Aston Villa supporters are flocking back to the club after Martin O'Neill's appointment as manager.

Season ticket sales had been down this summer with fans voting with their feet after last season's poor performance under David O'Leary.

Even with a close-season price-freeze at Villa Park, it is believed that only 11,000 season tickets had been sold.

Now club officials are talking in terms of 20,000 and a possible sales record all because of O'Neill.

A Villa spokesman confirmed: "As soon as it became apparent that Martin was going to be the new manager, people were ringing the club about season tickets. There's a big feelgood factor at the club now. People are excited about the appointment."

Villa normally sell around 16,000 season tickets a year, but that figure has been well down.

However, if the missing thousands come back, then Villa could make #2.5 million before the start of the season.

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And if the club sells another 4,000 on top, that could take it to record proportions and would bring in another #4 million for the club.

It is all a far cry from a few weeks ago when Villa were treading water with no sign of any squad-strengthening and the prospect of a relegation battle looming large.

Certainly, O'Neill is already bringing the Midas touch to the club and the traditions of Aston Villa have not been lost on him, thanks to a guided tour of the stadium by chairman Doug Ellis following Friday night's press conference.

Ellis then took O'Neill out for a Chinese meal with the chairman paying. O'Neill did not get home until 2.30am and he was up two hours later to fly out to Hanover, which did not even allow him enough time to shave.

"It was great to get it done and dusted and then come over, hence me not having shaved," said O'Neill. "The flight was 6.40am so I had to be there for 5.40am, not a problem! I was kind of hungry after proceedings.

"I went to have a quick wee look round Villa Park after everybody had gone home and it was getting a bit late, so I asked the chairman if he could point me in the direction of the nearest Chinese restaurant and he did better than that, he came with me.

"It was just a chat and a quick meal, nothing more than that. The meal was pleasant and it was on the chairman, he insisted. It was pretty dark when I walked round Villa Park. The new stand is fantastic and the first time I've actually seen it.

"It's a famous old ground and you really feel the history of the place. There is a wonderful picture in the corridors of Villa Park in 1907, playing Liverpool, it's fantastic.

"From behind the goal, you can see where the stands have now been built and you can see the church, which is still there. It was interesting to see the little man at the back, who was almost caught jumping!

"Steps weren't particularly steep at that time and you wonder how everyone saw the game. It was other history, too, like the team winning the European Cup.

"I think it is too difficult to assess what I need to bring to the team at the moment. I should have a better picture by the end of the week when we've got another two games, I have to have a better picture.

"It's difficult to judge when some players haven't played for a long time and others have just come back from holiday. Olof Mellberg, for instance, has played in the World Cup. People have shortterm injuries, longterm injuries and so on.

"That's why it was so good to be out here. If things had dragged on a little bit longer, I might not have been here and it was a game less to have seen and I need all the time in the world to do it.

"We have to win the fans back and at some stage or another, we need to fill the ground," added O'Neill.

"The only way you are certain to do that is winning games and playing really well. I'm always optimistic. I only get pessimistic when the season starts!"