Aston Villa have continued their policy of signing up their stable of stars on long-term contracts by agreeing a new deal with Ashley Young.
The former Watford winger pledged his future to Villa by penning a four-year deal until 2012. He joins John Carew, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Craig Gardner and Stiliyan Petrov, who recently signed extended contracts with Martin O’Neill’s team.
Young’s improved deal is a sign of the individual and collective progress he and Villa have made since his arrival in January last year.
The England hopeful paid tribute to O’Neill for having the faith to pay in excess of £9 million for him more than 18 months ago. “I am delighted,” he said. “I am glad the gaffer has offered me the new deal and I’m really pleased to sign it. The club is moving in the right direction and I knew it was right for me to pen the new deal.
“The manager has really helped me develop as a player. He brought me to the club and my game has moved on leaps and bounds under his guidance. I can only thank him for that and I am looking to repay him for the faith he has shown in me.”
O’Neill says it will be difficult for his players to put Monday night’s defeat at Newcastle out of their system. He is looking forward to getting tomorrow’s Uefa Cup tie in Slavia Prague and Sunday’s Premier League match with Middlesbrough out of the way so that his team can regroup.
“It is still too early to forget about Monday night,” he said. “It was a real disappointment but we have to put it behind us.
“We have got to keep going, there are lots of things to think about. We have got a game tomorrow night and again on Sunday. Then after that we can re-assess because there are no midweek games for a week or two.”
O’Neill, who will fly to the Czech Republic with his squad today, is expecting a tough test against Slavia. Villa are joint top of group F with Hamburg after defeating Ajax 2-1 in the first game of the group stages.
“It’s obviously very important. Very important indeed,” O’Neill said. “It would be nice to come back with some more points on the board but I think that will be exceptionally difficult.
“From the reports we have had they really are a typical Czech side. They are very, very good in possession. They will cause us plenty of problems.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle United midfielder Joey Barton will face no action for flicking out a hand at Agbonlahor in Monday’s match. The 26-year-old was the subject of speculation that he could face disciplinary action after catching the Villa man in the face as he disputed a free kick.
However, the Football Association last evening confirmed that referee Steve Bennett, who did not see the incident, had decided it did not warrant a red card after considering video evidence, and there was no case to answer.
Barton would have invoked a six-match suspended ban imposed for his training ground attack on former Manchester City team-mate Ousmane Dabo if he had been sent off for violent conduct. He had earlier pleaded his innocence after Newcastle number two Chris Hughton and O’Neill had played down the controversy.
Barton said: “The ball came across and the referee gave a free kick, and I was debating with him because I didn’t think it was a free kick. I thought it was a foul against me and I had hold of the ball. Their lad came across and barged me in the back. Nothing has gone on. People are making a mountain out of a molehill.”
Barton was later cautioned for a challenge on Luke Young.
Newcastle’s second successive League win lifted them from the foot of the table into 14th place after a second-half double by Nigerian Obafemi Martins. But only a point separates Newcaslte from West Bromwich Albion in 19th place.
Newcastle efforts to sell the club are on-going with Keith Harris, chairman of investment bank Seymour Pierce, indicating one of two “very serious” prospective buyers could agree a deal with owner Mike Ashley within weeks.