O'Neill urges Barry to stay at Villa Park
Martin O'Neill has urged Gareth Barry to remain with Aston Villa and claimed the midlands club want him more than Liverpool.
Barry received a rapturous reception from the Villa faithful following his introduction as a 15th-minute substitute in the Intertoto Cup win over Odense.
The England midfielder responded with applause of his own as he turned in his usual measured performance after replacing stricken Dutchman Wilfred Bouma at left-back.
And with Liverpool still to come up with an offer approaching the £18million Villa are demanding, O'Neill, who banned Barry from the training ground after his newspaper sideswipe at the Northern Irishman, is hoping his star man will stay.
'Having not heard anything from Liverpool for some time it is clear we value him more than they do,' said O'Neill. 'The fact they have not answered us for a week sends out a real message.
'We obviously don't want him to go, so the price we are asking is a fair and realistic one for a player who is so good. In fact I think it is really cheap. My own view is that he should hang around for another year and see if we can make further progress as he would want.
'Gareth is still only 28 next year - if we don't get where he wants to go, everybody would wish him well.'
O'Neill could not have asked any more of the Villa fans, who jeered Barry during a midweek outing at nearby Walsall.
There was not the merest hint of dissent this time as the cheers began as the player waited to make his entrance.
The reception, as well as a win which takes Villa into the UEFA Cup second qualifying round, provides the perfect platform for Barry to revise his opinion, which is what O'Neill desperately hopes for.
'He has been with us for 10 years and the crowd reaction was really strong in his favour,' said O'Neill. 'I don't think there's any doubt about what we all want at Villa Park. We want him to stay at the club.
'I am not in the habit of encouraging players to talk to me after games but I told Gareth he had been terrific.
'You could see, with hardly any training, how brilliant he was. We need him at this club. He would be a terrific loss for us.'
If O'Neill was delighted for Barry, he had nothing but sadness for Bouma, who seems set for an extended spell on the sidelines after a nasty injury that had many of his team-mates turning away in shock.
Immediately after Bouma went down following a challenge with Baye Djiby Fall, Villa's players knew the injury was serious.
With his ankle bent the wrong way, it seems the Dutchman will require a lengthy rehabilitation, although O'Neill is confident he will recover.
'I am a bit squeamish and the pictures were not so good,' he said. 'It's a dislocation, which is still a bad injury, which you could see by the reaction of the players.
'The hospital have put it in plaster and got it reset but obviously there can be loads of complications.
'However, Wilfred has good strength of character and I hope he'll come through it. I am sure he will because if anyone can it is him.'
The injury took some of the gloss off a win which was fully deserved if not without a scare or two.
Level from the first leg, Villa almost went behind before the break when Fall fired against a post.
However, an Ashley Young thunderbolt proved enough to seal the tie and send Villa into Friday's UEFA Cup second qualifying round draw.
Young used his lightning pace to ease Villa through - but it was the speed with which he arrived after Wilfred Bouma got injured that he found hardest to cope with.
'It was sad to see him get injured like that,' said the England international. 'I was first on the scene and it was fairly obvious it was a nasty one.
'But the medical staff got on the pitch pretty quickly and hopefully Wilfred has a pretty speedy recovery.'
Although he was given a bit too much room by the Odense defence, once he got into his stride there was no stopping Young and his finish - smashed into the top corner from the edge of the area - will impress Fabio Capello when the England manager gets to see it.
'It was nice to get the goal,' said Young in somewhat understated fashion. 'It was important for us to get the win and now we are looking forward to the draw on Friday.'
By the time Villa learn their opponents in the UEFA Cup second qualifying round, Barry's future should be slightly more clear.
'I have always said Gareth is a true professional,' said Young. 'He is always going to do his job in a professional way and that is what he has done.
'What is happening is between Gareth and the club. It has nothing to do with me. But he was always going to get a good reception from the fans. He has done well for the club. It was nice to see that being recognised.'