General Charles C Krulak has launched a staunch defence of Villa owner Lerner in an attempt to set the record straight over the Irishman's walk-out on Monday.
On his way: O'Neill walked out on Aston Villa on Monday, just five days before the start of the new season
The non-executive director confirmed Sportsmail's story yesterdaythat rampant wage rises was the main source of friction between theAmerican billionaire and his manager.
It also emerged yesterday that members of O'Neill's playing staff were not exactly unhappy either about the news that the Irishman ended his four-year stay at the club.
Fair crack: O'Neill paid £11million for Davies but fell out of favour with the former Villa boss
And, in a further snub to the former Villa boss, it seems thatLerner is now willing to press ahead with the sale of James Milner toManchestr City, in a swap deal involving Stephen Ireland.
TheCity player's representatives were involved in a meeting at Villa Parkyesterday. But it is Krulak's attack that will strike a chord.
TheVietnam veteran claimed the manager was out of step with theboard. Writing on a fans' web-site, Krulak said: 'There is absolutelyno question that Martin did a good deal for Villa and I have said, overand over, that I felt he did a fine job. But no one person is biggerthan Aston Villa Football Club.not Randy, not me, not chief executivePaul Faulkner and not Martin.
'What is interesting is that onlythree of those named understand that fact. 'Martin O'Neill knew andunderstood the long range plans for Aston Villa and bought into them.He knew full well about the need to bring wages in line with revenue.the same as all clubs.
'He was supported absolutely by the owner. All the fans need to dois look at the money spent over time. The reality is that the wageissue was not addressed and Martin was apparently unwilling to helpaddress it, so he quit.'
Krulak's outburst was an attempt to re-dress a balance he felt wasslanted towards O'Neill following the surprising events earlier thisweek.
Villa players reacted yesterday to O'Neill's shockdeparture. Defender Curtis Davies, who slipped out of favour afterO'Neill paid £11million for him from West Bromwich Albion, said: 'Am Iglad to see the back of him? That's a bit harsh. But as long as someonecomes in who is fair, then I'm sure we will be happy.'
Davieswas not alone in being a player who had fallen out of favour withO'Neill. According to sources, O'Neill had not spoken to defender LukeYoung in three months. Davies added: 'Lots of players were frustratedlast season.'
Krulak was also annoyed at the timing ofO'Neill's exit coming as it did five days before the start of a newBarclays Premier League campaign.
'No-one thinks that appointing a new manager will be easy,' he said. 'But we have four days before our first game and rushing out to get a new manager just to have someone on the sidelines is not something we would want to do.
'One of the sad things about this whole affair is that Martin quit when he did.'We recognise the appointment of a new manager is a critical decision and one that needs to be made sooner rather than later. But it needs to be made in a manner that gets the right man.'
Milner's move to Manchester City remains on course and is due to becompleted tomorrow. What is interesting, however, is that Lerner andhis chief executive have taken the decision to finalise the move forIreland. Milner's medical should be sorted out on Thursday and Villaare also now close to agreeing a £17m-plus-player deal with theManchester City midfielder moving in the opposite direction.
Caretakermanager Kevin MacDonald met Lerner yesterday and O'Neill's assistants,John Robertson and Steve Walford, are expected to agree severance dealswith the club.
A shortlist to replace O'Neill has beendrawn up, but the Villa owner is determined to look beyond the obviouscandidates before appointing the Irishman's successor.
Enlarge Sources close to the American multi-millionaire indicate he would like the new man in place for Villa's second Premier League clash at Newcastle on August 22.
MacDonald will be in charge for the league opener at home to West Ham on Saturday and he could also be at the helm for next Thursday's Europa League tie at Rapid Vienna if the new boss has not been appointed.
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