what you believe to be your best eleven and stick with it.

But Heskey on the right wing I don’t understand and it’s knocked me off my stride. Punishing Reo-Coker in the full glare of thirty thousand paying punters – is this a private agenda of man with wider responsibilities? If it is then O’Neill needs to be made aware of his duty to Aston Villa.

No-one has been more vociferous in defence of O’Neill than I have. But this Heskey thing is bizarre. It may serve as a wake-up call to O’Neill because there’s plenty like me who are concerned, not at the defeat, but at the nature of it. I suspect he may be keenly aware of the confusion.

If Lerner had built the MBNA business himself, I would now be watching him keenly. To build a business like that a man needs certain attributes: ruthlessness, decisiveness, a general awareness of the frailties of men. But he inherited it so it’s an open question. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t. If he does then he may be as confused as me.

Lerner, if he’s cute, will know that it’s the little things that tell you. Heskey on the wing? Where did that come from? He may be calling O’Neill into his office this morning for an explanation.

I’ll bet the plantation his dad would be doing it.

This kind of confusion leads, inevitably, to speculation. Peeps on this blog are now discussing the merits of alternatives. By Wednesday this discussion will be in full spate. I may join in myself – not because I want O’Neill to go, but simply, I need to know that O’Neill has not lost the plot.

The discussion will eventually weed out the no-hopers: Ron Atkinson et al and centre on realistic possibilities. This will include, and this list is not exhaustive, Martin Jol and Sven Goran Eriksson. For what it’s worth, and in the interests of full disclosure, I think either of them would do a good job.

Saturday was not just one defeat which can be written as the inevitability of capricious fate. Saturday left me needing answers.

Jerry goes by the user name churchill on the site