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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Aug 4, 2006

Villa confirm O'Neill coup

Aston Villa have confirmed Martin O'Neill as their new manager.

The former Celtic and Leicester boss has been appointed amid the backdrop of a battle for control of the club, with several parties looking to buy out chairman Doug Ellis.

But with the start of the Barclays Premiership season just 15 days away - Villa go to Arsenal's new Emirates Stadium on the opening day - the club have decided they could not afford to leave the decision any later.

O'Neill has been out of football for 15 months, leaving Celtic at the end of the 2004-05 season after five successful years at Parkhead.

Before moving to Celtic, he spent four and a half seasons with Leicester, who under O'Neill became established as a mid-table Premiership side.

Villa, who sacked David O'Leary on July 19, aspire to be so stable after a poor 2005-06 season in which they finished 16th.

They see O'Neill as the man to bring success back to Villa Park, after a barren decade since their 1996 League Cup victory.

The 54-year-old has been repeatedly linked with top Premiership jobs since leaving Celtic, however he stood down from the Scottish giants to care for his unwell wife, Geraldine, and has stayed out of football management as a result.

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

The Northern Irishman was allowed to mull over the job offer, which came despite their being four consortia vying to take control of the club.

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, will be happy with O'Neill at the helm.

Having accepted Villa's offer and confirmed his readiness to return to the game, O'Neill should be able to join up with Villa for their three-game pre-season tour of Germany and Holland.

The tour begins with a match against Hanover tomorrow.

O'Neill's tried and trusted backroom team of John Robertson - a former team-mate at Nottingham Forest - and Steve Walford will link up with O'Neill.

The new Villa boss 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, even if the Ibrox side snatched the 2004-05 league title away from the Bhoys in one of O'Neill's final acts north of the border.

Ellis confirmed John Robertson would be O'Neill's assistant, while Steve Walford links up with the 54-year-old as coach.

The chairman told tonight's press conference: 'To me, Martin's passion and ability to motivate players is unsurpassed.

'We had three meetings at my home and I've not spoken to anyone else.

'We had a dozen applicants but Martin was my choice at the start and here he is today.'

O'Neill was given a warm welcome by hundreds of Villa fans as he arrived for the press conference.

And Ellis added: 'The last time we had that many fans outside was when I took on Tommy Docherty in 1968 - it's fantastic to see so many out there.'

O'Neill said he was 'overwhelmed' by the fans' greeting outside and joked he was 'absolutely petrified' by the challenge awaiting him.

He explained: 'I wasn't sure if anyone would be outside and I'm rather taken aback to be perfectly honest.

'I'm nervous...absolutely petrified - it's a fantastic challenge and I'm willing and ready to go.

'I've got a lot of enthusiasm. On its own it gets you little but it keeps you going.

'When Mr Ellis gave me the chance to manage the team I wanted to do it.

'I think everyone is well aware of the history of this club.

'Trying to restore it to those former days of fantastic glory seem a long way away - but, well, why not try?

'It's nearly 25 years since they won the European Cup (in 1982). They're a long way from that this minute but that's the dream.'

O'Neill continued: 'Every single club feel they deserve to be up there with the very best - but Aston Villa should be.

'It's a big statement and the season hasn't kicked off - in just over a fortnight we play at Arsenal so that's a fair baptism.'

The Ulsterman will meet the Villa players before tomorrow's friendly with Hannover 96 in Germany, and revealed: 'There are some funds available and I'm going to use them if possible.

'There's not a great deal of time but that should not matter too much - life's not ideal like that.

'I have a reasonable idea of what the Premiership is about.

'The game has probably changed a little bit but I'm not blind to it and I'm hoping to adjust and adapt relatively quickly.'

He added: 'It's absolutely fantastic to be back and with a club such as this.

'I have to prove myself to the fans but I'm ready for the job and want to do well.

'If Aston Villa are going to have a bit of success in the coming years, I'd like to be a part of that.'