Richard Dunne reckons all of Aston Villa’s players now feel as if they have an equal chance of being in the first team under new manager Gerard Houllier.
Villa’s French boss has tried to assess the entire squad and give everybody a chance to impress during his first few weeks in charge of the claret and blues.
Some of the players became disillusioned during Martin O’Neill’s reign with the former boss preferring to stick with the same side rather than rotate.
Dunne believes the likes of Luke Young, Nigel Reo-Coker, Marc Albrighton and Barry Bannan have particularly benefited from the change of manager.
“Everyone’s out to prove their worth a place in the team and that goes even for the lads who still aren’t playing at the moment,” said Dunne.
“Everyone’s training really well and the manager arranged a friendly last week.
“It just gives everyone games and gives everyone a little bit of sharpness that we need so when the team does have to change at times the players are going to be ready and they’re going to have a point to prove.
“It’s good for everyone. We all feel we’re in with an equal chance of playing.”
Dunne suggests Houllier’s arrival has reignited a dressing room which only welcomed one new face in the summer with the capture of midfielder Stephen Ireland from Manchester City.
“Sometimes clubs sign a lot of players to give them a spark,” said Dunne. “
“We’ve not signed a load of players but we’ve got a new manager who brings a new sort of energy to the whole place. People want to impress him.
“If we can start off well and get ourselves into a decent position over the next month or two it will really give us a good base for the rest of the season,” he added.
Villa finished sixth for three successive seasons under O’Neill and Dunne is confident that the claret and blues can match or eclipse that Premier League position under Houllier.
“It’s a good start considering the club was apparently in turmoil and everything had gone drastically wrong,” said Dunne, who praised caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald for steadying the ship before Houllier took over.
“I think Kevin MacDonald just held everything together here and kept us going forward.
“We still believe that we’re a top six side, although other teams will probably say they’ve strengthened and moved on this season.
“We feel that we had a squad that was good enough last season and again this season, especially now we’ve got new ideas from a new manager. Maybe that can be the spark for us.”