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By ESPN Staff

Villa expect Friday announcement from O'Neill

Martin O'Neill is set to announce on Friday whether he has decided to become Aston Villa's new manager.

And sources close to the Irishman are indicating he is edging close to agreeing to move to the under-achieving Premiership club.

O'Neill has been chairman Doug Ellis' number one target since David O'Leary parted company with Villa just over a fortnight ago.

The 54-year-old has been weighing up whether to end a 15-month exile from the game after quitting as Celtic manager in May 2005 to look after his sick wife Geraldine.

Ellis quickly made contact with O'Neill once it became clear O'Leary's three-year reign was coming to an end.

O'Neill has been mulling over whether to move to Villa Park despite the uncertainty surrounding the future of the club with four consortia vying to take control.

The groups led by American billionaire Randy Lerner, life-long Villa fan Michael Neville, deputy judge Nicholas Padfield QC and Sven-Goran Eriksson's agent Athole Still would be happy with O'Neill at the helm.

O'Neill would be able to join up with Villa for their three-game pre-season tour of Germany and Holland which kicks off against Hanover on Saturday if he takes the post.

His tried and trusted backroom team of John Robertson - a former team-mate at Nottingham Forest - and Steve Walford will link up with O'Neill. O'Neill is the kind of inspirational figure needed to lift Villa out of the doldrums with the club only just avoiding relegation from the Premiership in 2005-2006.

He cut his managerial teeth at Shepshed Charterhouse, Grantham and Wycombe before performing wonders with an average group of players at Leicester.

O'Neill guided the Foxes to four successive top-10 finishes in the Premiership and two League Cup final triumphs.

Then he went to Celtic in 2000 and transformed their fortunes in wrestling Scottish dominance away from Rangers.

He has been linked with numerous other jobs including Newcastle, Middlesbrough and England.

But the chance to put Villa back towards the top of the footballing tree looks like being the challenge O'Neill has been waiting for.