When they reached the F.A Cup final last year, after defeating Manchester United on penalties, Everton looked like they may finally be about to win some silverware, silverware that many believed to be overdue. They did not and David Moyes continues in his quest for a trophy. Another manager in a similar predicament is Aston Villa’s Martin O’Neill.
Aston Villa are a club with a rich history. The midlands club were a dominant force in the early 80’s, lifting the league title in 1980 and the European Cup in 1982, yet since these triumphs silverware has been sparse. Villa have been limited to two League Cup victories in the mid-90’s and in my opinion find themselves in a similar situation that Everton, where they will want to deliver success sooner rather than later.
The last few campaigns have seen a rise in performances and results for Villa. Martin O’Neill took the reins at the club in the summer of 2006 and since then he has seen his side challenge for a Champions League spot as well as progress in the UEFA Cup (progress that was hindered by the Champions League plans). It is no secret that O’Neill has spent an considerable amount of money since becoming Aston Villa manager, with high profile signings such as the £8 million Ashley Young and £12 million James Milner, therefore it begs the question, is it time that O’Neill started delivering results in the form of silverware?
There is no doubt that as each season goes by competition for trophies becomes greater. Sides from the ‘big four’ such as Arsenal and Liverpool become hungrier for success, hoping to end baron spells of a few trophyless years and this no doubt makes it harder for clubs such as Aston Villa and Everton. Yet Martin O’Neill knows what the success of silverware can do to a club and is desperate to end this period of underachievement with Aston Villa. O’Neill is likely to target the two domestic trophies this year as potential success, with a first League Cup success since 1996 a more than realistic option for the Irishman, who won the competition twice during his time at Leicester City. “The history of this club would suggest we should be contesting more semi-finals and finals than they have done in the last 25 years. Brian Little did very well [when he was manager in 1996]. I remember him telling me that to win that was really terrific and the feeling that was felt throughout the whole club was energising. At Leicester when we did it, it was a great feeling for everyone at the club, not just the manager, the players were particularly excited by it and obviously the fans; it is great to win something. You ask the old Leicester players, and it does wonders for your confidence and your whole morale and it would be just the same this time.”
Villa without question have the squad to compete with the big sides in domestic competitions and have already shown this season that on their day they can beat any side, notably coming from behind to beat a Chelsea side who have been very impressive this season. I believe that O’Neill could definitely be the man to end the Villa drought and a friend of mine informs me he is very popular at Villa Park so may be given a decent amount of time to do so. However O’Neill will most certainly look to begin tonight, as he takes his Villa side south for quarter final Carling Cup tie with Avram Grant’s Portsmouth. It is a tie that Villa will be optimistic about winning, with Pompey lacking several first team players such as Jamie O’Hara and Kevin Prince-Boateng. A victory tonight will send O’Neill’s side into a first domestic semi final since 2004 and it may give them the spark needed to drive them onto silverware.