Martin O'Neill quits Aston Villa five days before new season

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Martin O'Neill surprisingly stepped down as Aston Villa manager on Monday, just five days before the start of the Premier League season.

Reserve team boss Kevin MacDonald has assumed the role of caretaker coach and will take prepare the team for the opening Premier League game of the season against West Ham on Saturday at Villa Park.

O'Neill has transformed the fortunes of Villa since replacing David O'Leary during the summer of 2006, with three consecutive top-six finishes in the league and a place in February's Carling Cup final.

However, they have failed to break into the top four of the Premier League and O'Neill has been at odds with American owner Randy Lerner over a lack of financial backing needed to make the club a Champions League contender.

In a statement, O'Neill said: "I've enjoyed my time at Villa immensely. It's obviously a wrench to be leaving such a magnificent club.

"I would like to pay tribute to the players, my coaching staff and the supporters for all the encouragement they have given both the club and me personally.

"I wish them all the best. I will be assisting the club in the immediate short term with regard to the hand-over of my duties."

Villa chief executive Paul Faulkner added: "The club would like to thank Martin for the great work he has done at Aston Villa over the past four years.

"He has helped to establish the club in the upper echelons of the Premier League, has taken us to Wembley and we have also qualified for European competition for the past three seasons under his management.

"We wish him the best in the future."

A number of names have already been linked with the vacant role, including former England and Manchester City boss Sven-Goran Eriksson and USA World Cup chief Bob Bradley.

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