Hyder Jawad talks to the widely-respected coach who was arguably ahead of his time at Villa Park.

From a window in his plush home in Bratislava, Dr Jozef Venglos has a perfect view of the city's Theresan-style castle. It reminds him of Villa Park.

Venglos does not need reminders - he was Aston Villa's manager in 1990-91 and retains an affection for the club - but he likes it when art and architecture evoke images of football.

"There is something about Aston Villa," he says. "Something about their history, their tradition, their stadium that makes them a great historical institution.

"So when I read about things changing at Villa, things getting better, about new owners, I think to myself that this club will always be great - no matter who is in charge."

But it has not escaped his attention that the reign of Doug Ellis ended in the summer of 2006 and ushered in the era of Randy Lerner and Martin O'Neill. Tangible proof of Villa's improvement came when the team, looking more stable than at any time in the past decade, defeated Chelsea 2-0 last Sunday.

As the sun was setting in Slovakia, Venglos was watching the match on his television. He was not surprised at the result. Chelsea might be the most expensive team in the world but Villa had one advantage: O'Neill.

There are similarities between Venglos and O'Neill. Both have been the manager of Celtic, both have managed Villa, and both regard the late-Seventies and early Eighties as their personal golden period.

"I know Martin O'Neill and I rate him highly," Venglos says. "It is not true to say I know him deeply but I have met him many times and I have always come away impressed by his knowledge and his human qualities.

"He has a big reputation among coaches in Europe. He is a good coach and a good tactician but he is most known for having the ability to bring out the best in his players.

"That was easy to see when they played Chelsea. You could see the players working hard for each other, playing as a team, and playing with enthusiasm. The players deserve credit, of course, but this passion and style comes from the manager.

"I would say that it is a privilege to know Martin O'Neill. I know what he wants from his football teams and, as his results how, he usually gets what he wants.

"He is a man who likes long-term planning. That is what he is doing with Villa. The decisions he is making now will benefit the club in the future. Celtic benefited from that same philosophy. He thinks ahead, which is important."

It is clear from the tone of his voice that Venglos regards his association with Villa as a high point in his life. That 1990-91 season was not a good one for Villa, and Venglos was probably appointed five years too early, but this was a time when non-British managers did not find work in England. By employing a Slovakian, Villa were ahead of their time - even if the consequences were mixed and largely uninspiring.

"I enjoyed my time with Villa and I enjoyed working with Doug Ellis," he says. "It was only for a season, and maybe I should have gone to Villa a few years later, but I look upon my time there with a lot of good feeling."

Venglos is now 71 but he still runs his coaching academy in Bratislava. He works as a consultant for Uefa, the game's European governing body, and he is in regular contact with many of the world's top coaches.

He has worked closely with Pele, he was the head coach who led Czechoslovakia to the 1982 and 1990 World Cup tournaments, and he is widely regarded as a pioneer.

One might be surprised that he has so much affection for Villa because that 1990-91 season, when he found it difficult to impose his style on the players, was perhaps the least successful of his career.

For him, it is enough to be part of British football history; to be a revolutionary at a time when football in England, reactionary and fearful of change, was still looking to its past.

It different now. Non-English managers proliferate the Premiership and foreign managers, such as Jose Mourinho, Rafael Benitez and Arsene Wenger, dictate the sporting and media culture.

"The Premier League, which I always watch here on television, gives me so much pleasure," Venglos says. "I like your beautiful game. It pleases me to see so many of the world's greatest players playing in England.

"It has taken English football to a new level. Aston Villa, for example, were always a team who could rise to the occasion. They proved that many times in their history, as they proved it against Chelsea on Sunday.

"I took great pleasure from that match because I saw such a contrast in styles and such excitement. That is how football should be played. It was end to end, full of heart and passion, and full of incident. How good it was for Aston Villa to win such a match.

"A lot of Premier League matches are like that. You have such a strong league and Aston Villa are one of the biggest clubs in your league."

Though quiet and unassuming, Venglos does not conceal his passion. These are not the bombastic ramblings of an idealistic pensioner but an honest assessment of a man who appreciates the marriage of youth and talent.

"Villa are so important to me," he says. "They have always had a strong feeling for the young footballer and they do produce many of their own players."

And, if O'Neill's recent signings are anything to go by, Villa are returning to the days when English clubs were packed with British players. Only O'Neill knows if this is a deliberate policy.

"Whatever Martin O'Neill does, he does with the future in mind," Venglos says. "Judge him by what he has achieved elsewhere and you will find that he is a man who likes to build and strengthen. The planning is long-term but there will also be short-term successes."

And it was the lack of short-term success that ended the Villa career of Dr Jozef Venglos, even though he, too, had a long-term plan. Even at 71, he still has long-term plans.

"Do you know any Villa supporters?" he asks me. Yes, I say. "Then please give them my best wishes."

As I place down the receiver, I can imagine him at the window and casting his eyes towards the castle - his ready symbol of Villa Park.