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O'Neill hoping Browns demise can focus Lerner

Martin O'Neill is expecting new owner Randy Lerner to start devoting more time to running Aston Villa because of the failure of his NFL side Cleveland Browns.

And Lerner will be hoping Villa can provide him with more success than Cleveland, who have failed to qualify for the end-of-season play-offs.

Top of his priorities will be to ensure his manager has the funds to bring in new players during the January transfer window to help sustain a push for a European spot.

But O'Neill is making no brash statements about who might be joining Villa next month as they prepare for Monday's Barclays Premiership clash at revitalised Sheffield United.

O'Neill said: 'I spoke with Randy Lerner when he was over here last week. There is nothing to report that you wouldn't already know. He's keen to do well and for the football club - and I think he will.

'At this moment, he is doing a lot of commuting but the American football season will soon be over, certainly for the teams not involved in the play-offs, and Cleveland are not going to make those.

'He will then be able to devote a lot of time over here and that's his intention.'

Tottenham striker Robbie Keane and Newcastle winger James Milner had been thought to be among O'Neill's potential targets.

But Keane is now sidelined for six weeks with a knee injury and Newcastle boss Glenn Roeder is believed to want to keep Milner, who came close to joining Villa in August.

O'Neill said: 'I haven't handed Randy Lerner a wish list. Santa Claus has got my first list and then I'll think about the new year after that.'

Villa will have to try and triumph against the Blades without the services of inspirational skipper Gareth Barry, who will be serving a one-game ban for incurring five bookings.

But Villa have managed to win without Barry's services previously this season - including their only league away win to date, at Everton, via a goal from fit-again striker Chris Sutton.

O'Neill said: 'We have missed Gareth before this season. He has missed matches and we have come through and won.

'We went to Everton and won without him. He is a big loss to us because he is playing splendidly for us.

'He has been playing exceptionally well for us this season but we've got to do something about it.'