Kind-hearted Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill must be the only football fan in the country who did not have a good chuckle yesterday morning at suggestions that Stan Collymore is ready to launch a comeback.

But, although O'Neill has not actually shot down the idea that, at pushing 36, Collymore could get back in the game after a five-year absence, it will clearly not be with Villa.

O'Neill might have allowed himself the luxury of one attempted rescue attempt when he took Collymore to Leicester City six-and-a-half years ago.

But that was then and this is now. And he seriously doubts whether the former Wolverhampton Wanderers, Stafford Rangers, Crystal Palace, Southend United, Nottingham Forest, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Fulham, Leicester City, Bradford City, Real Oviedo and England maverick would be physically up to the challenge.

O'Neill said: "He would need a lot of willpower and self determination to get fit for the Premier League.

"At 35, you need a great desire and I just don't know what Stan has been doing in the last couple of years.

"I don't know whether that desire has returned."

It is now more than nine years since Collymore joined Villa from Liverpool for #7 million in May 1997 from Liverpool. And, most notably on the night when his stunning strike almost rescued a lost cause on a memorable evening against Atletico Madrid, he did have his moments. But, despite scoring twice to beat Liverpool a month earlier and earn John Gregory a win in his first game in charge, things turned badly sour for him under Gregory. And it was while he was under Gregory at Villa that he went on the downward spiral that saw him end up in a London clinic being treated for depression.

It was after this period in his life that O'Neill took a gamble on him and he was rewarded when Collymore's goals (three of them against a Sunderland side containing Thomas Sorensen) helped Leicester to their highest-ever Premier-ship position of eighth.

But it soon all started to go wrong for Stanley Victor again.

Now, following more than one unwanted headline in his time out of football, he claimed this week that he was ready to make a bid to return not simply to the world of English football, but to the Premiership itself - five-and-a-half years after he quit the game by walking out on Spanish side Real Oviedo in March 2001.

But even O'Neill - one of the few managers ever to get the best out of Stan the Man - would fight shy of a second bite at this particular cherry.

"He did terrifically well for me in a short period of time at Leicester,' said the Villa boss. "But if you're asking me whether I could make an assessment that would be a difficult call."

Meanwhile, O'Neill has brought in former Republic of Ireland keeper Seamus McDonagh as his new goal-keeping coach.

The 25-times capped Yorkshire-born Irishman, who previously worked alongside O'Neill in his days at Leicester, made his name with Everton and Bolton Wanderers in the 1970s and 80s.

McDonagh, who turns 54 today, has in recent seasons been employed in a similar role at Coventry City. But he has now moved across the Midlands to replace Eric Steele, who has come to an agreement with the club over the remainder of his contract after more than five years at the club.

Steele joined Villa as part of Gregory's backroom staff in 2001.

Despite taking charge of the team at the start of the summer tour, following the departure of David O'Leary and Roy Aitken, he has now been deemed surplus  requirements.