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Football: O'Neill 'powerless' over Milner.

Byline: By Ken Montgomery

MARTIN O'Neill today expressed his disappointment and said he was left 'powerless' after Newcastle performed a late U-turn and scuppered his bid to bring James Milner back to Villa Park.

The Magpies gave the Villa manager permission to speak to the 20-year-old, who spent last season on loan at the club, and the winger travelled to Birmingham yesterday morning for discussions about a pounds 4million move.

However, by early afternoon he was hastily recalled by Toon chairman Freddy Shepherd after Newcastle's bid for Middlesbrough striker Mark Viduka had fallen through.

"I'm bitterly disappointed. It came completely out of the blue and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it," said O'Neill, whose only signing during the transfer window has been Celtic midfielder Stiliyan Petrov for pounds 8million.

"We worked right up until the midnight deadline to try to keep the deal alive. There was no late haggling over the fee or James' personal terms.

"We had reached an agreement with Newcastle and James, then around mid-afternoon yesterday they changed their mind and recalled him.

"That's their prerogative - he's their player and we were absolutely powerless."

Villa are also unhappy at the timing of the pull-out because had they known earlier they would have used the money earmarked for Milner to pursue other targets.

A source close to new Villa owner Randy Lerner said: "We're in the dark over what's happened. James can't understand how Newcastle expect him to go back after saying they didn't want him."

Milner, who made 33 appearances for Villa last season and scored three goals, is said to be "upset" at the way the move was scuppered and will meet Toon boss Glenn Roeder today.

Meanwhile, Lerner is understood to be close to securing the 75 per cent of shares needed to assume full control of the club.

The American acquired Villa for pounds 62.6million after no rival bids were forthcoming before the deadline. If he acquires 90 per cent of the shares, he will be able to compulsorily buy the remaining 10 per cent.

VILLA DEFENDER'S FITNESS FIGHT: Page 94

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RECALL... James Milner.' RANDY LERNER.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Sep 1, 2006
Words:358
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