Martin O’Neill sends Aston Villa into Premier League action against Burnley this weekend refusing to subscribe to the theory that the hardest part of their top-flight campaign is already over.
Villa remain unbeaten in the league so far during 2010 despite meeting top four contenders Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur since the turn of the year.
Sunday’s Villa Park visit of Brian Laws’ Clarets kicks off a run of six successive league games against teams in the bottom half of the table.
O’Neill’s Champions League challengers also face Hull City, Sunderland, Stoke City, Wigan Athletic and Wolverhampton Wanderers before the end of March.
However, O’Neill refuses to entertain the notion that his seventh placed side now have a ‘winnable’ run of fixtures.
“We’ve had a really tough time since Christmas,” said O’Neill. “My own view was that we won a few games on the trot including at Old Trafford and the Stadium of Light. I thought those were great results.
“Just before we came into the Christmas time we won against Stoke City which was a tough game – as tough as any match we’d played, including at Old Trafford.
“So from that viewpoint I don’t think our mindset is one that now we’ve got through that period we’ll be ok.
“It just doesn’t work like that.
“If for instance we could really concentrate on that and that alone – and not be involved in the Carling Cup final and not be involved in the FA Cup – I could maybe take that viewpoint or give it a wee bit more consideration.
“I just don’t because that’s not how you run it. The game against Burnley – whoever we put on the field – will be every bit as difficult as the game down at White Hart Lane.”
Meanwhile, O’Neill has talked about his decision to take part in a national radio show on Monday evening following Neil Warnock’s controversial comments after Sunday’s FA Cup draw at Crystal Palace.
Warnock criticised assistant referee Trevor Massey for awarding Villa a late equaliser, from which they equalised, when it should have been a Palace goal-kick.
“In the game against Wolves in the previous round, the replay at Selhurst Park, the decisive first goal was actually scored from a corner kick when Palace scored when it should have been a Wolves goal-kick,” added O’Neill.
“I’m sure the irony wasn’t lost on Neil. “We had a conversation on the radio. He was actually in the studio and he actually stole the thunder because he said his wife had reminded him of it.”