Big buys no guarantee, says Lerner

Aston Villa owner backs O'Neill to achieve success that money alone cannot buy
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The Independent Football

Randy Lerner, the Aston Villa owner, has insisted that financial backing alone cannot guarantee success. Lerner was responding after being asked whether Villa would have to spend more money to compete with the likes of Manchester City and Tottenham next season in the battle for a European place.

Villa clinched a Europa League spot by finishing sixth in the Premier League this season but City and Spurs lost out to Fulham in the fight to join them in the revamped Uefa Cup. Lerner has already pledged to provide Martin O'Neill with funds for new players this summer but he claimed: "You see clubs spend a lot of money and they aren't always successful. I don't know if straight spending equals success.

"Of course, there is no question that if you are going to remain ambitious, then you have to bring in better players or top players. I think we do remain eager to do that. On the other hand, we are aware of other factors that do drive and bring success. I think that is serious because both the clubs you name [Tottenham and Manchester City] didn't finish where they would have hoped."

Lerner was content with Villa's achievements during the past season despite a late fade-out ending hopes of securing Champions League football. He said: "How do I view this season? I am very happy with what we achieved. I think it was another season of progress. I wasn't disappointed not to achieve the Champions League position. It is out there, it is a long-term ambition, and it has been a very exciting season but we did great with what we have. I was not disappointed with the way the season tailed off. I think it happens. In this business you are going to go through those ups and downs. That was one of them. I actually thought we did a pretty good job of getting through it and ending on a strong note."

Lerner is pleased with the impact O'Neill has made at Villa at the end of his third season at the helm. He said: "I think the three years have been superb. We have improved steadily and qualified for Europe two years on the row. Martin has done an excellent job. I think Martin has bought into the club. I think he has emotionally invested. He has bought into me and my ambitions to some extent."

James Milner has shrugged off fears of suffering from footballing burn-out and believes a successful European Under-21 Championship campaign can only stand him in good stead if he breaks into the full England squad.

The Villa player may have only a week's break should Stuart Pearce's side reach the final in Sweden on 29 June before O'Neill's team report back for pre-season training. O'Neill had voiced concerns towards the end of the current campaign that Milner and some of his team-mates had looked tired after operating with one of the smallest squads in the Premier League.

But Milner is determined to use the Under-21s tournament as a positive experience ahead of the bigger prizes up for grabs in 12 months' time via the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.

Milner said: "I'm sure the manager will look after us. You need a rest. I've got six days before we join up with England. Then, if we reach the final, I've got another week.

"But it's an honour to play for your country and it's great to be going out there to Sweden to play with the best young players in Europe. Getting that experience is priceless. If you look at teams winning the World Cup and European Championships, so many of the squad have played in the Under-21s tournaments.

"It's getting that experience and winning mentality that helps. If we can win with the Under-21s, it stands us in good stead in the future as England players. Hopefully there will be a chunk of players who have been to a major international tournament and won it and that's massive. If you can then take that into senior tournaments, then you have better chance of winning those."

Milner is confident Villa will learn from their experiences of the past season when a poor run cost them the chance to finish fourth. He said: "It is about how you learn from these runs. We know we should have done better but it is about what you take from such poor runs. It's what you pick up from being up there and we need to make sure we learn from this season."