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Taylor: Aston Villa slide began with O'Neill's UEFA Cup snub

Graham Taylor says Aston Villa's dramatic slide began when manager Martin O'Neill decided to field a weakened team in the UEFA Cup against CSKA Moscow.

"I feel some sympathy for Martin, but you have to take this back to the end of the Uefa Cup run and the Stoke City game that followed," Taylor, who led Villa to second place in the top flight in 1990, said. "They brought the players back early last summer for the Intertoto Cup in order to try to qualify for the Uefa Cup.

"There is a feeling among supporters, who are not anti-Martin, that the team had a great chance to finish fourth and go all the way in the Uefa Cup. What they are finding hard to understand is that the players who were brought back early for pre-season were not given the opportunity to go and win in Moscow. Then the players who were brought back into the side went 2-0 up against Stoke but drew 2-2 after the Uefa Cup exit.

"That created, for the first time in Martin's time here, some quite fierce criticism. The club did quite well to invite those 300 supporters who travelled to Moscow to dinner to compensate them. But it was almost like an admission of guilt."

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