‘O’Neill and I are as close as ever’ insists Villa chief Lerner

ASTON VILLA owner Randy Lerner insisted his relationship with manager Martin O’Neill was “as close as ever” last night before revealing the Northern Irishman will remain as manager next season.

O’Neill’s future at Villa Park has grown under increasing uncertainty following speculation that he had fallen out with the multi-millionaire American.

But Lerner has moved to dismiss the unsubstantiated claims and confirm that the 58-year-old will begin a fifth season in charge at Villa Park in August. He said: “I want to make it clear that Martin will be back next year managing. In fact, I would say our working relationship is as close as ever – if not closer.”

Lerner warned, however that Villa will not be able to compete at the top end of the transfer market this summer.

He added: “A £30m striker would be out of our budget but there is money there to be spent on the team.”