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Arsenal can lay down a marker

Arsenal
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By ESPN Staff

O'Neill hands new deal to impressive Osbourne

Martin O'Neill believes Isaiah Osbourne has the potential to eventually become a force for Aston Villa after the midfielder finally agreed a new three and a half year contract.

Osbourne, whose hero is Patrick Vieira, has given the green light to a deal which will keep him at Villa Park until the summer of 2010.

The 19-year-old is the latest member of Villa's Academy to break into the senior squad after the likes of Steven Davis, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Luke Moore and Liam Ridgewell.

Osbourne made his debut as a substitute against Fulham in October and also featured in the starting line-up against Liverpool, Everton, Wigan and Middlesbrough plus the Carling Cup tie at Leicester.

O'Neill indicated last week that a new contract was waiting to be rubber-stamped and the Villa manager is pleased to have finally acquired Osbourne's services.

The Irishman said: 'I think all parties are pretty happy with the contract which is for three and a half years.

'There is no doubt that Isaiah has got potential. I am very pleased with the way he has played.

'Young players do go up and down. For example, he played better at Everton than against Wigan the following week but that is only to be expected.

'He has now played four or five games at first team level and I am very pleased with him.'

O'Neill admitted that a practice match at Bodymoor Heath led to Osbourne being promoted into the senior squad on a regular basis.

He said: 'We had a mix and match sort of game between the players here and Isaiah was brought into that to play - and hasn't left the first team squad since.

'His hero is Patrick Vieira - not a bad one to aspire to! I like Isaiah. He's learning his trade and he is a good lad as well.

'His whole approach to the game is so refreshing and he's got really natural ability which is encouraging.'