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Premier League

Martin O'Neill: I didn't leave Aston Villa in the lurch, I found them there

Aston Villa 0 Sunderland 0

Martin O'Neill has backed his former club Aston Villa to recapture former glories as he denied leaving them in the lurch by quitting five days before the start of the 2010-11 campaign.

O'Neill returned to Villa Park for the first time with his current team Sunderland on Saturday and was booed by the home fans before and during a goalless draw.

The Northern Irishman led Villa to three top-six Premier League finishes and the Carling Cup final – a contrast to their current position just above the relegation zone. O'Neill is adamant he left Villa in a far stronger position than when he took charge.

O'Neill said: "The booing is the nature of the game. I expected it and I got it because it's never been explained why I departed from the club. But this idea I left them in the lurch has gone beyond all sorts of comprehension. I found them in the lurch, I'm not so sure I left them in the lurch."

But O'Neill added: "It's a great, great football club and they will be back some time. They will be back."

Villa remain five points above the bottom three ahead of tomorrow's crucial home game with Bolton.

Booked: Sunderland Gardner (twice), Bendtner.

Sent-off: Sunderland Gardner (90).

Man of the match Sessegnon.

Referee A Taylor (Cheshire)

Attendance 32,557