Lerner happy to give O'Neill assurances
Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner says he had to give assurances to Martin O'Neill that his own commitment to the club has remained undiminished. Lerner confirmed in his annual media briefing at Villa Park that O'Neill will be remaining as manager with the midlands club for a fifth successive season. But the American multi-millionaire had to make it clear to O'Neill that he remained focused and ambitious to try and take the club to the next level after three successive top-six finishes in the Premier League. Lerner said: "He asked specifically, 'where are you at Randy? You've been at it four years, what is on your mind?' "He wanted to know that. We had that talk on a couple of occasions. "I hope (Villa can fulfil his ambitions). I know what his ambitions are. Those are something you live with. You know where that person wants to go." Lerner also feels that sheer spending power alone is not a guarantee of securing Champions League football. He said: "The ambition and appetite to compete for the top four, qualify for Europe, is alive and as well as it has ever been. "Exactly how to do that is a bit more of an open question than simply spend to get there. "If that was simply the case, then the composition of the top four might be slightly different. "Exactly what the path is, and whether it is as brutally raw as spending more to get there, is an open question in my mind but I don't really have a tidy answer. "I think there are other strengths that yield the likelihood of getting there - like continuity of your manager, being able to target a player, bring him along and have him acknowledged as (PFA) Young Player of the Year like James Milner." O'Neill will be looking to revamp his squad this summer and the likes of Curtis Davies, Luke Young, Nigel Reo-Coker, Steve Sidwell, Nicky Shorey and Habib Beye will be available to leave if the price is right. The Villa manager held talks with players' representatives and agents in London on Tuesday as he starts to prepare for the new campaign. Lerner said: "(O'Neill and chief operating officer Brian Faulkner) have met with agents and it is about trying to understand the state of mind of the player, what is possible, and deal with it." Lerner is also adamant there was no disagreement with O'Neill over transfer dealing during the January transfer window ahead of unfounded speculation that the pair had fallen out. He said: "There was not a difference of opinion. "Like all periods when you have business to do, there is debate and discussion. To elevate it to a difference of opinion would be an overstatement. "Martin was not stopped from signing players in January. At no point was Martin told 'don't bring in players or don't spend on players'."
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