As the feelgood factor continued to sweep through Aston Villa, with a rush on season-tickets since Martin O'Neill's arrival last Friday, the new manager promised exciting football to lure back alienated fans.
"It will take time - people have become disillusioned," O'Neill said after taking his first Villa training session in preparation for tonight's friendly against Dutch side NEC Nijmegen. "People stay away for a reason and if we can do something about it on the pitch, win with a bit excitement, maybe some of them will renew [season-tickets] and come back to the club."
O'Neill looked on as a side picked by one of the coaches, Eric Steele, drew 0-0 with Hannover 96 in Germany on Saturday. This evening, however, the former Celtic manager will pace the technical area while the players he inherited strive to prove they are worth a place as and when new owners provide transfer funds. "This is my team now," he said. "There's no such thing as a watching brief any more."
Randy Lerner, the American billionaire, remains favourite to buy Villa, although all four consortia bidding to take over from Doug Ellis have promised O'Neill substantial funds. In the meantime, players whose relations with David O'Leary had reportedly become strained, such as Gareth Barry and Olof Mellberg, may now stay on.
Barry, a summer target for Spurs and Portsmouth, said: "There were players getting frustrated, but this is a clean start. Everyone is going to be flying in 100 per cent and committing to the club again. Martin O'Neill was the best man out there. We're all delighted the club got him."
Sources claim Mellberg is also encouraged by developments. The defender has resigned as captain of Sweden, although he will continue to be available to represent his country.Reuse content