His comments that "everything" will be assessed when this campaign draws to a close have not caused undue concern, it was said, because he makes a review at the end of every season in accordance with his yearly rolling contract.
Aston Villas Martin ONeill disappointed by poor start to pre-seasonThe spotlight has been trained specifically on whether O'Neill can expect funding to improve his squad. Sources last night insisted O'Neill has been backed every step of the way, and gave the reminder that Randy Lerner publicly revealed his intention to reduce spending last May. Yet whether O'Neill was given funds during January remains a sore, and unanswered question.
While the club insist they are unmoved by O'Neill's comments, there were steps taken behind the scenes on Thursday night to assist in their interpretation for those who might have got the wrong end of the stick. Villa released a statement, eight hours after the original press conference, in which O'Neill called reports suggesting he will review his future "perplexing".
It has cued a variety of conspiracy theories, the most sensible of which have it that O'Neill was either giving himself a get out clause in case Lerner kicked up a fuss, or that key figures had heard of the story and insisted action be taken. Take your pick; O'Neill might be idiosyncratic, but he knew what he was saying.
Sadly, all this obscures the fact that seven league games remain of the season, not to mention an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea a week today. The players have been conveniently ignored this week (a more far-fetched theory doing the rounds is that O'Neill had this in mind all along), but how they respond to their 7-1 defeat to Chelsea, against Bolton this afternoon, will offer some signposting of what is to come.
News that John Carew trained yesterday will be met with considerable relief, for it was feared a back injury might rule the Norwegian striker out which, on his current form, would have been a severe blow. Still, the overall fitness of the squad remains a matter of some debate, especially after John Terry stirred the pot by revealing that Chelsea?s management had told their players to expect Villa to run out of juice after an hour of play.
It was a suggestion to which O'Neill reacted furiously. "The truth is that it doesn't stand up," he said. "In the previous game against Sunderland we were pressing. And we scored in the 83rd minute against Wolves. My own view is that it's a pretty idle comment. I don't accept it. If people are interested in statistics, we are one of the fittest sides in the Premier League."