This issue has come to a gead as today Martin O'Neill has resigned from Aston Villa. No reasons were given in his official statement but it is safe to assume that the limited funds made available for him to better his results over the past three years was foremost in his thinking when handing in his notice.
He's done particularly well during his tenure in Birmingham – beating Top Four clubs and threatening for Champions League positions much of the last couple of seasons. But in the end his demise has come as many predicted, over transfer budgets and support for his ambitions.
O'Neill is a shrewd evaluator of talent and has spent his available money wisely. That wisdom has then been hijacked by the larger clubs as one by one each of Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham have targeted his purchases to enhance their own squads. As talent exits, new talent must be brought in and over time this must get tiring.
Managers at the so-called “second level” clubs like Everton and Villa deep down must know they fight a losing battle. Consistently having to fight wears one down. Where in a manager's early years they can look upon this exodus of talent as an opportunity for refreshment and change, as time wears on it can and does string the boss more and more tautly. Where once was belief in his team's ability to cope now lies despair at the constant nature of these marauders. It's nearly a universal truth that as one tires, one gets tetchy. That tetchiness then reflects in how the next issue forced onto our plate is dealt with.
For Aston Villa, there's nothing wrong with holding out to get the correct price for a player, especially when the buyer is Manchester City and one of your chief competitors for Champions League football. But if that stance turns the player against you, it's a battle that has no victors. Play him and risk halfhearted performances and constant distracting speculation. Don't play them and watch results suffer.
You can't fight off interest from clubs indefinitely, it just doesn't happen. If a player wants to go, generally they find a way to make it happen. The best you can do is ensure you get back appropriate funds and invest them wisely, only to watch managers disappear.