Villa - The Answer For England?
After a season of doing no wrong, boss Martin O'Neill has finally said something outrageous - that England could have a midfield formed of Aston Villa players in the near future.
While fans who are convinced that the FA have an anti-Villa policy may not be convinced, O'Neill believes that Nigel Reo-Coker, Gareth Barry, Ashley Young and Gaby Agbonlahor could one day be international team-mates.
O'Neill told the Sunday Mirror: 'England have got a formidable midfield, especially now Owen Hargreaves is back in the fold, but I think Nigel can break into that. Absolutely.
'I feel the same about Gareth Barry. That should be a big ambition for both of them. It's probably the hardest part of the squad to break into but I believe they can both do it.
'It's been important to me to keep a core of Britishness about the team, and it's very exciting to see the potential of some of the other young lads we have, like Young and Agbonlahor.'
The boss also highlighted the fact that as new boy Nigel Reo-Coker, who moved to Villa Park from West Ham for £7.5million last week, is now too old to play for England under-21s, he will have to break into the senior squad to continue his international career.
Given Reo-Coker, 23, was the under-21 captain he should at least give Steve McClaren. Assuming, of course, that Steve McClaren is capable of independent thought...!
Of the others, all Villa fans would surely agree that Gareth Barry should have far more than his nine caps for England. Sadly, though, given how the modern game works Barry will have to make an impression soon if he is to become an England regular. He may only be 26, but a lot of players have previously become regulars at a much younger age.
Not that he is to blame, of course, as he has been superb for Villa for years now - even rival fans admit it, but whoever is sitting in the England hot-seat has obviously seen things very differently.
Ashley Young is still developing as a player, but his talent, pace and awareness could result in an early call-up. Though as he turns 22 today (happy birthday!), it wouldn't be that early a call-up - though given he spent five years with Watford, his tally of just five England under-21 caps shouldn't be too surprising.
Finally, Gabby Agbonlahor. Of the four players, Gabby is perhaps the hardest to picture in an England shirt at the moment, though that may say more about his three team-mates than his own talent, which is obvious and he possesses by the bucket-load.
Also, of all the players, perhaps Martin O'Neill has it within his power to do more to get Gabby an England call-up than any of the other players - by playing him down the middle and not on the wing. To be blunt, Gabby is a classy attacker but cannot cross the ball anywhere near as well as a genuine wide-player can.
Hopefully, now the boss is bringing in more players and Villa are less-likely to have to play players out of position to cover injuries, Gabby will get the chance to emerge as one of the Premiership's top young strikers and convert his four England under-21 caps into a call-up to the senior side.
Perhaps the boss is right on this one and England really will name four Villa players in the same team...oh, grab the camera, I can see some pigs flying overhead!
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