Neville accepts defeat and hails Lerner and Ellis

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Michael Neville ended his 10-month quest to take control of Aston Villa yesterday and hailed Randy Lerner, the American billionaire who has had a formal bid of £64.4m accepted and endorsed by the club's board, as having "the right credentials" to revive the club in tandem with Martin O'Neill.

Neville, a West Midlands businessman, initially tried to buy Villa last October in association with the Comer brothers, two Hertfordshire-based Irish property developers. His attempts were rebuffed by Doug Ellis, the Villa chairman, but the lifelong supporter returned this summer at the head of a consortium called Aston Villa Investments Limited (AVIL).

In a statement, Neville accepted that "the overwhelming majority of supporters" believed the offer by the owner of the Cleveland Browns American football team gave Villa the best chance of a "potential return to glory". Lerner possessed "the right credentials and the necessary finances" to restore the club to where the fans wanted to see it.

Neville, who said AVIL was pulling out "in order not to jeopardise [Lerner's] takeover in any way", expressed regret that he would not be able to pursue his "dream" of involvement in running Villa. He also praised Ellis' "massive contribution" to the club. The 82-year-old chairman, he added, had been responsible for "the most fantastic foundation of any Premiership club".

A third consortium, headed by Nicholas Padfield QC, had pledged to top Lerner's bid with one of £70m before last night's midnight deadline for bidders.

O'Neill, described in Neville's statement as a "brilliant manager", has confirmed that he is determined to hold on to Gareth Barry as well as adding to his squad before the transfer window closes. Barry, a close-season target for Portsmouth and Tottenham Hotspur, had become unsettled under David O'Leary's stewardship, but has been appointed captain by O'Neill.

"Gareth was terrific," said O'Neill, assessing Wednesday's 2-1 victory over Reading in his first home match since becoming manager a month earlier. "He played really well and won it for us with a fantastic goal. He's a popular lad and we want to keep him. We're now in the throes of doing something about it."