O’Neill out? No, but meet the Aston Villa fans questioning that judgement

Back to the drawing board?

This time last season, I was half-heartedly arguing against sacking Steve Bruce. I wanted what Ellis Short, the owner, ultimately gave him: until the last game of November to sort out the mess. On Nov 26 2011 we slumped to that awful home defeat to Wigan and he was out. Now, the voices opposed to Martin O’Neill are growing louder.

If I apply a similar approach as with Bruce, MoN needs to have turned things around by the time we finish the QPR home game on Nov 27. I believe he can and will, though the recovery may have to wait until after the looming Everton and Fulham away games and start with the two home ties directly afterwards. More broadly, I am against a kneejerk response to the worrying start to the season …



At the Villa
Heroes and Villains online forum, many of the verdicts on Martin O’Neill have been a lot sterner.

Admirers can point to three top six finishes, a League Cup final Villa might have won but for a refereeing howler and a taste (admittedly sour) of continental travel. They see it differently, saying he bought rather than built loyalty and success (doesn’t every top manager?) and then stormed off, leaving the club saddled with overpaid, underachieving players.

Let us see how this debate develops. In my ESPN Soccernet account of Saturday and its wider meaning, I said this:

The disconsolate fans calling or texting a local radio phone-in on Saturday evening were right to be angry, although wrong to claim – as some did – that this was the worst Sunderland team in 20, 30, 40 or 50 years. Their memories must have shut out the 15- and 19-point relegation seasons.

… it makes no sense whatsoever to clamour for O’Neill’s head. A respectable return from the coming cluster of games would work wonders for morale – for the supporters as for the squad.

Read the whole article at http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/521?cc=5739#. I should add that having reported O’Neill’s suggestion that it was unrealistic to judge the season at this early stage, I concluded with these words: “I suspect O’Neill will be even less keen to be judged on the season as it stands when the players leave the field at Craven Cottage.”

Jake on the art of communication

But then I took at look at some Villa comments before posting this one of my own answering his critics at Heroes and Villains: “I have not lost faith in MoN and still feel a lot of you are being harsh. If what you had during his time at Villa Park was failure or underachievement, I’d like a bit of it to come our way, too … He must have done something right.”

One contributor said: “There were many, many people who thought the sun shone out of his backside, and those not joining in with the adulation and who pointed out the stupidity of the majority of his signings plus his dull football suffered dog’s abuse.” Another, to give the other side, thought “MoN’s time with us produced more positives than negatives and given time I think he’ll get it right”.

But the best-argued response came from an Edinburgh-based Villa supporter Jacob Howarth, or Montbert as he signs himself at the site, which I reproduce in full:

The thing about MON is that he needs to spend far greater-than-average money in order to achieve slightly better-than-average results. This is mostly because he has to be the least imaginative manager in the transfer market out there (seriously, I rate McLeish above him – McLeish signs some good players, just has no idea what to do with them). He will willingly pay the absurd premiums for flavour-of-the-month British or British-based names, never seeming to care about the amount of money he’s wasting. He spent £50m across two summers building two different defences for us, sprees which included £10m on Curtis Davies, £8m on Cuellar and £6-7m on Stephen Warnock. That’s just one example.

Also, he has this stubborn streak which seems too have become an utter unwillingness to learn or deviate at all from anything he’s ever done. His football – always functional and limited – now just looks absurdly anachronistic. If he can’t spend £100m on it, his style will yield little besides sterility. But he will never change, he will never attempt to modernise his style, he will never value technique as much as industry or intelligence as much as pace and power. He’ll certainly not buy from Abroad, as Abroad is the scary place where these things are valued. He is, or at least has been, an inspirational man-manager, but a lot of that comes from the fact that he never rotates – meaning half the squad end up hating him for never giving them a chance, no matter how out-of-form his favourite in the first XI is – and that his training regime is minimal at best – there was a recent revelation that our players would sometimes not be asked to train until Thursdays during the week. So, if you think this is bad, wait for the customary March burnout, where his overplayed, undertrained favourites will be exhausted beyond the reach of man-management rescues. And don’t expect him to change the team after that either.

I feel for you, I really do, because I was one of the saps on here who didn’t see it at the time. MON is very good at creating a kind of club bubble – one of his better traits because, as with Mourinho and Ferguson, it breeds loyalty and togetherness – and I couldn’t see the stubbornness for what it was. I wasn’t quite as blind as some – I could see the limited football, the unimaginative signings – but for some reason convinced myself that he was going to change. Some on here saw through the mask though, and more power to them, and your fans booing, for all that I don’t get onside with that sort of thing, shows that a good number of them have seen the Emperor’s nudity early on, and for your sake I hope that drives him out earlier than he would usually flounce off.


Opinion
is the lifeblood of football debate. But it is is noticeable how many detractors MoN seems to have, and how few defenders, among the Heroes and Villains readership.

I’d like to hear more, from both sides …



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29 thoughts on “O’Neill out? No, but meet the Aston Villa fans questioning that judgement”

  1. Great to see our two clubs having a reasonable discussion about this.. On the whole i am glad we had MON and he did give us hope and cheer for a while. I just wish he wasn’t always “delighted”… Or obsessing about midfielders. And I just hope your chairman has very very deep pockets

  2. if you want proof of Martin O’Neills lack of nous in the transfer market, he was offered Rafa Van der Vaart a full year before Spurs signed him and turned the opportunity down. He also dallied with Bosingwa, at nearly £5m less than Chelsea paid for him. He’s worse than Karl Pilkington with a passport when it comes to “foreign”.

    I don’t directly blame him for the financial mess we’re in now either, our chairman gambled, got his fingers burnt with O’Neills poor judgement in the transfer market and it spectacularly backfired. Had the right money been spent on the right transfers with an appropriate level of wages we’d be in a similar position that Spurs find themselves in. in fact, i think they have spent less money than us in the last five years.

    At his time at the Villa he filled our squad with some very ordinary players, blocking the route into the first team of a number of promising players that had won the reserve league at a canter three years running. Every time I see Gary Cahill play, a prime example of his ineptitude of developing promising youth I get depressed.

    He’s got a very short sighted view on the game and incredibly naive with his tactics. Watching the game last Saturday, I couldn’t help seeing your style of play and realizing that it looked like something I’d seen about four years ago. Unwilling to change the style, unambitious with his substitutions; often leaving until it is simply too late for players to have any impact on the game.

    I’ll give him to February, possibly March. Good luck though lads, you’re a cracking club with wonderful support.

  3. Goldy, many of those flops became flops because MON froze them out/didn’t play them in their right position. I believe he ruined NRC’s career. Even if he didn’t like him, which he clearly didn’t, he should have moved him on much quicker and recovered some of the fee for him.

    MON had Gardner at VP and never really gave him a proper go. If you are going to play CG, IMO, he needs to be the offensive midfielder in a three. He will, as you saw at the weekend, get lost in a pair.

    I like Adam Johnson and would have been happy if he had turned up at VP BUT you don’t see many young players careers thrive when they step down from a so called Sky 4/5 club. I guess that this is probably a question of hunger/desire.

    • It probably is, but like i say, that list of players were players that people wanted. Shorey and Warnock were involved in England squads, Davies was tipped as the next big thing. Sidwell was at Chelsea after being in England squads. Them up the road loved Beye – as did Rangers with Cuellar.

      I agree with most of what people are saying, the similarities are frightening if you allow yourself to get to deep into it all. Just not sure we can compensate for Sessegnon and McClean being shadows of the players they were last season.

  4. Some better and more reasoned criticism from Villa fans here compared to the normal unimaginative stuff we get – accompanied with the insults. People need to remember that high mid table finishes are what we strive for at the minute. Baby steps.

    Most of the ‘flops’ that Villa fans also mention were in very high demand at the time. Flops they may have turned out to be, but that’s a relevant point to make. If Johnson’s career nose dives from here people will say ‘he spent 10 million on Johnson’, yet who wouldn’t have?

    Interesting point about losing his mojo, I don’t know about the rest of you but I think MoN appears to have lost some of his enthusiasm already. And just how much influence did John Robertson have on him? This needs addressing if it’s that much to the detriment of the team. We should all camp out in his garden and beg him to come.

  5. Some very interesting and provocative debate on this, and great respect to the Villa fans for what is clearly thoughtful and honest comment.
    I have always rated O’Neill. He strikes me as one of the more intelligent people in the football world, and you cannot argue, that, overall as a manager, he has been successful.
    I do however see worrying signs already, of some of the points outlined here by Villa supporters. In particular his reliance on the same players, week in, week out, regardless of performance, and his apparent reluctance to play attacking football, even at home against allegedly weaker sides.
    To be objective, he inherited a very poor squad [ I think Keane and Bruce should hang their heads in shame at some of the people they brought in ] He started like a house on fire, proof perhaps of his motivational powers. However, once our continued presence in the PL was all but assured, we went back to square one, and haven’t produced much since.
    In the close season, O’Neill divested the club of some of the poorer performers, and, I feel, has done okay with replacements [ I do think Johnson will come good, and Fletcher and Rose were IMO good choices ]
    The main problem, it seems to me, is an almost total absence of creativity in midfield, together with Sessegnon’s inept performance’s as a so-called support striker.
    I think that the January window is going to be critical both for SAFC and for O’Neill. We need to inject some pace and craft into the side. If not, I fear that relegation is a possibility.

  6. Another Villa fan here. You can see that we all have quite passionate views about MON!

    I was personally very glad when MON left, although was mightily p’d off with the circumstances. His football, team selection, tactics and substitutions (or lack thereof) had become so predictable it was incredibly boring to watch. I wasn’t a big fan of Houllier but at least you had hope with him and were never quite sure what you were going to get.

    I can’t believe that a Sunderland fan is calling for creativity and asking for MON to find his Petrov! Stan, bless his cotton socks, was never a creative influence during his time at VP.

    I also quesion how effective he will be in his one area of success at VP – coaching wide players – without the influence of John Robertson?

    In short, MON’s coaching is from an era gone by and I am so glad he is no longer with us. I wish you well, as I like SAFC as a club, but doubt you will find progress with MON.

    • I was referring to Petrov’s Celtic days when he was at the top of his game, I’ll agree he never replicated that type of form at Villa.

      The point I was trying to make is that that is the kind of find that we need.

  7. Hi mate, Villa fan here,

    What did it for me was when we were battling with Arsenal for fourth place, and at Christmas both teams needed a striker. Arsenal spent £10m on the in-form and impressive looking Andrei Arshavin, while Villa (MON) bought…..Heskey.

    That was the day I realised he’d gone as far as he could.

    He’s not taken Sunderland as far as he can yet, and I expect you’ll improve. He just won’t take you to the dizzy heights he always seems to promise.

    Best of luck with it all.

  8. MON needs time as Bill Taylor points out to undo the damage you know who did.

    A creative midfileder sourced in January and a midfield that starts to move and look for the ball when we are in possession will also help.

    There is genuine quality in the side but we currently lack the spark to turn our ponderous current style in to something more exciting. We have the strikers we just need to give them chances, we have the wide men we need to give them space and that space will be created by a midfield and overlapping full backs………..at laest that what all the manuals say.

    Keep the faith we are close we just need the finishing touches in a quality creative player who are in short supply, we need to discove the next Petrov etc.

  9. As a Villafan I just have to say, brace yourself on possible relegation unless your team starts to pick up points soon because O’Neill’s team was always completely knackered by the last 3 months so end of the season can be very difficult one.

    O’Neill isn’t horrible manager per se, just very predictable and game has passed him by.

    All that said, even if you get the traditional O’Neill slump in the spring, your save might be that you have a better team than the bottom three; Reading, QPR and Southampton.

    • I fear you may be right Jarpie and the fact that Reading and QPR drew yesterday came as a relief to at least one Sunderland supporter. But if this doesn’t sound too contradictory I still think MON can improve things and we shouldn’t be on his back at this stage, though that doesn’t mean we can’t comment on obvious defects in our team’s current performances.

  10. Sorry lads ANOTHER villa fan here,

    this is a very emotive topic for alot of us Villans and I’m sure you can understand our intrest in Sunderland now.

    Sacking any manager within a year of appointing him and at this point of the season would be unwise,but MoN likes to manage mid table teams with the potential to maybe get top 4 because there’s less pressure on him,any manager that responds to criticism after a 7-1 defeat by basically threatening to quit is all you need to know.

  11. I understand Plan B’s feeling but if hiring O’Neill was a mistake, then it’s the kind of mistake we keep making. And if we part ways with him, what decent manager is going to take the chance of assuming what would be an uncomfortably hot seat?
    It had become very obvious before he was fired that Steve Bruce was out of ideas, out of tactical inspiration, out of steam. I don’t get that feeling with MON. As Vince says, we don’t have a team of plodders. We’ve seen them play some excellent football. They need to be pushed/driven back to that level. I hope they’re feeling a lot less comfortable than they did. If O’Neill is half the manager that he was hailed here for being when he joined Sunderland, he’ll be working overtime to bring that about. And to make it his own team. I’m not losing faith in him just yet.

    • It’s just my long term feeling Bill, I don’t want him gone now, not by a long shot (What we wouldn’t give for some of those right now.) I don’t believe letting him go and replacing him with someone like Redknapp would be the answer. He should without question see the season out, so long as we aren’t in real danger, and I don’t believe we are…currently.

  12. After the recent comments about “rewriting history” then I think it only appropriate to detail what I believe that history to be. When we appointed MON he was very much the right man, at the right time.

    We had just parted company with one of the most unpopular managers we have ever had. A walking gaffe, who belittled the club to bolster his own ego about why it wasn’t his fault that we were underachieving and a man who had managed to turn a squad of decent players into racing certainties for relegation the following season. The atmosphere at the club had been poisonous for some time.

    In no small part that was also down to our desperately unpopular chairman. A man who tried to expunge our greatest triumphs from the annals of our history as he was still sulking about being kicked off the board just before we achieved them. A man that many fans believed had held us back for years and you would hear plenty of arguments about him lining his own pockets, as well as feeding his own ego, being the only reasons he maintained his position.

    So our summer just kept getting better. The pantomime villain chairman agreed to flog the club to an American billionaire and we started to dream of Man City style spending before anyone had heard of Man City style spending. We just needed a figurehead manager to make us relevant again on the back of it. Enter, stage left, MON.

    He was well regarded in the game and had been successful at his previous clubs. He was charismatic, he bounced up and down the touchline in a tracksuit and, most importantly of all, he seemed to get us. He walked into the club on a tide of goodwill and into the best working conditions of any Villa manager in living memory.

    The first couple of years were fantastic. He had started to put his own team together in that first season and had a real splurge in the transfer market across the course of the second. We finished sixth, scoring a bucket load of goals (mainly from set pieces) and achieved an Intertoto place to give us a shot at European football the next year. Even that year though, although none us were prepared to bemoan it at the time, the first question marks were starting to rear their heads.

    At the start of that season we looked short up front and were all speculating as to who the big money, foreign buy might be. A real “bums on seat” player was what we were expecting. Instead we got Marlon Harewood after hijacking a deal at the eleventh hour for his transfer to Wigan. We never did sign any exciting players from the continent in his entire time with us and he was regularly infuriating with his procrastinating over signing players until the last possible moment.

    He also got rather lucky. For the first two and a half years of his time with us we could call upon a fit and firing Martin Laursen. A colossal defender, arguably the best in the league over that period, and who was good for a few goals each year as well. It should be noted though that Laursen is a player we would never have signed had it been down to MON. A Dane playing his trade in Italy? Not a chance. What we would have signed was the kind of player we got at the end of the summer deadline that year when he decided that Zat Knight was a better fit for the squad than Gary Cahill.

    The third season saw yet more heavy expenditure although, again, none of this went on a striker. By Christmas, our fantastic away form had us looking like outsiders to challenge for the title. We maintained this right until the end of February in fact. This was based on fast counter attacking football.

    And then it started to fall apart. Many fans were upset about us throwing our last 32 game in The Uefa Cup against Moscow to chase Champions League football. That we then threw away a two goal lead in the league game against Stoke that weekend only made that irritation worse. Luke Young complained about why we started the season In July if we were to chuck in the towel at the business end of the competition and was quickly ostracised from the first team It then got worse again.

    He had rigidly stuck with the same first eleven throughout that season to the point they were out on their feet as March began. We managed to win just two of our last 12 games, falling away from being 8 points clear of fourth placed Arsenal to another sixth place in the league.

    In part this was also blamed on his one January capture. Carew was out injured for a period and we needed more goals to capitalise on our fine start. Instead we signed Heskey from Wigan and, to make matters worse, changed our style of play to accommodate the tumbling bear making us a much less potent attacking force. Lest we forget that this was the same window that Sunderland signed Bent from Spurs for not a great deal more by way of fee and a lesser salary.

    The first rumblings of discontent had now begun amongst the support. The odd signings, our lack of any Plan B to break down teams that didn’t give us a chance to counter by parking the bus when we were at home and the feeling that we had let our one big chance of Champions League football pass us by. It was that January that Man City wont the lottery and signed Robinho for example.

    Perhaps a more football savvy and ruthless board would have chopped him at the end of that year. They may have taken a view that our end of season collapse was unacceptable for a club that had invested as heavily as we had and that the manager should have made better use of the expensive resources, that he had signed, that were at his disposal. However, we didn’t have football men on the board and MON ran the club from top to bottom. Perhaps with that in mind it was understandable that they gave him yet more money and another tilt at it when we had come so close the year before.

    The problem was that nothing had changed. The concerns that some had were never addressed. It was the same tired training methods (Walford and Robertson’s grasp of modern coaching techniques leading to them being known as Bibs and Cones by the players). We were still fishing only in the vastly overpriced UK market for players. We signed yet another back four. The style of play did not alter. His stubborn streak was to the fore at this time and he flatly refused to accept a need for change or any criticism of himself.

    An example that springs to mind was a home game where we were behind against relegation strugglers and still plodding on with Plan A. The fans got restless and were heartened to finally see Delfouneso start to prepare to come on, suggesting that we were going to change things up front. It was greeted with ironic cheers. The response from the manager was to sit the player down and bring on a midfielder instead. Again, there was plenty of debate here as to whether this was done to prove a point to the fans that were questioning him.

    Now some may argue that at the end of that season some Villa fans were way off beam to be questioning the manager openly. We finished sixth again. Got to a cup final and a semi. But, as plenty of us saw it, he had hit his glass ceiling. This was as good as it was ever going to get no matter how much money we let him throw at it.

    We made the same substitutions, at the same time every week (Heskey time as it was known). He still wasn’t rotating the players as he had suggested himself he needed to in both previous summers. A lot of expensive squad players he had signed were kicking their heels in the stiffs and not getting a game. For the first time in his reign the board put a brake on expenditure and the fabled “sell to buy” policy began.

    It wasn’t quite as it seemed though. What he had actually been told was to shift a bunch of squad players on that weren’t getting near a game. That the Famous Five he mooted in the local paper were pulling down nigh on £300,000 a week in scratch between them made this seem a pretty sensible thing for the board to do. MON’s problem was that these players were on salaries not commensurate with their talent and therefore it proved very difficult to drum up any interest in them.

    He clung on until August in the desperate hope that he could get the owner to open the coffers again to bring further new blood in but this time Lerner remained resolute. I could do a whole piece about the why’s and wherefore’s of his departure. The players he wanted, the political wrangling behind the scenes, the Liverpool job etc. I don’t think that is for here though. It won’t interest you. And I know how litigious he can be.

    What we can say without question is that he bailed out on us five days before the start of the season. It left us with no time to find a replacement. No time for that replacement to work with the squad. No time for him to make his own signings. It has been debated to death on here as to whether this was a calculated act of spite, designed to cause maximum damage to our season or whether this was, in fact, simply when he realised he was not going to get what he wanted and walked as he did not believe he could therefore do the job justice.

    I suppose in summary it depends what you want as to how long you stick with him. Are you ever going to play free flowing, passing football? No you aren’t. With a couple more years, and plenty more money, you might find yourselves as regular mid table finishers who play decent, counter attacking stuff away from home but that is as far as he will take you . And what price do you put on those mid table finishes?

    Where you have a real issue is that he doesn’t seem the same bloke that was our manager. He made up for a lot of his tactical naivety with his ability to motivate players. He did very well last season but looked a pale shadow of the guy who breezed into Villa Park a few years ago. If he has lost his mojo for the job then you lose a lot of the good things he brings to the party.

    I hope it works out alright for you as I happen to think Sunderland are a decent club and, for all the things I take issue with over his time managing us, it is certainly not a case of it being all bad in his time here. Far from it. Just don’t expect him to go beyond his limitations and, whatever you do, keep a tight grip on expenditure.

    • Some food for thought there Cheltenhamlion and I think I need time to digest the implications of your comments added to those of Rob Mason under Sixer’s Soapbox thread.

      As things stand, although I have my concerns I still have confidence that MON can take the side upwards and onwards – at least I would have if the Reading game had been rearranged before we have to go to Everton and Fulham. I fear that after those two games, how we fare against WBA and QPR at home will define our season.

  13. Nice to see Villa fans chipping in here at length,obviously an emotional topic.I am frustrated at this season and the lack of ambition/entertainment shown by our team,but no way would consider wanting MON to go yet.

    I think he has learnt from his Villa days, that he cannot buy his way out of trouble,he is on a much shorter leash here,so I am not worried about that, although I can understand why Villa fans see him as wasting a golden opportunity.

    So with that worry aside MON just has to get his current crop to start performing to their actual levels.It may be different if we had a team of plodders but we haven’t.The team is well capable of much better…so there is definate hope that it can be done.Last season showed what can be achieved so we are not asking for the impossible here.My view is that the players are far too comfortable.Last year we had fear of relegation urging them on,but there is no fear to drive them on this year.It was encouraging to see him drop McClean on Saturday so he maybe is not so stuck to playing the same players week in, week out, as has been suggested.

    I’d say end of NOV will be a good indication of what will happen for the rest of the season.Though we still reserve the right to have a moan about performances where they are due,but it does not mean we want MON gone.
    .

  14. I worry about what’s happened when O’Neill has left previous clubs; we could do without another manager having limited success then leaving us with a long term mess, I just hope Ellis Short is a bit smarter than that. I would give him the season as I don’t think we’ll go down, not at all, but I can’t shake this nagging feeling we’ve made a mistake with him.

  15. Oneil is a very good man motivator but his tactics are out dated.. this isn’t the 80/ early 90’s..

    people say he got Villa to punch above there weight but i disagree.,.. the vast sums he spent meant we should be finishing 6th at the very least.. who else could finish above us Stoke Fulham Sunderland!!?? did they spend the sums we had.. even Everton managed to finish above us with limited funds..

    Oneils biggest problem is he buys from a very very small pool.. the britush market.. we were lucky that when he likes to play with his wide men the likes of Milner Young Downing were available.. but for those three players you look at Curtis Davies 9M..Cuellar 7M.. Luke Young 6M.. Shorey 3.5M.. Warnock 6M.. Dunne 6M.. Zat Knight 3.5M.. Collins 5M.. Habib Beye 3M.. That is an INCREDIBLE 50 MILLION spent on defenders in his time.. plus they were all on very very good wages.. and we recouped about 10M.. Dunne and Warnock will leave on free transfers at the end of season.. that is a STAGGERING 40M LOSS!!!

    In midfield he paid 5M for Sidwell and 8.5M both left for FREE and show the limited type of players he was looking for.. thats another 13.5M LOSS..

    Upfront i think summed up Oneil and his 80’s thinking.. this is the messiah that brought Marlon Harewood for 4M to a club chasing a chmapion lge dream..

    If the English game was flush with talent then Oneil would’ve been ok but sadly it isn’t and he couldn’t buy a foreign player even if his life depended on it..

    Some argue he got us to a League Cup final and an FA Cup final but you can flip that by saying Blues won the League Cup..the likes of Cardiff and Pompey enjoyed success in Cups too..

    I did enjoy Oneil being at VIlla for majority of the time but you are blinded by whats happening at times.. suddenly we realized we had a team that was going back wards.. check where our midfield and defenders mentioned are now.. and thus we needed another big injection of transfer fees and wages to bring in another crop of over priced British players..

    ONeil wasted our GREATEST ever spending spree.. Sunderland are very lucky he can’t do the same to you!!!

  16. Please don’t be fooled by MON. He has been, and probably still is, very good at man management but tactically and in the transfer market he is severly lacking! On top of that the worst thing he did to the Villa was walk out on them a week before the season started because he couldn’t get his own way in a situation he had known about for three months!

  17. Must admit to O’Neill breathing new live into Villa when he arrived, but by the third season, it was obvious that there were limitations to his ability to change the playing style/tactics when needed.

    We had some superb wins, followed by several games that can only be described as dross, and excursion into Europe was a massive blot on his footballing credentials, I think that failure is known to all.

    Also, his transfer policy is open to question, this is the manger who sold Gary Cahill cheaply, because he thought he was not good enough, Cahill himself thought he was, and has gone on to prove that confidence was justified. To add, Cahill was replace by Zat Knight, one of the worst centre backs I have ever seen in a claret and blue shirt.

    Admittedly he did find a couple of decent players, Ash Young being the best, but these were outnumbered by players with limited ability, and under achievers, such as, Routledge, Agathe, Harewood, Sidwell, Shorey, to name a few, and the biggest joke of all, Moustapha Salifou!

    So as the money for transfers ran out, O’Neill did the same and unforgivably ran out on our club. Be Warned!

  18. Yeah, O’Neill really is still putting HIS team together. He’s had slightly less than a year to undo the damage Bruce took more than two years to inflict. We may be in 16th place right now but the points spread immediately above isn’t that great. There’s still time and breathing space.

  19. Hi Colin, Villa fan here. What MON did with us was commendable, and we punched way above our weight in my humble opinion. In the three seasons we finished sixth we came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders with Young, Carew and Agbonlahor excelling in the counter attacking style he likes so much. Every year after Xmas though it fell apart and the players just weren’t fit enough physically or mentally to cope with the last half of the season. We had better performances away from home to be honest throughout his tenure and and a lot of the games served up at Villa Park were uninspiring to say the least. His ways of putting an arm around a player and geeing him up is limited in modern football. At villa he spent an awful lot of money on very average to poor players an put them on huge salaries too without a thought for the club and its finances, he won’t get this at Sunderland as they aren’t as naive as Lerner was at the start of his ownership, so he won’t be able to buy himself out of trouble. Most of us are grateful for the years we had under him but anyone with an inkling of football knowledge could see we were far from the Champions League material he kept telling Lerner we were and knew he had reached the limit of his ability. We were the fourth biggest spenders in the league for three seasons and kept finishing sixth. Everton just behind us or just above us did it on a shoestring and Redknapp at Spurs did CL for less outlay in less time. Once he thinks his CV is in danger of getting a blot on it he will walk and leave you in the shite. I hope not as I like Sunderland and their support, great English football club in my eyes, but his history suggests he will ….. ask Norwich or Leicester fans.

  20. As a Villa fan I must say that I for one was sad to see O’Neill go. When you consider who came in to replace him (Houllier and then the appalling McLeish) it made me pine for him even more. Football fans have very short memories. Whilst he did have his bad points we finished as high as we’re relaistically ever going to (6th) three years on the spin. That is impressive no matter how much he spent. Its also easy to forget the good players he signed, Young, Downing, Milner, Carew etc.. They were outstanding players for us and don’t forget he was the first manager to play Gareth Barry in centre mid. A masterstroke.

    O’Neill will sort Sunderland out I have no doubt. From what I saw of Saturdays match he needs to get your creative players working. Johnson for example was effectively marked out of the game by three (yes three!) very inexperienced left backs. He’s much better than that as are many of your other attacking players. It will come just give him time. At the end of the day would you realistically be able to get anyone better and I ask that with the greatest possible repsect?

    • Good point, and those players you mentioned eventually went on to play for England. Something they may not have done if MON hadn’t managed them. One of the good points of MON is that he is a good man manager and has the potential to get the best out of players.

  21. A change of manager is often [statistically] not the answer. Look at the clubs who’ve tried it, eg: Blackburn, QPR, Bolton… even Liverpool.
    Its seldom the answer. We’ve just got to give MON time. MON didn’t buy this team, Bruce did. I think MON would have liked more physical size and more pace in the team. So, he’s really working with a team that isn’t his (yet).

    I think it would take someone absolutely top class to make Sunderland a significant top six team. I can’t think of any manager better than MON who is currently out there (except perhaps Redknapp, but he’s going to be expensive and he like to spend big too.)

    After Kean and Bruce (both of whom spent huge), we need to calm down a little and give MON some time.

    • Totally agree with you Ian . Let us all calm down and give MON a chance. He has is a good manager and will turn it around.If he was to go who would replace him. I doubt we could find someone with a better pedigree.

  22. There is a clear recognition of much of what is being said here about loyalty to certain players. That loyalty seems to be key to the way he goes about things even when that obvious loyalty is a nonsense, combined with the exclusion of others which goes hand in hand with that.

    It may well be early to be shouting for his head, but were it anyone else with such a frankly horrible record of results there would be a clear and loud element of our fan base wanting him out. I didn’t think we played too badly on Saturday but going into this game with only 12 efforts on target all season in the league tells its own sorry tale. He may think that the formation and selection he is using is the best he has available. After almost 12 months in charge he needs to be doing better than this and at least give some other squad members the chance to show what they can do. That may mean swallowing his own pride but it may also mean that we can win once in a while.

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