Lerner breaks silence over O'Neill exit

O'Neill walked out on Aston Villa on Monday, just five days before the start of the season and with James Milner appearing to be headed for Manchester City.

Martin O'Neill quit as Aston Villa manager after disputes about future plans for the English Premier League club, Randy Lerner, the club's owner, revealed yesterday. O'Neill walked out on Monday, just five days before the start of the season and with James Milner appearing to be headed for Manchester City.

"Having had some time to reflect on Martin leaving, I can say that our most immediate focus is supporting [temporary manager] Kevin MacDonald and resolving the situation with Manchester City and James Milner," Lerner said in a statement. "As for explaining why Martin left, I can say only that we no longer shared a common view as to how to move forward. To deal in greater detail would do little but cause additional distraction for the club as it faces imminent games and the clear priority of hiring a permanent manager."

Lerner, who also owns the NFL's Cleveland Browns, remains keen to control wages and spending at Villa after saying earlier this year that he would prefer to spend money on players brought in from transfers. "There have been no changes in our approach to building the club, aiming always to be as competitive as possible given our size and resources," Lerner said. Bob Bradley, the US coach who is one of the favourites to replace O'Neill, said he would "love to coach in Europe".

The 52-year-old also confirmed that a representative had spoken to Fulham on his behalf last month when there was a vacancy at Craven Cottage. No American has ever managed in England's top flight and the failure of Bradley to confirm whether he would see out his contract, which runs out at the end of the year, has fuelled speculation he could be heading Villa Park. "My contract is through [to] the end of the year so it's no problem for me," Bradley said.

Meawhile, Stoke City last night completed the signing of striker Kenwyne Jones in a club record £8 million (Dh46.1m) deal from Premier league rivals Sunderland. Both clubs confirmed yesterday that the 25-year-old Trinidad & Tobago international was in talks over a move to the Potteries. Jones, who had a short spell on loan at the Britannia Stadium in 2005, has joined Tony Pulis's side on a four-year deal. The fee surpasses the previous record of £6m Stoke paid to Middlesbrough for defender Robert Huth last summer.

Philippe Senderos, the Fulham defender, is set to miss most of the season after rupturing an Achilles tendon. Senderos was injured while training in London on Tuesday after withdrawing from the Swiss squad to play Austria in a friendly last night. Senderos is expected to undergo an operation by the same surgeon in Finland who treated David Beckham for an Achilles injury in March. Blackpool, the Premier League newcomers, have signed four players with Ian Holloway, the manager, making his first acquisitions of the close season.

Craig Cathcart, the defender, has joined from Manchester United on a three-year deal for an undisclosed fee, along with midfielders Ludovic Sylvestre, the former Barcelona trainee, Malaury Martin and Elliot Grandin. Craig Bellamy and Stephen Ireland have been left out of Manchester City's squad for next week's Europa League qualifier against Timisoara. City have to submit a list of names to Uefa in line with new guidelines about home-grown players and even though there are spaces in that squad for both - only 23 of a possible 25 names were registered - suggesting that both may have played their last game for the club. Bellamy said on Tuesday that he did not expect to be in Roberto Mancini's 25-man Premier League squad, while Ireland is expected to be part of the deal that will see Milner move to Eastlands from Aston Villa.

West Ham United are set to capture Miralem Sulejmani, the Serbian forward, after confirming a loan deal has been agreed with Ajax. The 21-year-old has agreed terms with the Hammers and will join subject to a work permit being received. * Agencies