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Horncastle: European transfer grades

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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 30, 2007

Villa boss O'Neill leaps to defence of Spurs' Jol

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill has leapt to the defence of Martin Jol and believes Tottenham are capable of breaking into the top four and achieving Champions League football.

O'Neill acknowledges Jol is under pressure after Spurs' indifferent start to the campaign which has left them in the Barclays Premier League relegation zone.

But the Irishman points to Tottenham's record in the past two seasons - finishing fifth on both occasions - as testament to Jol's qualities.

O'Neill said ahead of tomorrow's clash between the teams at White Hart Lane: 'Spurs will be a very difficult team to beat.

'It will be a hard game for us. They are capable of winning games as they have proved. They have good variety.

'When they have everyone back fit, they are capable of being a very good side.

'For the past two years they have just been outside the top four and obviously their ambition is to try and break into it. Martin Jol is under pressure but isn't everyone?

'People who knock Martin Jol should look at what he has achieved over the last three years. Tottenham are a very sound side and he has spent some money this season on players and that shows their intent.

'They have finished fifth for the last two seasons and the previous year they went into the last game with the possibility of getting into the top four.

'They are capable of breaking into top four. They got off to a poor start last year but look where they ended up and they are capable of doing that again, picking themselves up and getting on with it.

'We shouldn't read too much into early season performances.'

O'Neill is looking for Villa to put their shock Carling Cup reversal by his former club Leicester behind them.

He said: 'Losing to Leicester was a really big disappointment because it was a competition we wanted to do well in. Going away to Tottenham on a Monday night is not easy.

'But I am going there to try and win a football match. It is a hard game for us. You are well aware pressure builds up.

'We are capable of going there and doing well despite Wednesday night's result against Leicester.'

Villa defender Wilfred Bouma, a compatriot of Jol, believes the Tottenham boss can go on to manage his native Holland one day.

Bouma, who is hoping to shake off an ankle injury suffered against Everton last weekend, said: 'Martin had a reputation back in Holland for playing good football and that is what he is trying to do with Tottenham.

'He has done a good job since coming to England and has the players at Tottenham capable of breaking into the top four.

'You are always going to be under pressure and especially now because the results have not been going for him.

'But he is a good manager and one day i think he could be the Holland manager. People have talked about it a couple of times and maybe that is something for the future.

'For the short term, I think he is a man who wants to be involved with the boys every day and when you are Holland manager you get to see the boys only a few times a year - like any international boss.

'But it is a possibility that Martin could manager Holland.'

Villa striker John Carew is ruled out with damaged ankle ligaments and O'Neill may switch Gabriel Agbonlahor from the right flank into his preferred central striking role.