Date: 17th June 2008 at 3:03pm
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Olof Mellberg is looking to the young Villa players to push on from last season and challenge the top four. The bearded wonder, currently playing in the Euro’s (a little known tournament that our home nation teams don’t enter….!) for Sweden, told the official site he might have left but he’s not forgotten us and will be watching the results whilst at Juventus.

‘People ask me ‘is this the best Villa squad I’ve been involved with’ but it is difficult to compare because this is a different situation. We have a lot of young talented players and back then we had a lot of older experienced players – Peter Schmeichel, Paul Merson, Ian Taylor, Dion Dublin, Steve Staunton and so on. They were great players but probably at the end of their careers. Now we have a lot of young players at the start of their careers who were key players last season.’

Adding that with the age of our players things look good for the future and that the club really need to strengthen to build on the solid foundations.

And on the chances of European football he added: ‘It is always a good experience to play in Europe especially for the players at Villa as they are young like Gabby and Ashley. Being involved in some way in those situations is a good learning curve, when you become involved in the Uefa Cup or the Champion League. It is a different sort of thing to normal domestic football, a lot of pressure, and there is a lot of attention which you learn from.’

Martin O’Neill agrees saying, ‘If we can get through the Intertoto and into the UEFA Cup it could be great experience for our players. If we can get through to the Group Stages, where you can take stock a little bit, that would certainly be the case. I think Everton would say they’re much better equipped for Europe next season as a result of their terrific run this year and the experience gained from that.’ Adding, ‘The likes of Gabby and Ashley Young can only benefit for that experience as they continue to develop as players.’