Shocking news for Villa fans. Martin O'Neill resigns as coach five days before the season begins. Really poor timing and calculated to hurt too.
It seems Randy Lerner's decision to sell to buy policy could have sparked the decision making the availability of transfer funds dependent on the James Milner sale to City. Ashley Young was also rumoured to be on the transfer pipeline. Leaving O'Neill in the untenable position off selling of his best players to attract cheaper talent. There also appears to be the possibility that O'Neill was suspicious that all the sale money would not be available for buying players.
Last season, they lost Gareth Barry to the same club. A loss they were never able to adequately replace.
O'Neill believed that an investment of about £30m each summer was needed just to keep the club in its present state but Lerner and the Villa board believed that they had paid out enough in transfer fees and wages for players who had not quite panned out as planned. These include Curtis Davies (£8m), Nigel Reo-Coker (£7m), Steven Sidwell (£5m), Nicky Shorey (£3.5m), Emile Heskey (£3.5m) and Habib Beye (£2.5m).
The wrangling between Lerner and O'Neill almost led to the former Celtics manager handing in his resignation this summer.
A few other factors: Villa had improved tremendously under O'Neill but they always were a small squad leaving them vulnerable to injuries.
A pattern of fast starts and momentum building victories especially against bigger clubs would lead to belief Villa would crack the top four but then would come an inevitable second half swoon and the season would fizzle out to leave them in a more disappointing position than envisaged.
There were also rumbles from Lerner that for all the money invested in the players the club did not show the commensurate improvement as expected. O'Neill also seemed frustrated at times with the club's performances especially towards the end.
Kevin McDonald, the assistant coach will take over in the interim. This is what O'Neill had to say:
"I would like to pay tribute to the Villa players, my coaching staff and the Villa supporters for all the support and encouragement they have given both the club and me personally during my time as manager."
He will leave with immediate effect.
"I wish them all the best for the future. I will obviously be assisting the club in the immediate short-term with regard to the handover of my duties."
An uncertain financial climate is driving owners of smaller clubs to tighten their belts and become transfer activists. Gianfranco Zola's position within West Ham was similarly undermined when David Sullivan and David Gold put all the players up for sale except Scott Parker. So expect more of these tensions as coaches are handed instructions to balance checkbooks while producing results.