MARTIN O’NEILL has admitted Aston Villa “won’t be able to compete financially” with the big four clubs in the Barclays Premier League.
But the Villa manager insists he is still driven on to succeed and to overcome that disadvantage.
Villa have been in the top six virtually all season and were in strong contention for a Champions League spot until a poor run of results left them trailing Arsenal by seven points.
O’Neill said: “We have been up there all season, never out of the top six. But we are in the same league as Manchester United, who have gates of 75,000 and are a different entity. We are in there against Arsenal, who house 60,000 every home game.
“Then we are against the other two (Liverpool and Chelsea), who have our sort of gates but not only have the experience behind them but a lot of money as well.”
O’Neill is full of praise for the backing he has received from club owner and chairman Randy Lerner during the past two and a half years and last summer he splashed out £50 million on new signings.
But the former Celtic boss admitted: “We won’t be able to compete financially. We are not going to be running this club in the manner of some other clubs. But I think that is part of the excitement of it all. You have to try and find other ways to compete. I don’t think we’ll ever be up there in finance terms but it doesn’t mean you cannot compete.”
O’Neill is also adamant he will not pay grossly-inflated transfer fees to bring players to Villa Park.
He said: “If some player was worth £7m and I was told you’d have to pay £15m, I couldn’t do so.
“However, if I thought someone was worth it in the long term, like an Ashley Young, then I’d pay a bit over the top.”
Meanwhile, O’Neill is set to hold talks with skipper and central defender Martin Laursen, who has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with his latest knee injury setback.
O’Neill is keen to gauge the state of mind of Laursen and find out if he has the desire and hunger to go through another period of rehabilitation after so many knockbacks in his career.
Laursen has not played since early January and his absence has coincided with Villa conceding 25 goals in the last 11 games.
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