ig Four see us as 'wasps', claims Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill

30 January 2009 11:48
Martin O'Neill has suggested that the established elite are treating Aston Villa

as little more than minor irritants in the race for the Champions League.

The Irishman said the Big Four were viewing them as 'wasps' after an impressive 11-match unbeaten run lifted them into fourth spot, just three points behind leaders Manchester United.

Challenge: Emile Heskey opened his account against Portsmouuth but O'Neill wants the Villa striker to improve his goalscoring ratio

 ASTON VILLA v Wigan: Carew set to return as Heskey faces former club

Villa have spirit to beat the elite, insists new boy Heskey

ASTON VILLA FC NEWS FROM ACROSS THE WEB



If results go their way, Villa could sit in second place after the weekend, with bookmakers now reckoning - for the first time since the inception of the Barclays Premier League - that they are more likely than Arsenal to lift the title.

The sold-out signs are going up at Villa Park for the visit of Wigan Athletic this afternoon - hardly a fixture that would normally draw such a big crowd at the end of January with Villa heavily involved in three competitions.

With Emile Heskey likely to lead the attack against the club he has just left behind, it is only the long-term injury to Martin Laursen that has put a slight dampener on O'Neill's spirit. But he says that the notion of challenging for the title is farfetched . at the moment.

'It is refreshing to look at the results of those four other clubs, feeling that you are up there - and we deserve to be,' he said.

'But I don't think they are looking at us. I believe they think we're like wasps. I'm looking at them, all right. But they aren't looking at us yet.

'They're not thinking to themselves: "Bloody hell, Villa have won again". I wouldn't have thought it has crossed their minds. They are all capable of winning six or seven games. I think they are better than us.

'I'd love to say I'm playing it down every week but they have bigger squads. They can rotate.

'What we have is resilience. We have won nine out of 12 away from home. That speaks volumes for the team's character. If you are winning on your travels that tells you that we are not crumbling under pressure.

'That is not to say I wouldn't consider us as challengers in the future but we are not at the moment.'

Boost: John Carew came through a behind-closed-doors friendly

Former Birmingham City striker Heskey will be paraded for the first time in front of the Holte End and his chances of a warm welcome have increased significantly after his midweek winner for Villa at Portsmouth.

O'Neill is hoping that the forward's goals ratio can improve, but will not be looking for him to alter the game that has seen him rewarded with 50 England caps, although he does believe that Heskey's reputation may have suffered through a lack of self-promotion.

He added: 'People with less talent than Emile are shouting it from the rooftops. I haven't seen Emile for years but I think that he is unbelievably self-effacing and he's much better than that.

'To see him boasting his head off on television would be amazing and it wouldn't be the Emile I know. But he does not have to be as self-effacing as he is.

'I know that people level at him all the time that he doesn't score enough goals. Then you read that Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney love playing with him.

'Personally, I wouldn't mind him being more selfish. I'd like to see him turning people and using his strength. I hope that's something he will think about. The last thing centre halves want to see is Emile charging at them.'

We're buzzing: O'Neill claims the top four see Villa as mere irritants



O'Neill and Heskey went their separate ways nine years ago but Heskey was clearly happy at the reunion.

'He's a special manager,' he said. 'He's not changed one bit since our time at Leicester. He had such an effect on Leicester, not just the club but the people there, that there were supporters who went to watch Celtic play when he moved up there.

'That's the measure of the man. He has some exciting plans for this football club and I wanted to be a part of it.'

Villa received another boost yesterday when John Carew declared himself available for today. The Norway striker has been sidelined for nearly three months with a back complaint. But Carew came through a behind-closed-doors friendly with Derby in midweek and will provide competition for Heskey and Gabriel Agbonlahor.

O'Neill said: 'He is in the squad which is very encouraging. He would be nowhere near match fit but he is feeling a lot better.' The manager added that the striker had 'a really good chance' of playing in the FA Cup replay with Doncaster on Wednesday.

 ASTON VILLA v Wigan: Carew set to return as Heskey faces former club

Villa have spirit to beat the elite, insists new boy Heskey

ASTON VILLA FC NEWS FROM ACROSS THE WEB





 

Source: Daily_Mail