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By ESPN Staff

Villa set to offer O'Neill contract extension

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill is to be offered 'the longest managerial contract in the Premiership' if American billionaire Randy Lerner's £62.6million takeover goes through.

A spokesman for Lerner, chairman of the MBNA credit card company and owner of the Cleveland Browns, claimed the Irishman would be offered a six-year deal - he is currently on a one-year rolling contract at Villa Park.

The spokesman told the Daily Mirror: 'Martin is going to be offered a new long-term deal. It will be the longest managerial contract in the Premiership.'

O`Neill, 54, who joined the club 11 days ago, is expected to earn up to £15million from the contract.

One of Lerner's British-based advisers told the Daily Mail: 'He [O`Neill] signed the 12-month agreement because he wanted time to work with the players and find out what they were about ahead of the season.

'He was slightly worried that if he didn't take the job when he did he would have absolutely no idea of their capabilities going into the new season.

'He took a slight risk because the deal had not been done. He will be well looked after, no question.'

When the takeover is completed by the American billionaire, O'Neill is set to receive funds essential if they are to make a credible attempt at establishing themselves further up the table.

Henk Potts of Barclays Stockbrokers said, 'It's inevitable they will have to go out and spend, given that they haven't won the league in more than 20 years and finished close to the relegation zone last season.

'They now have the emphasis and the ability in the transfer market, which was in decline but foreign investors such as Roman Abramovich and Malcolm Glazer and now Randy Lerner have changed that.

'They will have the firepower to liven up the transfer market significantly. Foreign investors have to promote the Premiership and that involves investing so the team are successful.'

Lerner, 44, inherited most of his fortune from his father Al, the founder of the MBNA credit card company.

Lerner said: 'It is my belief and the basis for my bid to acquire Aston Villa Football club that it can compete at the highest level within the Premiership and in Europe.

'The club has a rich history and a long tradition of passionate fan support.'

Lerner's takeover will end the long reign of 82-year-old chairman Ellis, who has run the club since 1982 and also had an earlier spell at the helm, with Villa ironically winning the domestic league and European Cup without `Deadly Doug'.

The departure of Ellis has inevitably been welcomed by supporters, with chairman of Aston Villa Shareholders' Association Jonathan Fear telling Sky Sports News: 'I can see nothing but positives from it. They're going to build the club and restore it to what it was.'

Despite his often tense relationship with fans, Ellis revealed his 'sincere pleasure' since taking over at Villa Park for the first time nearly 38 years ago.

He said: 'It has been my sincere pleasure to have been involved with Aston Villa these many years, both as chairman and as a substantial shareholder.

'The club have been an enormous and immensely enjoyable part of my life.

'I wish to thank the many staff at Aston Villa over the years for making the club what it has been and what it is.

'I am sure this transaction will be the beginning of a new chapter in Aston Villa's proud history.'

Lerner, who conducted the offer through his company Reform Acquisitions Ltd, had headed one of a number of consortia hoping to buy out Ellis.

Local businessman and fan Michael Neville led one group while another was put together by Nicholas Padfield QC.

Athole Still, the agent of former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, was also believed to be interested in taking over.