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Martin O’Neill quits Aston Villa. Surprised?

O'Neill's resignation will shock Aston Villa fans

Martin O’Neill has shocked the footballing world by announcing his resignation from Aston Villa, but should we really be that surprised?

The popular Northern Irishman has called time on his career at Villa Park after seemingly growing frustrated at the lack of transfer activity at the club, with Chairman Randy Lerner reluctant to hand over transfer funds for new players. However Aston Villa fans will now be concerned about the future of two of their stars, James Milner (who should finalise a move to Man City later this week) but also flying winger Ashley Young.

Young is one of the brightest prospects in England and was called up to the full squad for the international friendly with Hungary on Wednesday. He is believed to be among those new players expected to be part of England’s future under Fabio Capello after several scintillating seasons at Villa Park. What may have become clear however, is that Villa were sanctioning his sale as speculation intensified over his future. Whether this caused O’Neill to quit remains to be seen, and under the terms of his resignation, his comments are likely to be restricted by the club, as seen in the statement on Villa’s website which said:

Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Aston Villa, said: “The club would like to thank Martin for the great work he has done at Aston Villa over the past four years. He has helped to establish the club in the upper echelons of the Premier League, has taken us to Wembley and we have also qualified for European competition for the past three seasons under his management. We wish him the best in the future.”

However an additional statement from Villa hinted at O’Neill’s words being restricted in the coming days under the terms of the resignation. It read: “No further comment will be made by either Aston Villa or Martin O’Neill until further notice.”

For his part, Martin O’Neill said: “I have enjoyed my time at Aston Villa immensely. It’s obviously a wrench to be leaving such a magnificent club. I would like to pay tribute to the Villa players, my coaching staff and the Villa supporters for all the support and encouragement they have given both the club and me personally during my time as manager. I wish them all the best for the future. I will obviously be assisting the club in the immediate short-term with regard to the handover of my duties.

Aiden McGeady was set to slip from Villa's grasp

Nicky Shorey was set to complete a move to West Brom today while another man believed to be a target of O’Neill, Celtic’s Aiden McGeady looks set for a move to Spartak Moscow though openly hoping for a move to Villa that never materialised.

O’Neill defended the club’s transfer policy as recently as the weekend when he said: “I’m not remotely interested (in the criticism). Honestly I couldn’t care less whether I get unfairly criticised,” O’Neill told the Birmingham Mail. “What I will say is the business that we did in the last few days of August last year really made our season. You go by the rules and run that length of time. That’s absolutely fine, it’s not a problem.”

There had been reports in recent days that O’Neill had told the Aston Villa board he would walk away if the club sold Ashley Young behind his back. There will now be an intense interest in what the winger has to say while on England duty.

O'Neill brought Ashley Young to the club and made him a star

However it now appears that unless personal reasons are behind the move, O’Neill has had enough. Although there was intense speculation that O’Neill would walk away last summer, Villa recovered to finish sixth in the Premiership and despite Liverpool being long-term admirers, he showed no inkling of walking away when the Anfield hot-seat was vacant. While there are no jobs that immediately come to mind at present, the likes of Roberto Mancini and Roy Hodgson will be looking anxiously over their shoulder as the season starts, aware that a coveted manager waits in the wings.

O’Neill would be another prime candidate to take over from Sir Alex Ferguson if he was to walk away at the end of the season, while Giovanni Trapattoni is regularly linked with a move back to Italian football and O’Neill would be a popular choice as Ireland boss.

Martin O’Neill was manager of Aston Villa from August 2006 to 2010. In those four years he led the club to finish 11th in his first season and then sixth in each of the three subsequent years. The club also lost out on the Carling Cup final to Manchester United in February, their first cup final for a decade.

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