Martin O'Neill to remain as Aston Villa manager
Martin O'Neill will remain as Aston Villa manager, his chairman Randy Lerner has confirmed, so drawing a line under weeks of speculation that the 58 year-old was on the verge of a departure. 'Martin will be back next year,' Lerner said. 'It has been settled." In his annual briefing with the media, the American accepted that there had been debate, sometimes heated, in January, a time when squad reinforcement was required before an exhausting second half of the season, but he stressed that it never escalated into an argument, and 'at no point was [O'Neill] told not to spend on players.' O'Neill's promise of commitment comes after the pair held positive talks on Tuesday regarding the club's direction. As part of the agreement that sees O'Neill extend his rolling contract by another year, Lerner has agreed to bolster the squad to keep them competitive at the upper echelons of the Premier League. Although the club does not have the finances to purchase, for example, a £30 million striker ("that sort of deal would be outside of our means,' Lerner said), there will be investment. 'I gave him the assurance that I wanted to take the team forward,' Lerner revealed. 'We are not shutting the door on spending on players, [but] I think there's a sell to buy policy in nearly every organisation on the planet.' It will require a process of fine-tuning which O'Neill began this week. As revealed by Telegraph Sport, O'Neill and the chief operating officer Paul Faulkner have held talks in London with a number of agents representing peripheral squad players to clear the way for their departure. It is understood that Villa will listen to offers on Curtis Davies, Nigel Reo-Coker, Steve Sidwell, Luke Young, Habib Beye and Nicky Shorey. However, Lerner promised that he will do 'everything' to keep James Milner, and said he was not concerned by speculation linking the midfielder to a number of clubs, including Manchester United. It is an encouraging sign that Lerner's aspiration to reach the Champions League remains strong, but he accepts he is uncertain of the best way to achieve his goal. 'The appetite is very real, but what the path is, whether it's as brutally raw as spend more, is an open question.' Lerner said that his relationship with O'Neill had become 'more close and collaborative than ever before', forged in part by the intensity of such a close fight for fourth place, but O'Neill still asked him to demonstrate that he has the ambition and energy to take the club forward. 'He asked, 'Randy, where are you?'' Lerner revealed. It is a fair question. While Villa qualified for next season's Europa League and reached the final of the Carling Cup and semi-finals of the FA Cup, they once again finished sixth in the league, and O'Neill is anxious to know that he will be given the means to continue to break through the glass ceiling they have confronted. It appears as though the answer was adequate.
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