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Rumour round-up, Aston Villa player search, Reserves win league and my mini reality check and renewed optimism

I wanted to just list all the players we've been linked to over the past few days but instead, as we know most are absolute cobblers, I'm just going to look at the ones that actually do get a score on the rumour likelihood rating.

The first is Nikola Žigic and while the rumour likelihood score is very low, it's still getting a number, mostly because I'd like to see him at Villa, as I think he'd suit how we play - he's a big player, who takes his chances and I fancy Martin O'Neill knows he made a mistake with Emile Heskey.

It gets a low number though, because I don't think O'Neill needs to worry about his strikers, at the worst point of this season, as in when Martin O'Neill only had one available, we had our best spell. The area the manager has to worry about is midfield and Martin Laursen, sorry, central defence.

So, to the midfielders we've been linked to, that get a number suggesting there is at the very least a very slim chance. First and last of the recent rumour is Fabian Delph and his number would be quite high. First, we know O'Neill likes young and English, second, he has a lot of talent and is already capped at U21. Out of five, I'd give this a four.

Add to that, we've got Steven Defour talking up Aston Villa, I think there might be one or two more we can add to that midfield list and if come a couple of weeks into the summer we've got one or two, shall we say, more experienced players, backed up by the likes of Defour and Delph, we've got to be happy.

Moving on to defenders. I don't think there has been anyone mentioned to replace Laursen but that is going to happen, or should I say, it has to happen. It's not that I don't like Cueller, Davies or Knight, it's that they are not martin Laursen - them come across as more of the Martin Keown or Steve Bould type player; they looked better with Tony Adams.

We need a big man in the middle who can literally boss the back line, we don't have that now but we do have some very good players in defence and we have had one or two rumours. First is Ajax fullback Urby Emanuelson. He's only 22 years old and has made 11 appearances for the Dutch national side. He's basically an attacking left back and well, you've got to fancy Nick Shorey is off, probably back to Reading if they get up, which I fancy they will.

Other than that, the last defender link of the day is Daniel Fox. Now, this one has been doing the rounds for a while now and it's getting a number. Mostly because he is young and English again and has made an appearance at U21 level. However, he is no replacement for Martin Laursen, that's going to cost quite a bit of cash.

That is the rumour talk done, now we've got to talk about the player search which according to Martin O'Neill is well under way. At the weekend we had fifteen matches covered, which sort of suggests there was a minimum of fifteen players watched, which you've got to sort of fancy, means we are going to act early this summer.

That is my hope anyway, which sort of is the point of my renewed optimism. I'm not sure if it's just PR by the club, but O'Neill is talking about meeting with Lerner and the plans for the summer. Even if it is PR, I think they've only really got one more time of trying to pull one over on us, so if they have decided to use it, let's hope it doesn't back fire.

I really think this summer will be very important indeed and also very difficult. But I will be speaking with Randy. If it is not this week, then it will be the week after.

He has been pretty excited about the way we have played. He sees this season as one of progress. He has got some decent plans as well for the improvement of Villa Park in the next couple of years.
Martin O'Neill, April 26th, 2009

That type of talk from the manager gets me all excited. It's like he has finally realised how important this summer is and he's acknowledged it. Sort of fills you with hope doesn't it?

A big up to Kevin MacDonald today too as he and his team won the Barclays Premier Reserve League South title last night after beating West Brom 2-0. Over the course of the season they won 11 and lost only two of the sixteen matches to win the title for the second season on the bounce.

It's not a mickey mouse league either and it's taken quite seriously. We now go on to play with winner of the Northern league to see who is the best reserve team in the country. We lost out last year I think to Liverpool and I'm not sure who we will be meeting this year, I'll find out and let you know later.

Lastly today, to the reality check. The transfer window is open in less than a month and the manager is looking for players and he is meeting with the owner this week or next.

He will know, this week or next, how much money he can spend and he's going to want to get it sorted as quickly as possible so we should see, in about two months, our deals done. Anything that happens after that, is just buying for the numbers, so we should know fairly soon, exactly what the ambitions of our owner are.

The reality check is we're going to finish a top six side for the second season on the bounce and we'll know very soon what Randy Lerner intends for our club. Not long to wait.