Lerner: O’Neill quit over dispute

ASTON VILLA chairman Randy Lerner yesterday claimed Martin O’Neill’s departure was down to a difference of opinion as bookies slashed the odds on Sven-Goran Eriksson to take over the reigns at Villa Park.

The American tycoon revealed a disagreement over the club’s direction caused O’Neill to step down just days before the new season and said he is looking to conclude James Milner’s Manchester City switch as quickly as possible.

“Having had some time to reflect on Martin leaving, I can say that our most immediate focus is supporting [caretaker boss] Kevin MacDonald and resolving the situation with Manchester City and James Milner,” said Lerner, who, like O’Neill, arrived at Villa Park four years ago.

“As for explaining why Martin left, I can say only that we no longer shared a common view as how to move forward.

“To deal in greater detail would do little but cause additional distraction for the club as it faces imminent games, and the clear priority of hiring a permanent manager.

He added: “Finally, there have been no changes in our approach to building the club, aiming always to be as competitive as possible given our size and resources.”

And Lerner appears to be close to appointing O’Neill’s successor after bookies reported a big gamble on former England manager Eriksson becoming the new Villa boss.

In fact, Paddy Power suspended the betting market yesterday afternoon as the Swede’s price plummeted from 6/1 to 7/4 in less than an hour.

Meanwhile, Everton boss David Moyes has ruled out any link with the vacant job at Villa Park, despite coming out second to Martin Jol in a fans’ poll.

The Scot said: “I am loyal to Everton, I’ve always said that.
“It is a really good club and this year we have a really good team and we have a good chance of doing well.”