Gavin McCann is the Aston Villa player you do not notice until he is not there. He rarely attracts the headlines, shys from publicity, yet has done as much as any player this season to ensure that Villa remain unbeaten.

The midfield player, whose arrival from Sunderland was one of the few successful acts of the David O'Leary era, is again showing the form that briefly made him an England international in 2001.

Martin O'Neill, the Villa manager, is certainly impressed.

"He has been playing wonderfully well for us, there is no doubt about it," O'Neill said. "He is very fine footballer and I think he has been excellent.

"We need our major players to stay fit and when Gavin got a knock recently against Scunthorpe you feared the worst but thankfully he was okay for the next game against Charlton.

"There is no doubt that McCann is a really talented footballer. With all the hype that's going on and the focus of attention on the younger lads and Stiliyan Petrov arriving, McCann seems to have been overlooked.

"But he has been absolutely terrific and is the sort of player that is appreciated by his fellow professionals."

McCann could eventually be offered a new contract by O'Neill, although the Villa chief is taking his time in assessing the merits of his players.

"There are a number of players at this minute who we would look at. Like I said, Gavin McCann has been absolutely terrific.

"There are a number of players who we would think 'Do we want to keep them longer at the football club?' Lots of boys are playing very well at the moment - so do they all get a new contract? Over a considered period of time it may be worth it."

O'Neill is still awaiting news regarding the fitness of Thomas Sorensen, the goalkeeper, who suffered a shoulder injury on international duty for Denmark but Stuart Taylor has been put on standby for the weekend.