Browns Owner Randy Lerner Close to a Championship

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Well, in the Carling Cup, anyway. Aston Villa advanced over Blackburn on 7-4 aggregate for their first trip to Wembley for a Cup final since 1996. They'll find out their opponent this Wednesday after Manchester United and Manchester City finish up the final leg of their semifinal. The final is set for February 28.

Manager Martin O'Neill thinks that this is going to be especially sweet for Randy Lerner:

The American entrepreneur was at Villa Park last Wednesday night to witness the remarkable semi-final second-leg victory over Blackburn.

The 47-year-old Cleveland Browns owner is now tantalisingly close to securing his first piece of major silverware since buying the club off Doug Ellis almost three-and-a-half years ago.

And O’Neill admits that not many football club owners will experience the day out that Lerner and the rest of the claret and blue army will make on February 28.

“He (Lerner) is bound to be happy really,” said O’Neill.

“I think when you become the owner of a football club, deep down you want to improve the status of it and the position of it, but eventually trips to Wembley are things you would dream of but not necessarily achieve during your time of ownership.

“So to happen now for him is pretty pleasing.”

And, as we've read a million times since Lerner purchased the team just over 3 years ago, he's still regarded as one of the best owners across the pond, and absolutely heads and tails above his fellow Yankees who also own teams.

Unlike some of his compatriots, Lerner actually has an interest in football, fostered during a year spent at Clare College, Cambridge, as a student.

But there is more that separates him from the likes of Hicks and Gillett. As one club employee pointed out, unlike any of the other major Premier League players, his wealth is inherited from his father, and his nature is to build something rather than see it as a vehicle for making a buck.

It is an approach that has been embraced by supporters. When Tom Hicks Jnr made his ill-advised stop-off at a Sandon pub, the son of the Liverpool co-owner got covered in lager.

When Lerner goes to the Holte after matches, as he often does, he is welcomed. In January 2008. Dave Woodhall, of fanzine Heroes and Villains, described the mood of supporters as thus: "The fans worship the ground Randy walks on. He can't do anything wrong. He's got the common touch, and it seems like he genuinely cares."

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