Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel believes the work ethic of Martin O’Neill’s men will help them go from strength to strength in the future.
Villa’s elder statesman also reckons that there is plenty of potential for individual young players like Gabriel Agbonlahor to get even better.
Friedel (inset) is backing Villa to be a force and the 38-year-old American says last season’s sixth-placed team have the ability to hurt opposing teams with their pace.
“This talented group have a collective work ethic which is quite remarkable,” said Friedel. “When you add talent to application you have got a chance of doing something.
“It’s exciting also because a lot of the talent in the team is still young and will develop further.
“Gabby Agbonlahor has terrific pace. We have terrific pace elsewhere though. Ashley Young is quick and John Carew deceptively so.
“With the passing ability of people like Stiliyan Petrov we can unleash this pace and cause other teams some serious problems.”
Friedel is preparing for his second season at Villa Park following last summer’s move from Blackburn where he spent eight years.
The former US international No.1 is confident that, with time, the claret and blue back four will become increasingly difficult to break down.
“I’m pleased with the way we have begun to gel at the back,” said Friedel. “It inevitably takes a bit of time for players to get used to each other and all in all I think we are developing a good understanding.”
Meanwhile, Villa defensive target Brede Hangeland is reported to have rejected the offer of a new contract at Premier League rivals Fulham.
Hangeland’s decision to apparently turn down a contract which would have doubled his wages at Craven Cottage could prompt O’Neill to step up his interest in the Norway captain.
Central defensive reinforcements are a priority for Villa following the injury enforced retirement of captain Martin Laursen and O’Neill would welcome a player with experience of playing in the English top flight.
Portsmouth centre-half Sylvain Distin has also been heavily linked with a move to Villa Park, while Bolton Wanderers are believed to be stepping up their pursuit of Zat Knight.