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Villa Great Ian Taylor On Martin O'Neill's Deeply Contentious Legacy At Aston Villa

Villa Great Ian Taylor On Martin O'Neill's Deeply Contentious Legacy At Aston Villa
By Conor Neville Updated

During Martin O'Neill's time at Aston Villa, the club emphatically nailed down sixth place in the League.

Occasionally, they flirted with finishing higher but kept on bouncing their heads off the ceiling below the then impregnable 'Top 4'. No shame in that.

Listen to our interview with Ian Taylor below:

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Viewed at from this remove, the late noughties looks like a prosperous time. One might expect that O'Neill would be feted by Villa fans and that a sizeable proportion would even hanker after his return.

Not a bit of it. Many Villa fans are deeply ambivalent about O'Neill and the job he did there. They believe he spent foolishly, blowing money on sub-standard players who stewed in the reserves, drained the club's resources, and proved impossible to shift off their books. He

He bequeathed a toxic legacy to his successors, a series of whom have struggled to cope. The abruptness of his departure days before the start of the 2010-11 season hasn't done much for his popularity either.

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O'Neill's staunchest critics among the Villa fanbase seem to see him as an almost Bertie Ahern-like figure who frittered away cash during the good times and got out while the going was still good.

We spoke to Ian Taylor, Villa's towering midfielder during happier times, on the Racket podcast today. He says the fans are deeply divided over O'Neill's legacy.

He acknowledges O'Neill's success at the time but believes that the critics have a ghost of a point. Villa were saddled with mediocre players who were a drain on the club's resources.

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Well, yeah, I think the argument that they've got is that he's spent a lot of money on some average players. We were stuck with those players and couldn't really get rid of them. The wage bill was way too high. When Martin left, he left us in a bit of a fix really. And managers were trying to clear up what was left behind after he'd gone and they struggled to do that.

We had a really good team under Martin but it was an expensive team for us. And a lot of those players have left and we've tried to replace those players but with players that probably weren't good enough.

Is there a sense that O'Neill is now regarded as something akin to a hate figure among Aston Villa supporters?

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There's a split with the fans. Because obviously, we had two sixth place finishes under Martin and we got to a Cup final. That's what fans want to see. And it doesn't matter what the cost is sometimes, that's what fans want to see. But at the end of the day, football is more of a business than it's ever been. And you have to try and balance the books. And we've struggled to balance the books in the last five years.

This talk has reached Martin O'Neill. He does not regard it as fair. Flush from the success of qualifying Ireland for Euro 2016, he addressed the Aston Villa 'myths' in a punditry gig on Sky Sports.

Highest paid players at Aston Villa? Two of the highest paid players ever in their history came after I left. They also spent £30 million four months after I left too.

The perpetuation of this 'we spent really heavily'. Well we did spend some money, there's no doubt, but the most I've ever spent on a player is £12 million.

I think we got Stewart Downing and he went for about £20 million after that. James Milner, who was terrific for us, went for £24 million and Ashley Young, that I paid £9 million for, went for about £20 million.

So Aston Villa, at some stage or another, I know they left after I'd gone... there were some really fine players there and it's disappointing to see them in the position they are in now, genuinely disappointing.

As far as O'Neill is concerned, the damage was done long after he left.

Read more: 'Can't Thank Him Enough' - Luke Chadwick Pays Tribute To The Other Side Of Roy Keane

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