Just hours after signing a new four-year contract with Aston Villa, Gareth Barry last night revealed he would have walked out on the club had David O'Leary remained in charge.

Barry, who was the inspiration behind Villa's 2-0 victory over Newcastle United yesterday, said he was on the brink of handing in a transfer request before Martin O'Neill arrived and convinced him his future lay at Villa Park.

As a result of several meetings with the new manager, Barry has agreed to remain at the club until 2010, by which time he will have been there 13 years - an almost unknown situation in a modern game high on transience, low on loyalty.

And while he was full of praise for O'Neill, he was sceptical as to whether O'Leary could have developed him as a player and even accused the Irishman of forcing former team-mate Darius Vassell out of the club.

"I had virtually asked the club for a move," Barry said. "I wanted to know what other offers were out there. The club just wanted me to hold on for the new manager and to make my decision then.

"Thankfully it was the right thing that the club did because I am still here and now looking forward to the next four years.

"But my decision was made before David O'Leary got the sack. I felt it was time to move on for the sake of my career.

"It was a strange couple of weeks, O'Leary got sacked and then there was speculation about the new manager coming in so I was in no-man's land.

"But since he has come here, and since the reception I saw when he signed it started me thinking again 'Is it the right thing to move on?'"

With O'Leary's replacement firmly ensconced in the Villa hot-seat and already more popular with the club's fans than his predecessor ever had been, it seems the O'Neill's best piece of business has already been done.

The Ulsterman is desperate to add to his threadbare squad before the transfer window closes on Thursday night but even if he fails to do so the retention of Barry has been a masterstroke.

The new manager has not only made the 25-year-old captain but he has reignited the fires of international ambition within the midfielder merely by boosting his flagging self-belief.

"He said all the right things. He is the sort of man you can listen to and take it in," said Barry. "He has got confidence in me and getting me back into the England squad.

"He has got confidence in improving my game to another level and I believe what he says. Martin O'Neill can certainly get the best out of his players. He has done that wherever he has been."

The prospect of working under such a man is clearly the key factor to Barry's decision to remain in the Midlands - one obviously missing when Vassell moved to Manchester City at the start of last season.

"It's a bit different to Darius Vassell leaving - his decision was made for him by David O'Leary - that's the way I saw it," said Barry.

"I felt I needed it as well but two months down the line my mind has changed and I am ready to focus on Aston Villa again.

"It is easy to get into a comfort zone but I am going into training now looking forward to it all again."

Which is all down to O'Neill who made retaining Barry his number one priority this summer.

He has opined on several occasions that losing perhaps their best player would have been a severe blow to a club already low on morale.

But, with a new owner, new manager and new captain in harness, it seems the only way is up for Gareth Barry and Aston Villa.