Writer: Mike Field
Date:Monday February 23 2009
Martin O'Neill has again used the 'prioritise' word ahead of our second leg clash against CSKA Moscow. Hard hat at the ready.
Speaking to Sky Sports O'Neill has admitted that he will have to think long and hard about which side to select for the Moscow tie because of us chasing a Top 4 finish this season.
O'Neill definitely sees the Champions League as the Holy Grail for Villa this season, and maybe we are closer to reaching that than he ever imagined but for a focus fans seem reasonably split.
'The irony of it all is that we spent all last year breaking our necks to get into the Uefa Cup. We started in July in the Intertoto just to get into it.
'Now we are in the final 32 and we are maybe having second or third looks at it.'
I'm not sure that's true myself. Some of the selections for the UEFA ties already have left things to be desired, same as the selections for the domestic Cup's since O'Neill arrived. So I'm not sure I follow that he's now taking second looks at it, he seems to have done so all along really.
Which, if the Champions League is the be all and end all this season, was the UEFA campaign simply to give our younger players European experience without ever intending to really make an effort to win the competition?
'I have to try and please Villa fans and I think they would look at that and think the Premier League, which can eventually drive you into the Champions League, is the Holy Grail.'
Maybe I'm selfish, but what's tiredness really when you're on £20-30+ a week? I know it's starting to have an effect on the squad now and legs will be becoming heavy when matches come as thick and fast as they have done last week for example but I don't see the Champions League as the Holy Grail worth sacrificing everything else for.
I think we should make a genuine attempt to win everything we are within a shot for. In fact I'd go as far as to say if he wants to play the second string, then it should be during league games and not Cup competitions. You only get 1 shot, maximum 2 shots in a Cup comp to secure a result. You've got 38 games to rectify mistakes in the league.
It may be the Holy Grail financially thesedays, but I'm traditional.
'It seems strange we are in that position. Had we been seventh, eighth, 10th in the league, it might have been a different outlook.
'Football has changed and chasing a top-four place in the Premier League, to get you into the Champions League, is everything.'
And therein lies the problems with todays 'beautiful game'. I'm just pleased that we are now trying to live in the real world of football whilst retaining as much tradition and history as we can.
The financial fan in me says blood the youngsters and those who need to work on their fitness in Moscow and secure Top 4.
The Villa fan in me says, don't rest a single sausage - at least give them 45 mins - and let's put the tie to bed and look forward to the next round.
If anyone is tired, they can avoid the bar and go straight to sleep after our comfortable win on a cold dark night in Moscow.
Ok, yeah well, I'll let them have a couple to celebrate first, I'm not that evil.
Date:Monday February 23 2009
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