MARTIN O’Neill last night accused Aston Villa of “rewriting history” about his four years at the club.
The Sunderland manager has been angered by what he sees is a distortion of the facts regarding his record with the Midlands club, which he left in August 2010, something he felt the need to properly address this for the first time. O’Neill believes he did a good job at Villa and is not guilty of spending huge chunks of money without seeing any notable success on the pitch, an accusation he felt has been put to him over the past two years.
This afternoon’s Premier League match at the Stadium of Light is the second time O’Neill has faced his former club since he moved to Wearside just under a year ago.
Last season, it was obvious the Northern Irishman wanted to say much more than a few positive comments regarding Villa, now managed by his former captain at Celtic, Paul Lambert (pictured left). But he has chosen now to get some things off his chest. O’Neill said: “I have mentioned in my (programme) notes that there’s been a bit of rewriting of history with Villa.
“Obviously the people who stay get to rewrite history, but it was a difficult first year there.
“We finished 11th and weren’t really able to introduce changes that season. In January we signed Ashley Young and John Carew, but we didn’t make that many changes at all for a while.
“It took a bit of time, but we were getting there. It was a very fine side in place at the end, but it takes a bit of time.
“There was an idea that as results improved immensely at Villa, so did the investment. Actually, Aston Villa spent £30m four or five months after I left. The wage bill got higher.” O’Neill is in the middle of a poor Premier League run at the moment, with his side winning just one of their last 16 games, a statistic he must be sick of reading at the end of what has been a difficult week.
The Sunderland manager can take strength from the fact he endured a similarly prolonged run of bad results, one win in 13, at Villa and he did turn things around.
O’Neill said: “It was tough. People were saying the same thing, funnily enough, as now in that we were getting a few too many draws at the time. Those draws eventually turned into defeats over Christmas, which I remember well. We went to Charlton and got beat with Gareth Barry getting sent off.
“But this is my job. I would expect to be judged over a season, I must admit. People can say what they want. I can’t change it. The only way I can change it is by winning some football matches.”
O’Neill admitted that not for the first time this season he does not have a huge choice today in terms of selection.
He said: “We’ve got a bit of a fall-out from Tuesday against Middlesbrough, so we’ll have to see how we are.”