The Damned Villa: A Roundtable Discussion on Martin O'Neill's Departure and the Coming Apocalypse

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson mourns the tragic loss of another British manager. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Describe, in one (family-friendly) word your current mental state.
Kirsten: Frazzled
Aaron:  Terrified
Gareth: Fragile

How do you feel about Martin O'Neill leaving Aston Villa?
K: Blindsided. I thought it was a joke, at first, as we hadn't heard any rumors about his leaving since what, March? While I believe this is an excellent squad that will perform well for another manager, it's hard to trust that we can find someone new, quickly, and in a fashion that allows us to buy before the transfer window closes.
A: I'm pretty torn up over it, and it's not just O'Neill leaving. I adore MON, but his leaving in and of itself isn't the end of the world. There are good managers out there that I think could be convinced to come to Villa and might be a bit more forward-thinking tactically, which would be nice. The things that worry me are the timing and the reasons behind his departure. Whatever made him leave now, this close to the season after all of the speculation after last season and his insistence that he was staying put, must have been pretty major. Since we don't know what the reasons are all we can do is speculate, and most of the explanations that seem plausible make me nervous for the future of the club.
G: I wish it never happened. O'Neill is more responsible for our recent success than Lerner or anyone on the roster, and it's going to be really hard to find someone who can capably replace him, especially so close to the start of the season.

Let's play the blame game: who (or what) do you think is at fault for all of this?
K: While some have blamed the never-ending James Milner transfer saga, I'm worried that it might be something to do with Ashley Young. If Young has been, or is about to be, sold, this may have triggered MON's decision to finally throw up his hands and leave. Or perhaps a fan spit in his face. Who knows.
A: I'd think that no matter what the tipping point was that this is related in some way to the transfer budget. I don't know enough about the club's finances to assign blame in that case, but I'd think that a least a fair portion has to go to MON. He's spent a not insignificant amount of money on players that never play, and that's got to be eating into the wage budget. I think the inclination will be to blame Lerner for being cheap, but the club is losing money and the Board has been very up-front about the fact that they were willing to operate in the red while they were becoming established butat some point would see to it that the club was self-supporting. This might be the beginning of that and MON may very well be not interested in continuing in such a fashion.
G: I think Martin O'Neill got frustrated with Lerner over transfer money. Manchester City was never going to pay Milner's valuation, which was probably O'Neill's responsibility, and I think Lerner just wanted to take what Citeh was offering. Or, worse, Spurs made a bid for Ashley Young, and Lerner wanted to take it.

What's next for Martin O'Neill?
K: England? No, seriously, what is open for him in the Prem right now? Capello is making crap out of crap. Might as well try something new but not too new with England.
A: I've got to think it's either back to Celtic or a stint as the England manager, which in either case means he's going to be out of action for at least a bit.
G: I don't see him getting another job in the Premiership for a while. There aren't a lot of English clubs bigger than Aston Villa, and the ones that are bigger than Villa can probably do better than MON. Maybe he'll get an international job or go back to Celtic.

In a perfect world, who would be Aston Villa's manager for this season?
K: I have no idea. To be perfectly honest, the more I watched football outside the EPL, the more I became disillusioned with a few aspects of O'Neill's style. He's quite attached to a 4-4-2, although pre-season play showed he might be willing to give other formations a shot-at least, modified 4-4-2s. I would love someone who would look outside the league for transfer possibilities, and I don't think MON was ready to do that.
A: In a perfect world? Jose Mourinho. In a world that is perfect in every way except for the fact that only the possible can happen? Martin Jol would be kind of neat.
G: Ottmar Hitzfeld. He was among the best managers at the World Cup, and he's been succesful pretty much everywhere. Him or Guus Hiddink, because showing up and immediately succeeding is the sort of thing he does really well.

Who do you actually think will be Aston Villa's manager for this season?
K: Let's get Zola. Randy Lerner shouldn't be able to screw him the way Gold and Sullivan did, right? (Ed: To be fair, Gold and Sullivan's entire fortunes are based on screwing.)
A: Kevin McDonald.
G: Ugh. Depending on whether or not Lerner wants to go British again, Gary Megson or Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Obviously, this is going to affect our transfer activity. What do you see happening between now and the close of the transfer window?
K: I see our players being sold and not bringing in anyone before the close of the window, unless we get a new manager like, tomorrow. I may be feeling overly pessimistic right now, but players don't want to join a team that's manager-less. Look at what happened to Liverpool between the time that we knew Benitez was leaving and Hodgson came in. Players wanted out and no one wanted to come in. Now Villa has the same issue, except league play starts in five days.
A: James Milner being sold for money we don't see and Stephen Ireland. Other than that? I don't think anything else will happen until January, aside from perhaps some lesser players going out.
G: Milner's as good as gone. I think Ashley Young will stay, but Stilyan Petrov will leave for Liverpool. We'll get Stephen Ireland from Manchester City, and that might be it.

Where will James Milner be playing football this season?
K: Manchester City
A: Manchester City
G: He'll be the best paid waterboy in Manchester. Citeh, that is.

Where will Ashley Young be playing football this season?
K: Tottenham Hotspur
A: Aston Villa
G: He'll play for us at least until the winter transfer window. Depending on how things are looking at that point, he might leave (probably for Spurs), thus triggering Villa's rebuilding process and with it, my first ulcer.

How does this affect our season? How does it change (or does it change) how you expect this season to go?
K: If Milner and Young both leave, that's a huge, gaping hole in midfield, as well as the loss of two of our best players. We needed to shore up our defense, but that seems impossible without a manager. Should our players stay, we can likely get through the first couple months of play without imploding-provided, of course, that our players stay healthy. Kevin MacDonald at least knows what's going on around the club, and the on-field play shouldn't be an issue. It's just the timing of the transfers that will be the biggest problem.
A: I don't necessarily think MON not being around will hurt us all that much, but if my fears are correct and this is the squad we see, this could be a rough go-round.
G: I thought we would probably win either the FA Cup or the League Cup this season. Now, I think we end up midtable. Like I said earlier, it depends on our early season form and who comes in as manager. This season could either be an usually rough speedbump or the start of a major rebuilding project. 

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