O'Neill poised to become new Villa manager

August 4, 2006

Aston Villa have announced a news conference for 6.30pm tonight where they are expected to confirm Martin O'Neill as their new manager.

The former Celtic and Leicester boss looks set to have his appointment confirmed amid the backdrop of a battle for control of the club, with several parties looking to buy out chairman Doug Ellis.

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 appear to 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 do better than a poor 2005-06 season in which they finished 16th.

They clearly 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 since.

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.

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.