Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill continues to exude the confidence and cheery disposition of a man holding a half-full glass despite some obvious frustrations and difficulties in adding to his squad.
The Irishman saw his side stay in contention for the Peace Cup in Spain last night when Mexican side Atlante upset Malaga 3-1 – a result which which could prevent the Spanish hosts progressing to this weekend’s semi-finals.
But it is not on the pitch where O’Neill’s concerns are focused, but off it where his already limited numbers have fallen from last season.
Zat Knight has joined Gareth Barry, Martin Laursen and Stuart Taylor in leaving the Midlands with only Stewart Downing having so far arrived – and he may not be fit until December.
O’Neill saw Bulgarian target Stanislav Manolev agree to join Dutch side PSV Eindhoven from Litex Lovech when it appeared a deal was close.
But O’Neill has plenty of irons in the fire and appears happy to bide his time for the second of his summer arrivals fall into place.
Portsmouth’s Sylvain Distin may now be only a matter of days away despite the Pompey club asking for £4.5 million for a 31-year-old with one year remaining on his contract.
O’Neill said: “We are obviously going to improve the team. If we are going to try and improve this season then we need some players in. I will be expecting that to happen. We are some numbers down but we are looking to put that right.
“I’m not in the habit of letting people go if I didn’t think we could do something.
“I would not be getting overly concerned at the moment. We have a number of things we are working on and I’m hoping they will bear fruit in the not-too-distant future.”
Villa must decide whether to continue their interest in Leeds’ teenager Fabian Delph having seen an initial bid rejected by the Yorkshire club a fortnight ago.
Leeds boss and former Villa midfielder Simon Grayson has admitted that he would find it difficult to begrudge Delph a move to the Premier League.
But Ken Bates appears reluctant to lower his asking price, believed to be around the £6 million mark.
The impressive 19-year-old is also thought to be wanted by both Everton and Tottenham and Grayson knows it could be tough to keep hold of him this summer.
“We’re not talking about him going to a League One team,” Grayson said.
“We’re talking about top Premier League clubs coming in for him.
“The hardest thing for us would be accept a bid in the first place, but also to deny the player to the chance to go to that level.”
Meanwhile, up and coming winger Marc Albrighton believes American defender Eric Lichaj should be proud of his efforts against Malaga at the weekend.
Lichaj, 20, who has represented the United States at Under-17 and Under-20 level, made his first start for Villa in the 1-0 defeat.
Promising winger Albrighton said: “I think he was surprised to get the call.
“He said he was a bit nervous before the game. But I thought he handled himself really well and gave a good account of himself – going forward and defending.”
Albrighton says Villa’s Peace Cup training camp is proving a hit with all of the club’s young players.
“It’s a great experience to come out here and play alongside the likes of John Carew, Ashley Young and Carlos Cuellar,” he said.
“It’s fantastic playing abroad in different stadiums against sides from different divisions like La Liga.”