Martin O’Neill believes Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young will break into Fabio Capello’s England squad in time and has urged his young stars to be patient.
Both were left out of Capello’s squad for the friendly against the Czech Republic on Wednesday but gave the England manager a reminder of their capabilities with scintillating performances as Aston Villa beat Manchester City 4-2.
Young was a constant thorn in City’s side while Agbonlahor scored a hat-trick inside seven minutes.
O’Neill, who is in talks with Young over a new improved contract, is convinced both have a future in international football.
“I think Gabby’s time will come,” he said. “Today was a great start for him. He has a long, long season ahead and who knows? I might have been a bit surprised that Ashley was not in the squad. He has been absolutely class for us but again his time will come as well.
“I have no doubts whatsoever that they will break through. I was surprised about Ashley but they have plenty of time.
“The England manager has picked the squad that he feels he can work with and I have no doubt that both can force their way into the England squad.
“Ashley has been fantastic for us. Gabby knows himself that to break into that group of forwards that include Wayne Rooney is particularly hard. This should give them that ambition to want to push on.”
After signing full-backs Nicky Shorey and Luke Young, O’Neill has several players who could break into Capello’s squad. Nigel Reo-Coker and Curtis Davies could also get a call if Villa have another successful season.
“We have quite a number of English players playing in the team, and it is there for them if they are good enough,” O’Neill insisted. “They will get a chance.
“This manager didn’t build his reputation just on a couple of games. He will see these games and he will know what players are capable of doing.”
O’Neill said he was delighted to get Agbonlahor and strike partner John Carew to sign new contracts and is hoping to do the same with Ashley Young and Wilfred Bouma.
“We are in discussions now with Ashley and I would like very much to get Freddy Bouma sorted out, and it is there for anyone,” O’Neill said.
“I don’t think the chairman has any problem in sorting out wages for anyone who is doing it week in, week out on the pitch. Agbonlahor has done that in the last two seasons here and I hope he continues to do it. Ashley Young has been class and John Carew has been terrific for us since he swapped over with Milan Baros.
“Ashley hasn’t come and asked for anything. He has a couple of years left to run but I would like to sort it out. He is enjoying his football here and if he continues to do what he is doing for us then who knows what he will be able to do in the future.”
O’Neill was also impressed with the performance of Gareth Barry.
“I thought he did great,” O’Neill said. “He has had little or no pre-season because he has not known what is happening.”