Shaun Maloney has admitted the Martin O’Neill factor played a major part in him turning his back on Celtic and joining Aston Villa with only minutes to spare before the January transfer window closed.
The 24-year-old, who can play up front or in a wide midfield role, worked under O’Neill at Parkhead and believes the Irishman can help him improve as a player and attain the higher standards which will be required south of the border.
He said: "I really loved my time at Celtic. It is a great club to play for. Turning your back on Celtic and the Champions League was not something I took lightly but now it’s a new chapter now in my football career.
"The Celtic fans were always very good with me. It is difficult when you leave a club and I am sure there are some fans who aren’t happy but I made my decision and I am very happy with that.
"Hopefully I’ll be able to do something very similar with the Villa fans and can excite them with my performances. It was a big decision - but one I have happy to have made.
"The Premiership in England is a higher level than the league I have come from - although that is still a tough league to win. But to play against a level of opponent which means I will have to raise my game each week here is a big challenge for me and something I look forward to."
Maloney added: "The chance of working here under Martin O’Neill was a big factor in the decision to come to Villa once I had decided I was leaving Celtic.
"Knowing the manager and the coaching staff from Celtic (John Robertson, Steve Walford) was a big part of that reason. Villa are such a massive club and, having worked with the manager and the coaching staff previously, I knew exactly what I was coming into."
O’Neill has no doubts Maloney can be successful south of the border. He said: "I have known Shaun since he was a youngster and I think he will do really well here. He is a very talented player, has been for a long time. He has started to mature in the last couple of seasons.
"He has had a wonderful time at Celtic. He has had a few serious injuries for one so young but he has battled through all of those and he is a decent young character as well. He is a good player. I am hopeful he will be a big asset to us."