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from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Aston Villa’s Bent buy will flummox O’Neill

SOCCER-ENGLAND/

If eyebrows were raised when Aston Villa decided to spend up to 24 million pounds on striker Darren Bent then former manager Martin O’Neill’s forehead must have been pinned to his living room ceiling when the news broke on Tuesday.

The absurdity of the switch lies not in the inflated figure or Bent’s abilities on the pitch and in front of goal, but in the timing of Villa chairman Randy Lerner choosing to dig deep into his pockets.

O’Neill walked out of the Midlands club just days before the start of the season after being told transfer funds were scarce and the £18 million to be raised from the sale of James Milner to Manchester City would not be reinvested in the squad.

Just six months later, however, Villa have splashed a mammoth fee on a player who has been permanently on the fringes of the England squad while a further six million was spent last week in French midfielder Jean Makoun.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Houllier should be perfect match for Villa

SOCCER-FRANCE/A tricky start to the season in which manager Martin O’Neill left before a ball was kicked, midfielder James Milner joined Manchester City and the club limped out of the Europa League, Aston Villa were in need of steady hands. Gerard Houllier should be just the man.

The 63-year-old Frenchman, who won five trophies with Liverpool and three French league titles, has swapped his job as technical director of the French Football Federation (FFF) for the Villa hot seat and brings a wealth of experience with him.

In Britain – The week in 7 pictures

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Saturday: A worker changes a sign in the window of the Woolworths store in Ashby de la Zouch in central England on December 27, 2008. Woolworths collapsed into administration in November and its administrators said earlier in December that all its stores would close by Jan. 5, with the loss of 27,000 jobs, unless a last-minute buyer could be found. REUTERS/Darren Staples

Sunday: A pro-Palestinian demonstrator waves a muddy boot during a protest near the Israeli Embassy in London on December 28, 2008, against the Israeli strikes on Gaza. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

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