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Baxter hoping Khune brings the magic

South Africa
By ESPN Staff

O'Neill persuaded me to stay - Barry

New captain Gareth Barry admitted he would have quit Aston Villa if Martin O'Neill had not persuaded him he could achieve his ambitions with the club.

Barry revealed he 'had virtually asked for a move' after believing he needed a fresh challenge to kick-start his career after eight seasons with Villa.

The 25-year-old, who has made more than 300 senior appearances for Villa, was one of several senior players disenchanted with life under David O'Leary.

But the O'Neill influence is such that the former England Under-21 captain has signed a new four year contract which will keep him at Villa until the summer of 2010.

Barry said: 'It's been a long summer and ever since the end of the season there has been speculation but I am finally glad to get it all out of the way and now the football can be concentrated on.

'My decision (to go) was made before David O'Leary got the sack. I wanted to know if clubs were interested in me because I felt it was the time to move on for the sake of my career.

'It was a strange couple of weeks. O'Leary got sacked and then there was speculation about the new manager (O'Neill) coming in so I was in no man's land.

'But since he's come here, since I saw the reception from the fans when he signed, it started me thinking again, 'Is it the right thing to move on?'

'I had a few conversations with the manager and he slowly changed my mind and brought me back feeling confident - of staying and also improving my game as well.

'He has said all the right things. He is the sort of man you can listen to and take it in.

'He has got confidence in me in terms of getting back in the England squad. He has got confidence in me in that he can improve my game, to take it another level - and I believe what he says as well.'

Barry added: 'How close was I to leaving? I'd virtually asked the club for a move.

'I wanted to know what other offers were out there and to be fair to the club they were good and just wanted me to hold on and wait for the new manager to be appointed and wait for me to make my decision then.

'Thankfully it was the right thing that the club did because I'm still here and looking forward to the next four years.'

Villa are lying in second spot in the Premiership table after their 2-0 win over Newcastle yesterday, but Barry is aware of the need to remain realistic over the targets for this season.

He said: 'I am not stupid. This club is not ready to compete with the Manchester Uniteds, Chelseas, Arsenals and the Liverpools.

'That is not going to happen overnight and, in terms of winning the Premier League, that is not going to happen.

'But improvement is what I'm looking for, to be challenging for Europe and to have confidence in winning cups.

'That's the thing we need to aim for and under this new regime, I know it is not going to happen overnight but I've now got confidence it can happen gradually.'

Newcastle could have few complaints at seeing their 12-game unbeaten run ended by O'Neill's rejuvenated side.

Goalkeeper Shay Given said: 'It was not very good. We didn't play well. We had a fair bit of possession but it doesn't mean anything if you don't create chances and score goals. We are very disappointed.

'I don't think we were outclassed or outplayed by a better team. I felt Villa were there for the taking but we just didn't perform.

'To end the unbeaten run is disappointing but we didn't really do ourselves justice.'