The manager and owner of the Birmingham-based club are due to discuss their summer plans in three weeks after a season in which Villa have again taken strides forward.
Waving goodbye? O'Neill says he hopes to be at Villa next season
But with speculation mounting that O'Neill and Villa could part company after the Northern Irishman' s outburst following the 7-1 defeat by Chelsea last month, the 58-year-old has hit out at suggestions that he might leave the club, insisting he has done more than enough to warrant being kept on.
'You have asked me a question about whether I'll be here nextseason,' he said ahead of Wednesday's trip to Hull. 'I would reallyhope to be. I think I've earned that right. As far as I'm concernedit's straightforward.'
It was different picture to when O'Neill suggested three weeks agothat any hint of dissatisfaction among fans or owner might lead to hisexit after his four years in charge.
'People make judgments and calls and I will see if the Villa fansare disgruntled with it. I will then see if the chairman, who has a bigsay in proceedings, agrees with that. There are people with a big say.I include Villa fans, the chairman and myself in that.
'If this season has turned out pretty well, great. If it hasn't, Iwill sit and assess things then with my employer, the chairman.'
During yesterday's press briefing, it was as if that incident hadnever happened. Quite what has altered the O'Neill mindset is unclear.
Villa's manager was also on the front foot with respect to prizedassets James Milner and Ashley Young. After suggesting last weekend theclub could double their money on the former and cash in too on thelatter, he had a far different message.
Going nowhere: O'Neill insists Milner will not be leaving at the end of the season
O'Neill will discuss an improved deal with Milner after the WorldCup but insists that, despite reported interest from the two Manchesterclubs, he does not need to sell.
'It's not in the interests of Aston Villa Football Club to try andsell our players,' he said. 'James has not asked me about anything. Notjust James, but there is a whole host of people who have two years leftand I've not had the time to sit down with them.
'I would like to keep players here as long as possible. Some othersyou have to let go. That's not the case with the players we have here.Gareth Barry was a different matter. He only had one year left on hiscontract.
'Nobody here has asked to leave, and the progress we have made herethis season suggests that not only the players themselves but the clubalso are going in the right direction.'
WHAT IS RANDY LERNER'S RELATIONSHIP LIKE WITH MARTIN O'NEILL?
Strained relationship: Villa owner Randy Lerner
Certainly cooler than it was four years ago. It's been documentedthat the pair had a major falling out during January when the managerasked for the funds to add another two players to his squad. Sincethen, they have made up. But it is never wise to take on yourbillionaire owner. Lerner's dealings at his American footballfranchise, the Cleveland Browns, show that he is not to be takenlightly. He tore up a sponsorship contract with a radio station afterit broadcast a report that he felt slighted his family. Only afourth-place finish would render O'Neill bomb-proof, although it's hardto know what Aston Villa's fans expect after Europa League football,the Carling Cup final and a controversial defeat in the FA Cupsemi-final as well as a shot at the top four - which still has anoutside chance.
WHAT WAS BEHIND O'NEIL'S OUTBURST IN WHICH HE SAID HE COULD QUIT THIS SUMMER?
The media would like to take credit for their forensic examinationof the manager after the seven-goal rout by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.The truth is that O'Neill offered up that whole justification of hisprevious four years in charge without prompting. When asked to clarifyby this reporter, O'Neill said he had 'articulated himself succinctly'.Perhaps he had decided that a straight challenge to Lerner's authoritywa not such a good idea after all. The fact is, his comments read likea man explaining to potential suitors why he was the ideal candidatefor any up-coming vacancy.
WHY ARE THE FANS SPLIT OVER WHETHER OR NOT O'NEILL HA S DONE A GOOD JOB?
Message boards on fans' sites are deeply divided. Some see O'Neillas a man who has won trophies and will do again. Others see the club asrunning along the right lines and do not want to rock the boatunnecessarily. And then there are those who think he has been givenenough time and £120m to warrant greater improvement. (His net spend isaround £80m.) The Moscow debacle last season really upset Villa's coresupport. It was noticeable against Everton last week that the Holte Endhad to chant his name four times, ending with 'Martin, give us a wave,'before their cries were answered. O'Neill believes he has done a goodjob. There are clearly those among Villa's support who disagree.
Heads, you win: Heskey has found the back of the net just six times this season
WHY WAS EMILE HESKEY SIGNED?
The arrival of the big centre forward came on the back ofO'Neill punishing John Carew over his infamous lap-dancing exploits thenight before the Ajax game in the UEFA Cup. He sought a target man asan alternative to the inconsistent Norwegian and Heskey was available.At that time, his former protege's star was rising at Wigan and hisinternational career had also been re-kindled. Given that, and the factthat Gabby Agbonlahor was running defences ragged, the logic is hard toargue with. Unfortunately for O'Neill, Carew returned to fitness and hehad to leave one of his big men out. He favoured Heskey and that faithhas not been repaid, albeit not through lack of effort. But Carew isback in and Heskey's World Cup hopes are under threat.
WHY DOES THE MANAGER NOT HAVE ANY FAITH IN HIS FRINGE PLAYERS?
Difficult to answer, particularly as O'Neill has shaped Villa'ssquad as he has seen fit. His reliance on the same group has been usedas a stick to beat him with.
Replacement? Ex-City boss Mark Hughes
But the way he sees it, he was pilloriedfor chopping and changing against CSKA Moscow. When he tries to dolikewise in the Barclays Premier League, against Chelsea, Villa shipseven. Thus (in the manager's eyes) he is damned if he does, and damnedif he doesn't. Whether that argument bears scrutiny is another matter.However, the late Brian Clough showed O'Neill no favours on the eve ofthe 1979 European Cup final. It is unlikely any of his squad hasreceived an apology. You have to earn the manager's respect at Villa.
IF O'NEILL GOES, WHO IS LIKELY TO COME IN?
Mark Hughes has been at the centre of most speculation. The formerWales and Blackburn boss could consider himself unlucky to lose his jobat Manchester City. His medals as a player are a match for most in thegame, he is forthright with the media and unafraid to take on thebiggest of his managerial opponents. Tongues have wagged recently,particularly as Hughes's former No 2, Mark Bowen, watched the Evertongame at Villa Park.
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