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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jul 27, 2006

Neville has Aston Villa manager 'lined up'

Michael Neville has claimed he has 'someone lined up' to replace David O'Leary - with Martin O'Neill his number one choice - as his main rival in the battle to take over Aston Villa appeared to have dropped out of the race.

But Sven-Goran Eriksson's agent Athole Still was also spotted leaving Villa Park as the midlands club confirmed to the Stock Exchange they had received a 'number of indicative offers' from potential buyers.

It is only six months ago that Eriksson was embroiled in the `fake sheikh' controversy linking him with a move to Villa after the end of his spell as England coach.

Still may be part of a third consortium interested in buying into Villa and ending majority share-holder Doug Ellis' 31 years as chairman split into two spells stretching back to 1968.

But Neville is the only person to have gone public on his ambitions for Villa after his consortium tabled a £64million bid on Wednesday lunchtime.

And his chances are considerably improved by reports that American billionaire Randy Lerner has pulled out of the bidding following a meeting with Ellis.

Neville has made it clear his preferred choice would be O'Neill who enjoyed great success at Leicester and Celtic before taking a break from the game 15 months ago to spend more time with his wife Geraldine, who is ill.

Neville said: 'I think the management position is the most important and that is the first port of call. We have someone lined up to come in.

'They are pre-committed to come in and I think people would be pretty excited. What Premiership wouldn't want Martin O'Neill?

'He has been in for the England job and has been linked with Newcastle and Sunderland. He is top of the tree. He is a fantastic manager.'

Neville confirmed: 'We have put in a formal offer letter which stated the details of the deal. It gave some clear objectives as to what we want to achieve and stated the offer was fully funded.

'I'm not allowed to say what the deal is but I think it is competitive. I think it gives the consortium the chance to be competitive.

'I think, for me, the only good thing to come out of this is Aston Villa will be taken forward.'

Randy Lerner, the owner of NFL side Cleveland Browns, clearly has more financial clout and has a personal fortune of US dollars 1.4 billion but last night his interest appeared to have cooled considerably with the American thought to have withdrawn from the bidding process.

But Neville claimed: 'It is not the billionaire status, it is about the strategy going forward, the people coming in understanding the culture - not just of the club but the fans and the area.

'That has a value far beyond pounds sterling and dollars. I was born in Birmingham and grew up in Aston and Erdington. I have always watched the Villa, through some very bad times and some reasonable times.

'I am the front man for a group of people who have the financial muscle to get this done, have the business acumen and the football nous.'

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