Lee Hendrie left Aston Villa after 14 years with a lump in his throat but vowed to prove then-boss Martin O’Neill wrong. The talented midfielder was told his game-time would be limited during O’Neill’s overhaul in 2006. Still only 29, Hendrie donned claret and blue for the final time at the Emirates in O’Neill’s first game before departing to join Stoke City on loan. Hendrie who made his debut aged 18 in 1995 explained just how his memorable Villa Park career ended.
Hendrie said: “I spoke to Martin. I was quite pleased he was coming into the club and I thought to myself, ‘He’s a manager I’ve always admired, he’s very enthusastic. This is my chance. I probably suit Martin’s style of football’. But it just didn’t seem to be. I was hampered with these calf strains. I couldn’t get to grips with them. That was always the problem, fitness-based. I was coming to the age of 30, which is when I left.
“I had a conversation with Martin and he was golden. He was straight up with me. He basically said he was looking to change the whole club around, getting a lot of the older players out and bring a lot of younger players in. I think the budget might have gone up with changes that had gone on around the place. He said, ‘If you think you’re not going to get any football you’re granted to go out and play and I won’t stand in your way’. He was honest with me which I respected. Not all managers are like that.”
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