Will Martin O'Neill need to perform a few miracles this season?

I’m a massive fan of Martin O'Neill; since his and Lerner’s arrival I’ve felt the club has been moving steadily in the right direction, both on and off the pitch. I’m also usually the first to defend him, to place unquestioned trust in his methods and his management, to reject suggestions that he has lost the plot.

Maybe it’s just this transfer window and the frustration of the typical, inevitable wait for new faces to arrive, but I’m starting to doubt my own faith.

If any club needed to be active in the transfer market this summer then it was Villa, if any club needed to strengthen the squad in terms of both quality and numbers, then it was Villa. And yet it’s less than three weeks until the opening match and we look dangerously weak.

We know historically that O'Neill has a habit of waiting until the end of the window to complete transfers. I think it’s time to acknowledge that this nasty habit is damaging us. There are too many benefits to bringing players in sooner rather than later to continually wait until the last minute to make signings.

It’s not just the buying aspect that I question; it’s the selling factor too. I personally think O'Neill has had a bit of a stinker selling Knight at this point. I wasn't a massive fan of him as a player but at least he was a Villa fan and you knew he'd give 100%.

But we are getting in a position now where other clubs are going to be holding us to ransom. That may or may not be the case with Distin but if I'm a chairman or a manager of a club and Villa bid for one of my players, especially a defender, it's pretty clear that Villa are desperately short in that department and we could well end up paying over the odds.

There are so many benefits from getting players in early in a transfer window: bedding players in with the squad in training and pre-season matches; increasing season ticket / shirt sales; attracting other potential signings and appeasing current players by illustrating ambition; making a statement to rival clubs and competing against them for signatures.

Now it looks odds on that we are going to bow out of the Peace Cup having barely made a ripple. True, on one hand it’s just a friendly tournament and a chance to build pre-season fitness. But on the other hand it was a chance to raise our profile and to start building a winning mentality.

We could have been involved in a big match against a Real Madrid, Porto or Juventus, as it is we’re probably going to have to scramble around and arrange friendlies against weaker Spanish sides at short notice. Last season we made a flying start; we were winning matches and as a consequence were pushing the big four. For me, this was partly down to our involvement in the Intertoto and qualifying rounds of the UEFA cup.

We had momentum once the league began, and we all know how crucial momentum is in football, you only have to look at the difference of our first half of the season to the second. Look at Hull if you want an even clearer example.

O'Neill is making all the right noises, but it’s nearly August now, and let’s face it, we’ve lost three outfield players and signed one that won’t be fit until December. I want him to succeed more than anyone, I’ve heard him labelled the messiah since he arrived at Villa Park but I can’t help but think he really will have to perform miracles if we’re going to improve on last season.