Martin O'Neill admits he has been surprised at how impressive defender Martin Laursen has been for Aston Villa this season after a three-year injury nightmare.

O'Neill, who is still trying to persuade Laursen to sign a new contract, had questioned whether the Danish international would be able to handle back-to-back games after his knee problem.

But Laursen has answered those doubts by starting every Barclays Premier League game - plus a series of internationals for his country - and has also weighed in with five goals.

The only time the former AC Milan player was rested was for the Carling Cup clashes with Wrexham and Leicester City.

O'Neill said: "Martin has been immense. When you consider 15 or 16 months ago I watched him in pre-season and he was even walking with a bit of a limp. He spent some time recovering from the injuries he had. Laursen's heart is as big as himself and he said he would recover and you take his word for that.

"But I would have been surprised at what he has done here and that is great credit to him. He has played consecutive games for us all season, one of six players to start every league game. Yes, he takes his days out to do his leg work and strengthening work but he has been fantastic.

"He looks like scoring every game and one of the reasons for that is because he wants to go for the ball. I couldn't be more pleased with him.

"He has been brilliant and has worked so hard to come back and play Premier League football because I am sure there were many dark days when he thought he would never play again."

O'Neill is planning further talks with Laursen over his future. His current four- year deal ends in the summer.