Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Will Barry Leaves...O'Neil Would Find Replacement...

Martin O'Neill, the Aston Villa boss notorious for deliberating over big decisions, must have endured many a sleepless night this summer. After briefly ending and then re-opening the Gareth Barry saga last week, O'Neill has received the backing of the board at Villa Park who insist that should Barry leave the club to join Liverpool, then he would be able to use the money to sign a replacement.

However, the risk lies in the fact that Liverpool are clearly strapped for cash too, and may just hope that the prospect of an unsettled Barry remaining at Villa Park forces O'Neill into a sale for the sake of team morale.

General Charles C Crulak, the closest ally on the Villa board of US owner Randy Lerner, last night stated that O'Neill would have the full support of Lerner when it came to signing a replacement for Barry.

If Martin came to Randy and said, ‘I need £30 million for player ‘X' and this player would fit right into what we are trying to do and is the type of player that will take us where we want to go, then Randy would have his cheque out before Martin could get past the player's name," Krulak said, as reported in The Times.

"Additionally, he will be equally ready to fund the other players that Martin says we need. I have said it before, Randy has never said ‘No'."

While it is refreshing to see an owner and manager on the same page, this is all hypothetical. The transfer market has dried up again after a brief flurry of activity and it is hard to see exactly which players Villa would chase.

A lack of strength in depth was Villa's undoing last season, despite the club stringing together a great run of results in the final third of the season. The fact that they have brought in very few players this summer and already have or will lose players such as Mellberg and Barry must be a source of concern for fans.

For O'Neill, who likes to consider all options, the thought of possibly starting the season with or without your captain, or potentially having up to £30m to spend on a couple more squad players as the transfer deadline crawls closer, must cause a headache like no other?

O'Neill must make a decision now - he must have the replacements lined up, he must know exactly how much he is prepared to sell Barry for and exactly where the money will go. He and Lerner have a good professional relationship and they must not let their selfish captain ruin this, or indeed the clubs preparations for next season.

Who would Villa spend this money on? Have they planned for a season without Gareth Barry, taking into account injuries and suspensions? If so, the squad is still worryingly thin, especially for a club hoping to challenge for the UEFA Cup places.

Are they seriously contemplating life without Barry or is this statement simply to appease worried fans?

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