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Talk of the Europa HDV League for next season, Gabby and Martin O'Neill

It's not that I couldn't be arsed or anything, it's just that apart from all the normal pre-match banter, there isn't much else going on. Hang on a sec, I've just seen something. Gabby seems to be doing a bit of talking and so does Martin O'Neill and it's mostly all about Gabby.

On the one hand we've got Gabby talking to anyone that will listen, then running away very very quickly, that the Villa team haven't hit the wall and that fourth spot is still on.

We've then got Martin O'Neill talking about the heart to heart chat he had with Gabby. It's all good stuff today and well, we all know that Gabby has talent - it's just a case of are we going to start to see him really fill this potential? I think Martin O'Neill thinks we will soon enough.

Our mate gabby is also in confident mood going into the match tomorrow. While tomorrow, with about an hour to kick off I'll be as confident as the next Villa fan, I've got to say now, that my confidence very much rests on the players Martin O'Neill fields. I fancy we can beat any team on our day, but at the moment I need convincing.

Liverpool have had two great results against Real Madrid and Manchester United but we can go there and cause an upset, like we have done against big teams in the past. I believe we can keep our challenge going to the end of the season.

We have worked hard to get where we are and we are not going to throw away easily the hard work we have put in.
Gabby Agbonlahor, March 20th 2009

But let's not forget about Martin O'Neill and his heart to heart with Gabby.

I just gave him a word or two of encouragement, because at the end of the day he’s young. He’s absolutely not hiding. Every game can’t be as splendid as some of the games he’s produced for us, but his overall contribution this season has been more than excellent.

I think Gabby would be as keen as anyone just to add another goal or two and get a bit more confidence back. He’s no different to any other centre-forward. He thrives on goals.
Martin O'Neill, March 20th 2009

Most people need a little pep talk at times and the good managers are usually quite good at it, which is why they end up as good managers. So, we have to hope that it works for Gabby, because at the moment he needs something to work for him.

In something else today, which has got me a bit baffled if I'm honest, Martin O'Neill is talking about European football for next season and not the Champions League. he's actually talking about next season's Europa League.

With a little bit of luck we will be playing European football next season. Amid the disappointment of recent weeks that should not be overlooked. That's something we are aiming for at this football club, to make it a regular feature of our calendar. We are aiming to qualify for the second time in the last three years.

No-one is going to give it to us. It is very tough and teams are fighting for all sorts of reasons.
Martin O'Neill, March 20th 2009

Now, I don't want to annoy anyone by bringing this up, but if all of a sudden Martin O'Neill is going to start banging on about qualifying for the Euro Disney Tournament, I'm going to find it a little hard to swallow, after giving up on the tournament this year.

If we don't finish in the top four and we end up in this tournament again, then the manager has to spend money in the summer and make sure we bring in real quality and not just more 'squad players'. I actually find it quite hard to take all this talk of the Europa HDV League after this seasons performance in it and if all this talk is going to keep coming then seeing as the club built my expectations, then it's about bloody time that they met them.

Still, if that is where we end up, he can't make the same excuses for next season as he has done for this one and what I suggest he do is speak to Mr Lerner sooner rather than later about making sure there is money to spend, although the more I think about it, I doubt there really is. We've been sold on some good PR.