Chris Sutton was such a flop in failing to avoid relegation with Birmingham City last season that the last place anyone in the Midlands would have expected him to pop up this term was across the great divide at Villa Park.

But Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill remains convinced that 33-year-old Sutton can do a job for him this season - if he can follow the example of another of O'Neill's former Celtic charges Henrik Larsson and remain the complete professional in the twilight of his career.

"It shouldn't be a problem," said O'Neill. "The chances are, if you've had a bit about yourself, and had the ambition to be a top quality player at 23 to 25, if you've got to 32 you'd have lost something in yourself if you were motivated just to take two or three years of somebody's contract.

"Henrik Larsson wasn't one jot of trouble because he always wanted to do the business.

"At the end of training at Celtic, you'd see Larsson, Sutton and Stilyan Petrov staying around for extra work.

"Larsson was an iconic figure at Celtic and had everything, but he wanted to go to Barcelona to try and prove himself and his driving frustration was that he didn't play enough.

"I saw him the night after Barcelona reached the European Cup final against Milan and you'd have thought by his face that Barcelona had lost the game because he only came on for the last 20 minutes.

"He was brilliant in terms of an attitude and, if Chris is fit, he wouldn't want to come here just to be a bit part of things.

"He doesn't need the money. He thinks he can do the business but, by the same token, he has also warned that if he cannot do it, he would walk. Honestly."

If anyone can be trusted on the issue of Sutton, then surely it's his former manager. Let's face it, in the two months since he took charge, O'Neill does not appear to have put a foot wrong - as can be testified by his side's record of being the only unbeaten team left in the Premiership.

And the Villa boss is convinced that the former England renegade can help fill the gap left in Villa's frontline by Luke Moore's shoulder injury.

But, despite wearing Villa colours for the first time on reserve team duty last night, Sutton is still nowhere near Premiership match fitness levels and, even with Juan Pablo Angel suffering the sort of nightmare he did on Saturday, O'Neill knows that he could be a few weeks away from any first team chance.

"If Chris has a point to prove, and wants to do well at the club, he'd like to be fitter," said O'Neill. "But he has never ducked it in all the time I've known him.

"He started off brightly at Birmingham, then got injured and was disappointed with that. But, if I was concerned about what he'd done in the past, I'd never have taken him from Chelsea. Not only did he play well at domestic level for Celtic, he was brilliant in the European games, so much that Sven-Goran Eriksson even came up to have a look at him - once!

"It wasn't the injury to Luke Moore that prompted me to get Chris. I was thinking about it beforehand. It just probably brought things to a head as much as anything else.

"But I've only got him on a short term deal, the squad is not the strongest and we'll try and see how we develop to Christmas."

* Sutton had a goal disallowed for offside as Villa's Reserves came back from two down to beat their West Ham counterparts 3-2 in front of O'Neill and Randy Lerner at Upton Park last night.

Sutton, who lasted 74 minutes, produced some nice touches but it was the introduction ofAdam McGurk that proved crucial. McGurk earned a penalty - converted by Craig Gardner - when he was brought down in the box, before poking home the winner with 16-minutes to go. Earlier, Marlon Harewood put the hosts two up before Christian Kabeya pulled one back.