I expect everyone has an opinion on this and this is mine. Okay, nearly mine, some quotes are taken from conversations I’ve had with a friend of mine in recent weeks, who also has blogged on the site before.
I think O'Neill threw his toys out of the pram because he wasn’t willing to accept that he had to sell over-paid bench warmers in order to buy more (possibly over-paid bench warming) players.
This may be wide of the mark, but it’s my gut feeling. I mean let’s face it, O'Neill’s net transfer transactions are approximately £80m in the red and we’re not any further ahead than we were this time two years ago. O'Neill should take responsibility for this but I expect when he left that wasn’t what he was doing.
Wages are constituting around 85% of our turnover and it doesn’t take an economist to tell you that it is a lot. It is more than Spuds and Everton. What worries me more than MON leaving at this stage in the “season” is that somebody at Villa approved these wages. And what worries even more is that the person that negotiated the excessive contracts of Beye et al is still working at the club.
You can understand O'Neill’s frustration if he is told to cut the bill that he didn’t – directly – make. However, I’m sure Lerner would be a bit happier with the club spending this money if the players in question were getting games on a regular basis. Luke Young and Habib Beye made twenty-four appearances between them and I expect not all at right-back.
Looking at signings rather than wages it is possible that the only two signings made by O'Neill will return a profit or break even – James Milner and Ashley Young. You can also look at youth players such as Gary Cahill, but this is not a true profit since they were not transferred in the first place. I believe Zat Knight made a profit, but the fee paid by Bolton was not disclosed.
When you look at some signings and the prices we paid it does make you wonder what was going on in his head. Harewood for £4m, Davies for £9.5m, Cuellar for £8m. Cueller and Davies look decent players, but decent players don’t and shouldn’t cost that much money.
You also need to look at the assets we have (players) and their value. Will we ever see any money again for Heskey, Beye, Reo-Coker, Dunne or Petrov? If Downing doesn’t improve will the money we paid be the highest amount ever paid for him? As a friend of mine says, “why is Salifou even at the club?”
This summer may be about reducing the wage bill but there are some shocking buys in there. Who would pay more than Villa did for Ashley Young now? £12m for Downing makes £11m for Adam Johnson look like a steal.
My friend also said “Lerner must have sat down and looked at this (or had it pointed out to him) and it must have done his head in. On a forecast balance sheet it looks horrendous.” And I don’t think he is wrong.
When you look at the transfer dealings, the money spent and the money that can be return it does not look good. As a business software consultant my clients always look for one thing: return on investment. What return on investment will Villa see from a playing point of view and Randy from a business point of view from some of these signings? The answer is, simply not a lot.
Randy Lerner put his trust in O'Neill and his reputation and, to an extent, he has been let down. But let’s not forget O'Neill also repaid him by taking Villa into the top 6 for 3 consecutive seasons, a Cup Final and Europe for the first time in ages. So Martin, thanks for having a go and best of luck in the next job.
Thanks to JonnyW for the quotes, discussion and information.