News of Martin O’Neill’s sudden resignation from Aston Villa came as a huge surprise to many people. But for Villa owner Randy Lerner, the move made business sense. This was due to the fact that the club was operating on a large transfer deficit following heavy investment in new players without seeing much money coming in and an increasingly large wage bill at the club which O’Neill was slowly losing a grip on.
During his four year tenure as Aston Villa boss, Martin O’Neill has spent big money on transfers into Villa Park while recouping only very little of his total outlay. In his first season at Villa, O’Neill spent £15.25 million on Ashley Young, Stiliyan Petrov and Shaun Maloney while only receiving £1.95 million from the sale of Kevin Phillips, Peter Whittingham and Mathieu Berson. O’Neill’s second season saw a more balanced transfer activity at Villa Park but O’Neill still spent big on players that would prove to be only fringe players at the club. In his second season, O’Neill spent a whopping £8 million on Nigel Reo-Coker and around £4 million on Marlon Harewood from West Ham while selling Gary Cahill who has matured into an excellent centre half at Bolton.
O’Neill’s third year at Villa proved to be the most expensive during his time at the club. The 2008-2009 season saw the Northern Irishman bring in no less than 10 players for a total estimated sum of £48 million.
Overall, O’Neill has spent roughly £118.6 million on new players compared to £38.5 million recouped from players sold. This leaves an £80.1 million transfer deficit that has been amassed by O’Neill in his four year reign at the club. While this kind of deficit may be manageable for the super-rich of Manchester City and Chelsea, it is not for Aston Villa.
As a result of O’Neill’s expenditure on players, the wage bill at Villa has become enormous. According to The Guardian, the wage bill has increased by 42% to £71 million due in no small part to the huge wages that some of the squad players like Nigel Reo-Coker, Steve Sidwell and Emile Heskey are on.
The main reason given for O’Neill’s departure was that the chairman and the manager “no longer shared a common view as to how to move forward”. O’Neill was reportedly looking for assurances that the money generated from the sale of James Milner would be available to him to improve the squad; something that the chairman could evidently not give him following O’Neill’s history of high spending.
O’Neill has done many good things for Aston Villa. He revitalised the fortunes of the club following David O’Leary’s disappointing 16th place finish the season before O’Neill took over. He has established Villa as a perennial top flight team, doing so with a large contingent of British players. It remains to be seen who the next permanent Aston Villa manager will be but whoever he is, he will have to ensure that he shares “the common view of how to move [the club] forward”
(Thanks to Vital Aston Villa for providing the details on O’Neill’s signings).