O’Neill chases his former Aston Villa stars in £10m double bid


Martin O’Neill has already raided former club Aston Villa for the signing of Carlos Cuellar on a free transfer, but reports suggest he is now preparing a £10m swoop for another two recruits.

Although it was David O’Leary that handed Gabby Agbonlahor his first-team debut at Villa, it was O’Neill that made him a focal point of the first team, firstly as a winger and then eventually as a central striker.

It was Agbonlahor’s raw pace and directness that initially won over the Villa fans, but he has not really improved in the past few seasons, particularly in terms of the number of goals he contributes.

This sense of frustration has become more apparent and the 25-year-old has found greater success again back in the wide areas, where his pace allows him to beat a man and get a cross into the box.

Therefore, despite his loyalty to the club, many Villa fans may not be too disappointed to lose Agbonlahor for the right price, especially if this money is reinvested wisely.

The other target is James Collins, who was brought to the club by O’Neill and undoubtedly enjoyed his better years at Aston Villa under the same manager.

Collins has fallen out with Gerard Houllier and Alex McLeish since, while his dominance from set pieces has also begun to diminish.

With Ciaran Clark ready to step into the defence, this may prove the right time to allow Collins to depart.

However, the speculation suggests Sunderland are willing to pay £10m for the pair, which may be below Villa’s expectations.

There are certainly grounds to argue that Agbonlahor is worth this alone, given his age and the typical premium placed on English signings.

The key for Villa is who this money could be spent on and Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge has to be a leading candidate, given that he supports the club and is likely to be struggling for chances under Roberto Di Matteo based on the latter part of last season.