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O'Neill braced for toughest year yet

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08 May 2010 15:37:00

O'Neill braced for toughest year yet

Martin O'Neill knows Aston Villa must spend this summer ahead of what he expects to be an even more competitive Premier League next summer. Villa entertain Blackburn on Sunday in a game that will bring the curtain down on a campaign that has seen O'Neill's men reach the Carling Cup final, the FA Cup semi-finals and qualify for Europe for the third successive season. But O'Neill knows that even more will be expected in the future and matching that expectation will not be easy. He said: "In terms of expectation, it is getting higher and higher. But you expect the same from the likes of Manchester City, Tottenham and Everton. "Liverpool, by their own standard, have had a tough old time this season but you would expect them to regroup and fight back. You would never expect them, having only lost two games the previous season, to be in double figures in losses. "It has been a strange old season in many aspects but from our viewpoint it has been rewarding. "The way the Carling Cup final panned out [Villa lost 2-1 against Manchester United] was probably my major disappointment of the season. "The ironic part of this game is that if you achieve a bit of success, you feel you have to move forward at a great pace. "Manchester City, we know, are going to get stronger as they have the power to do so. "Tottenham, by qualifying for the Champions League, will have to compete in that competition to get as strong as possible. "Tottenham have proved themselves after the disappointment of the Portsmouth defeat in the FA Cup semi-final. They could have been forgiven for feeling sorry for themselves but they roared back with two great wins against Chelsea and Arsenal. "That propelled them forward and gave them the momentum. They have been able to carry that momentum through to make a late charge in the league. "Everton, looking on, obviously feel they want to be in the mix. David Moyes himself feels when everyone is fit and available they have a squad as good as anyone. "It will be tough to compete but that is the name of the game." But Villa are better placed than many of their rivals in one respect. O'Neill's decision to pack his team with English talent will stand Villa in good stead when new rules on the make-up of Premier League squads are implemented. From next season, Premier League clubs must include eight home-grown players from a squad of 25. O'Neill added: "I didn't know these things were going to come around when I was signing the players. "I've always said that I would prefer to have home-grown players so it will not affect us in the slightest, which is really good news. "Two or three years ago that wasn't the reason for signing the players we recruited. "Primarily we were not sure which way the Premiership or UEFA would go. Delightfully it will not effect us."


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