Date: 14th May 2008 at 3:30pm
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Martin O’Neill has opened talks with Gareth Barry and insists his position has not changed.

O’Neill’s plans for next season and beyond have been laid out to Barry and O’Neill has stressed that he is a key part of those plans.

Barry now has the opportunity to review what was said before making his final decision, either way O’Neill is determined Tom Jones and the Paperboys devious and underhand tricks will not work.

Speaking on the official site, O’Neill said:

‘We’ve spoken to Gareth and our situation remains the same – that everyone at Aston Villa Football Club wishes very strongly that Gareth will stay.

‘Obviously he’s at a big stage of his career. He’s 27-years-old and he’s been here almost 10 years. He’s due a testimonial and if he sees the club continuing to progress we definitely want to keep him.

‘He still has two years of his contract to run and Liverpool have put in an offer that, well it’s almost debatable whether it is an offer!

‘Things are very much up in the air and the main aim for the chairman and myself is to try and keep him at the football club. That’s what we’re trying to do.

‘You can make people see out their contracts but in essence we would want a pretty amicable solution to all of this and we’re still hopeful that things can be resolved in favour of Aston Villa.

‘I think Gareth sees the club progressing – he sees that every day. He sees how he is valued at the club. That’s something that is important and not something you can demean.

‘I understand a career only spans a certain amount of time and you want to get as much as you can out of that.

‘But Gareth has played for England because he plays regularly for Aston Villa and his England place is not in jeopardy because he’s playing for Aston Villa at the moment – frankly Capello does not need to see him playing in a Champions League game to be convinced.

‘Of course anything can change at the drop of a hat and I’m never overly confident but what I would say to the fans is that we’re doing our utmost and we’ll continue to do so. We want to show Gareth that we mean business.’

O’Neill goes onto say that Barry was determined to quit shortly before Lerner and he arrived, and in two short years not only has Barry’s game improved, but he’s now an England regular, not an England fridge player.

O’Neill doesn’t believe that Barry needs to move on at this stage to further his career. Basically there’s no way Barry would have believed that Villa would be in the Champions League within two seasons anyway, so if that was all important like mini Jones believes, why didn’t Barry leave then.

‘He nearly moved on a couple of years ago but he stayed and he hasn’t looked back. That’s not something which should be dismissed. He was at a crossroads and was pretty disillusioned with events but Randy’s arrival at the football club galvanised it.

‘The first thing I had to sort out was Gareth’s future. He committed himself to the football club and has gone onto produce the best football he’s ever played. That’s a great credit to him and I think it can continue.

‘If he can continue in the same form, regardless of what happens at Aston Villa, Gareth Barry can play at the very highest level for the next couple of seasons anyway.

‘So even if we don’t make the sort of progress that we’re all hoping to do, he might have other options maybe further down the line.

‘The promise here is very, very obvious. We’ve gone from 16th to 11th to sixth. We’ve got the smallest squad in the business and that’s something we’re desperately trying to improve.

‘We don’t really want to be starting off by losing our best players. The only way for us to make progress is by doing our utmost to keep him.

‘Gareth, despite what has been said in some newspapers, has never expressed unhappiness at Aston Villa. The crowd love him and his performances have warranted that.

‘Fans are obviously very anxious and we’re all concerned. We want to keep him and we’ve got certain things in our favour.

‘We want a solution that everyone is happy with and the last thing you want to do is keep an unhappy player at the football club – but Gareth Barry has not expressed his unhappiness at Aston Villa.’

It’s all down to Barry. And if I was him, promises of more money and warming the bench in Champions League games would count for nothing given Rafa’s behaviour.

If Barry wants to move to challenge quicker than he can at Villa he only only has three options. Arsenal, Man U and Chelsea. Our of those only Arsenal or Chelsea I suspect would be a real option.