Date: 25th May 2009 at 10:38am
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Make or break time for Martin O’Neill

Another season done and dusted and a strange season in was in many respects. First half well exceeded my expectations, second half fell well short of them. Which pretty much sums up my divided view of Martin O’Neill – is he brilliant or is he an idiot? A brilliant idiot perhaps, like one of those autistic types that can’t tie their shoelaces but can solve hugely complex mathematical problems in seconds. After over three years in charge I really don’t know, I still find MON an enigma.

Two top-six finishes must say something, the man is obviously doing something right, but whatever it is seems handicapped, dragged down, by MON’s weaknesses – his timidy and lack of imagination in the transfer market, his schoolboy tactics and his almost insane team selections.

Last season I think his blank refusal to drop Carson cost us fifth place, since January he has persisted with the ineptitude of Heskey and Gabby and refused to return to the 4-3-3 system that worked so well. Meanwhile Sidwell, Gardner and Fonz remained bit-players. Perhaps Albrighton could have made a similar impact as the young Lee Hendrie. We will never know. Again we lost out to Everton for fifth, an Everton who were in crisis last summer, Moyes stalling on contract talks and the chairman offering to sell the club to any passing Arab or Russian billionaire. An Everton, moreover, who were without a recognised striker for half the season.

As far as the media are concerned we have had another successful season, (or over-achievement, as some of the London press claim), all down to O’Neill’s genius. As fans we can see things a little deeper but also we feel things a little sharper, it is easy to be over critical. I remain happy with the general direction of the club, we only have to look at the shambles at Newcastle and the continued under-achievement of Spurs to see things could be a whole lot worse.

For me, and I am sure for many of you, this summers transfer activity and the 2009-10 season will once and for all decide my opinion on Martin O’Neill and perhaps even define his career as a manager. He himself called our exit from Uefa ‘a debacle’ and I’m pleased he used those words because our lame surrender to CSKA must have hurt him as it did us. He has stated time and again the need to enhance the quality of the squad, so he knows as well as we do what needs to be done. Everton may have been in crisis last summer but they still managed to buy Fellaini for £15m which is considerably more than Aston Villa have ever spent on a single player. Spending big doesn’t necessarily bring results (ask Spurs or Man City) but then neither does ‘bargain’ buys such as Emile Heskey.

There will be numerous threads about who we should buy, what we need, the effect of losing Laursen and probably Barry, (nevermind the possibility of receiving a huge offer for Ashley Young) I’m not going into all that, I have written enough. It’s time for you Mr O’Neill to finally define yourself as either a top manager or a talented but fatally flawed one. He is hugely ambitious, he wants to be up there with Ferguson and Wenger and most of all his idol Brian Clough. Well Martin, to use a well-worn cliché, it’s now or never.

I hope he realises it.


13 Replies to “Make Or Break Time For Martin O’Neill”

  • Good article. Except we have been saying “this window is vital for MON ” for to long. I think we know what were going to get. an unknown who will flop , re( Cuellar, Salifou) 1 big name, and a couple of £4m players.

    Its time to get off the fence, for all his good work in stabilizing the club – he is pretty crap in the transfer market. For me he leaves it all far to late – then ends up paying way over for dross.

    I don’t think we are going any further with MON – and I expect to be gone by Christmas.

  • fantastic article, sums up my feelings brilliantly… This summer is massive and next season will surely define MON?

  • Thanks guys. You’re right Yatsey, we do need a few of those Fellaini-type signings, such players exist and are within Villa’s capabilities to accquire. But MON’s knowledge of continental players remains questionable. This risk-averse manager needs to start spreading his net wider, home grown players will only take us so far. I sincerely hope Martin now realises this, I suspect he does. We shall soon see.

  • A superb analysis of our current situation. This next transfer window is certainly make or break for Martin O’Neill in more ways than one. Not only does he have to bring in players who will significantly enhance the team, but it must be a sufficient number of players who are one position specialists together with a top class back up. In addition I would suggest that he makes every attempt to bring these players in early in the transfer window. This is so he does not have the problem he had last year, namely, trying to fit in two or three late arrivals into the team when the pre-season training is virtually over. I still believe that Martin is capable of doing the job that all us avid supporters wish him to do. One other thought, Martin O’Neill is intensely loyal to Randy Lerner and his team, do we really know what constraints, if any, have been put on MON’s ability to deal in the transfer market. Perhaps the good General will give us an honest steer on this?

  • General not allowed to talk about transfers any more Obediah after he burnt his fingers last summer…..!

  • Excelent article, I agree, the next trasfer window, and then the run into christmas, and if we get very far in the Europa League! If all that fails, he will be gone by this time next summer.

  • Why is it make or break? We have continually improved and stabilised near the top. We have improved in order not to go backwards and we are in Europe again. We will strengthen but we must remember that we have been ****e for years and we will build steadily, our improvement has been rapid so far.

  • koolbill – Stabilsed? Last ten games weren’t that rock steady. My point is MON’s failure in the transfer market arguably cost the club upwards of a 100 million depending on how well we could of gone in the champions league?? Yes we have made good progress but after this season I’m left with more of a ‘what could of been’ feeling.

  • Good article but I agree with koolbill. It is not make or break in any way shape or form. We do not know the finances of the club and for all we know M’ON may have a very limited budget to spend. For any fan to say they know for sure how much we can spend, is talking rubbish. Man Citeh spent £120m (that is right, £120m this season) and finished well below us. We are competing against 4 teams whose fans generate significantly more revenue for their club than we do (so those who are on here saying it is make or break, I hope you all put your money where your mouth is). In addition they benefit from the millions generated by Champions League. For their failings this year, Man citeh will compete at the very top next season, especially as they do not have the distraction of Europe. In 12 years at the Arse, Wengers net spend each season is just under £6m (that is why he is probably the best manager in the league). World finances have changed significantly since Randy took over, and what may have been the plan 3 years ago may well have been significantly revised. We are not privvy to this information. In a jumbled up way, I am saying that it is wrong to be stating that this year is make or break. There are many many factors that will determine what will determine as to what represents success next season. And as for saying, M’ON will be gone by Christmas or next summer???? are you bluenoses in disguise?? Who do you think would do a better job? Do you want the club back into the Ellis years scenario, of changing managers of every time we take a dip in form? The year after Moyes took bluescouse in to the champions League, they had to fight a relegation battle. Did that make him a bad Manager? And how glad are they that they supported him when the going got tough? There is way to much ‘here and now’ and it is ‘now or never’. M’ON is not God and has made mistakes. But he has earned the right to make those mistakes and should be given all the time to improve this club. If he buys 5 unknown players for £1m each to boost the squad and we come 10th, but he sells them all for £10m each and the following year we come in the top 2 or 3 with the money reinvested, who is to say that 10th is not a success. Everything is relative. To say ‘make or break’ is to actually show how little you know about how football and business in general is conducted.

  • To be honest now that it’s all over I might be glad that we didn’t qualify for the Champions League as it’s too early and I have patience. We have already proven we don’t have sufficient strength in depth at this time for a European campaign and a top four push. If we had finished 4th we would have been a marked club next season, everyone other team wanting europe would see us as the weak link, the team to beat. Every team would like to beat the ‘big four’ in a game but often see the current lot as too far ahead and play defensively to get a point, and we saw how well we coped against sides who put 10men behind the ball at Villa Park this season, and on the other hand we would possibly become what other teams see as an achievable big scalp make most league games like a cup final. Getting a top four finish is difficult but what people forget is that keeping it will be much much harder, gambles will need to be taken and look what has happened to Leeds and Newcastle (I know we would never be that stupid). I would be happy with further squad development and another 5th/6th next season WITH an extended european campaign, we need to prove that we can handle the games and intensity that comes with being the top 4 club we WILL become

  • My concern is that next season isn’t make or break for O’Neill. I can’t see anything other than decline next season – though if Gareth Barry stays, there’s always the chance we can sneak a top six finish. But I don’t think Lerner has the football know-how to see that O’Neill can’t take us any further, and worse, will be responsible for us dropping back. How far we drop back only time will tell. But it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. The course is set, and we’ll see where we end up next season.

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