Goals / game
Conc / game
Points / game
*Age on opening day of the season
FAC: FA Cup; FL: Football League; D1: Division 1; D2: Division 2; D3: Division 3; PL: Premier League; CH: Championship
Martin Hugh Michael O'Neill
1 March 1952
Kilrea, County Londonderry
Kevin MacDonald (Caretaker)
1997-09 Gareth Barry |
2001-08 Olof Mellberg |
2004-09 Martin Laursen |
2005-10 James Milner |
2005-18 Gabby Agbonlahor |
2006-12 Stiliyan Petrov |
2006-11 Ashley Young |
2006-11 John Carew |
2009-15 Fabian Delph |
Chairman, Randolph Lerner
Club Secretary, Sharon Barnhurst
Previous Clubs Managed
1987-89 Grantham Town, Manager
1989 Shepshed Charterhouse, Manager
1990-95 Wycombe Wanderers, Manager
1995 Norwich City, Manager
1995-00 Leicester City, Manager
2000-05 Glasgow Celtic, Manager
1990-91 FA Trophy, Wycombe Wanderers
1992-93 Football Conference, Wycombe Wanderers
1992-93 FA Trophy, Wycombe Wanderers
1995-96 First Division Play Off, Leicester City
1996-97 League Cup, Leicester City
1999-00 League Cup, Leicester City
2000-01 Scottish Premier League, Glasgow Celtic
2000-01 Scottish Cup, Glasgow Celtic
2000-01 Scottish League Cup, Glasgow Celtic
2003-04 Scottish Premier League, Glasgow Celtic
2003-04 Scottish Cup, Glasgow Celtic
2004-05 Scottish Premier League, Glasgow Celtic
2004-05 Scottish Cup, Glasgow Celtic
Villa Management Career
Points per game
Managed the Villa
2009-10 League Cup Runners Up
Villa Managerial Debut
19 August 2006, Villa 1-1 Arsenal, Emirates Stadium
Final Villa Managerial Game
9 May 2010, Villa 0-1 Blackburn, Villa Park
2006-07 | 11th Premier League |
2007-08 | 6th Premier League |
2008-09 | 6th Premier League |
2009-10 | 6th Premier League |
FA Cup finishes
2006-07 | 3rd Round |
2007-08 | 3rd Round |
2008-09 | 5th Round |
2009-10 | Semi Final |
League Cup finishes
2006-07 | 4th Round |
2007-08 | 3rd Round |
2008-09 | 3rd Round |
2009-10 | Runners Up |
2008-09 | UEFA Cup Round of 32 |
2009-10 | UEFA Cup Qualifying Play Off |
2011-13 Sunderland |
2013-18 Republic of Ireland National Team |
2019 Nottingham Forest |
Manager #24 for Aston Villa, Martin O’Neill, lauded, rightly and justifiably as a messiah on his appointment in 2006 was nothing if not self interested and selfish. That single minded stubbornness was key to his success however it was also his biggest achilles heel, of which he had many. As Monty Python would say, “he’s not the Messiah, he’s a naughty little boy”. Walking out on Villa on the eve of the 2010-11 season and leaving the club with a disjointed and dismayed squad it is easy to lay the blame at Villa’s travails over the following decade, firmly at O’Neill’s door. That however would be a little unfair, certainly O’Neill was a contributing factor - even in his early years with the club - in the dysfunctional nature with which the club was being run however he was equally the catalyst, though not the ultimate captain, of the disaster that followed.
Before that however, the O’Neill team in its pomp was impressive - in the way that the 1992-93 Ron Atkinson team and 1995-96 Brian Little teams were - and have been perfectly summed up by then player Stephen Warnock:
“When I first joined the club, we went into games knowing that we would win because of the forward line that we had. The defence also knew that we would keep clean sheets. The belief was there and it was different to anything I had ever known.”
O’Neill indeed had delivered a far more positive outlook for supporters following the debacle of Graham Taylor and the disunity of David O’Leary. But despite building those genuinely excellent first XIs, his squad building was amongst the worst the club had ever seen to that point - although this would be eclipsed by his successor Paul Lambert - and his fractious nature of man-management constrained as much as it inspired and whilst three consecutive top six finishes showed potential, the reality is that the team at his disposal could and should have achieved far more with better harmony and a better squad behind it.
It is a little unfair to focus on the O’Neill years on that fateful August day however in hindsight it is the ultimate microcosm of his entire, often times petulant regime that won as many detractors within the club as admirers and ultimately detonated in a predictable fashion.
As superstar defender Martin Laursen recalled “Some players hated Martin O’Neill because of the way he managed. He was very old fashioned, it was his way or the high way. You couldn’t say a lot to him, he was the one who decided everything.”
O’Neill on 9 August 2010 shocked his team, the fan base, and football worldwide by resigning after taking a training session at Bodymoor Heath.
There was little clue it was coming and no justification proffered however the general consensus was that seeing a club of the lowly stature of Manchester City injected with huge riches threatened to tip the balance away from a modestly budgeted club as Villa was by comparison.
O’Neill is said to have believed that another top 6 finish would be a challenge and Champions League football an impossibility given the imbalance of balance sheets.
It would however also be fair to say that a man focused on self as he was so often undoubtedly must have also had self doubt as his hold over, and relations with, the first team squad had become strained and his ability to deliver future success was already in some doubt.
The irony that O’Neill’s Villa had only taken Cup competitions seriously in his final season - reaching the final and semi final respectively of the League and FA Cups - suggested that strategic focus wasn’t a strength for the club, and rather than concentrating on lesser, but achievable ambitions in strong league finishes and regular cup success, he chose to throw it away.
In a sadly predictable twist of fate, O’Neill would never manage again at a level that would even provide a route to a cup run and Villa, for the following decade would equally be league stragglers - although relative cup success was achieved through two Wembley cup finals in 5 seasons between 2015 and 2020.
What also cannot be dismissed is the attitude of Villa’s then owner Randy Lerner, who following an extra-marital dalliance with a Warwickshire gal, saw his fortune and interest shrunk considerably. What had started as a dream partnership in 2006 was toxic, shrunk and unfit for purpose by 2010. Who was more to blame is unclear but the combination was as devastating as it was unnecessary and quite understandably neither figure is looked upon with any affection.
In their seven Premier League seasons since O’Neill’s departure Villa averaged just 36 points per season, compared to O’Neill’s average of 59 points. Stark though that statistic is, the downturn was not inevitable, indeed O’Neill could have been expected to return the same level of points going forward the issue remained, for him, that the league placing those points earned would be outside the top 6. In hindsight a top 10 finish over the following seasons would not have been the disaster that O’Neill had painted.
The real post O’Neill issue however was the other person in the partnership - Randy Lerner. A series of appalling executive appointments resulted in a series of appalling managerial appointments and a club bereft of leadership, strategy or direction. Indeed such was the mismanagement that it is a genuine shock that Villa had not lost their Premier League status well before their ultimate relegation in 2015-16.
The first major crack in the O’Neill / Lerner regime was said to be the move of Gareth Barry moving to Manchester City in July 2009. It is said that this transfer got under the skin of O’Neill, especially as the funds were not provided to land his top replacement target, Scott Parker. However O’Neill in truth was the architect of his own downfall. Despite Barry’s genuine quality he also possessed significant limitations and a better built squad would have been far more able to cope with a single - albeit regrettable - departure. But O’Neill had no talent whatsoever for squad building and the downward step in quality from the first XI to the rest was truly a chasm. Equally O’Neill struggled continually with the demands of squad players worthy of consideration for a first team spot, and preferred to have those happy to sit and wait - regardless of talent - than those with the ability to step up and provide selection dilemmas week in week out.
As Gabby Agbonlahor recalled: “Martin [O’Neill] wanted a few new players who would have really helped us kick on, but he didn’t get them.”
O’Neill had targeted midfielder Scott Parker and forwards Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane, however whether those players were realistically within reach due to their contractual position elsewhere were a moot point. What wasn’t in dispute was O’Neill’s tendency to not take a chance on players - rejecting the opportunity to sign an emerging Radamel Falcao and opting for a veteran Emile Heskey instead. Such moves and limitations eventually became self fulfilling.
Stiliyan Petrov - a man and player rarely off point - nailed his time under O’Neill as “a nearly team”.
Contrary to popular belief O’Neill’s departure was not spur of the moment but was a carefully calculated move - whether it was done to inflict maximum damage on Villa is as unclear as it is hopefully unlikely, however that it was done with only O’Neill’s own interests in mind was undeniable.
Villa defender Stephen Warnock recalled “We didn’t have a clue what was happening. Yes, we had heard murmurs of unrest, but we didn’t actually think he would just walk out.”
Players of course have little power to change or ameliorate boardroom unrest however undoubtedly a stronger hierarchy would have been able to do just that. Villa were however sorely lacking in boardroom experience and talent and it was to the lamentable Paul Faulkner that O’Neill handed his premeditated resignation.
In typical O’Neill style he went into hiding, with no thought for what, or who he had left behind, self interest had once again trumped acting with dignity and loyalty.
Faulkner - a key figure in the troubles Villa experienced - recalled, as if having been unable to have the foresight and authority to prevent such a denouement “It had been building. But to happen just days before the season was a surprise. We thought, ‘Surely this can’t be happening?’ So much had been built and achieved over a four-year period. Yes, it was going to get harder, but the dream was always to have a long-term project.”
O’Neill let it be known that it was the loss of Villa favourite James Milner to money bags Manchester City that was the final straw however that always felt a little too convenient a peg to hang his behaviour on. Unlike Barry, there was little chance a player like Milner could be replaced, almost freak like, he was and remained one of a kind. However any club that lost a player of the commitment, talent and attitude of Milner would have missed him deeply and found immediate replacement impossible. Again however a stronger squad and fore planning would have helped mitigate some of the worst effects. As ever this simply wasn’t in the O’Neill playbook.
Despite O’Neill’s obvious affection for Milner their characters couldn’t have been more different.
Lerner, realising the loss of O’Neill and impending loss of Milner was a disaster for the club, asked Milner to play in the first game of the 2010-11 season as Villa hosted West Ham under caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald, Villa won 3-0 with Milner scoring and left the field to a standing ovation, despite his move away having been already agreed and having no obligation to play.
O’Neill was no James Milner, just a very naughty boy.