Martin O’Neill was very matter of fact about his return to Villa Park today – it would be easy to snipe but I’ll return the favour as best I can.
Speaking to the press following the game, he said simply:
‘I think it’s a very natural reaction considering I’ve gone two years and they’ve never known my reasons for leaving. I was expecting it and I got it.’
Whilst ‘his reasons’ appear to be pretty obvious for those who also look at ‘off pitch matters’ he is correct with the assertion that we’ve never directly heard his side of events. Maybe we will one day and those of us who have speculated can see how close to the middle ground we got, but it’s not really something to discuss at length again now I would suggest. It has afterall been done to death numerous times!
What O’Neill did discuss was the timing of his departure though, saying simply:
‘With the idea that I left them in the lurch, I apologise maybe for leaving five days before the start of the season.’
Would have made a much more sincere impact without the word ‘maybe’ unfortunately. But it’s akin to the apology fans received following the Moscow surrender, so probably par for the course and I’d imagine most will be happy that he did at least address the timing issue.
He also adds, which does partially muddy history slightly:
‘I came to this club a fortnight before the season started with a team that had almost been relegated the previous year. The timing was not great five or six days before the start of the season but I think the team I left behind was infinitely better than the team I started with.’
Yes he did join officially in roughly that time frame, but his previous discussions with both Doug Ellis and Randy Lerner allowed him additional time to plan before taking charge – hence the Stan transfer being sanctioned pre Randy’s take over being completed.
The squad he inherited also finished pretty strongly the season previous to DOL’s meltdown, and whilst I don’t disagree the squad he left on paper was superior to the one he inherited (after the spending that should in fact be a given), if we use that logic that it was a relegation worry squad he inherited because of one season, then given our last two seasons made up of the players he brought to the club (this season less so than Houllier’s season obviously) if we focus on whether a team is capable of being relegated – it’s a struggle to accept the phrase ‘infinity better’.
What nobody can argue on really and extremely unfortunately is the fact that we as a club have failed to take what was good about Martin as a manager and build on that, whilst finding better at what he was bad at.
Had we done that, everybody would be laughing.
Sunderland Match Thread
Given so much of the discussion about O’Neill centers on transfers, spending and wages, Vital Villans might also have an interest in two threads on the forum.
McLeish In The Market
O’Neill In The Market
Ending the interview I’ve seen, O’Neill added:
‘Listen, in the scheme of things it’s a sideshow today and the main event is the two teams. It will always be that.’
And he’s right of course, admiration/revenge when it comes to former managers or former players are for the fans to get excited about, sadly today the team didn’t get the 3 points they had to target and that’s what history will record.
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