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Alarm bells sounding for Everton

Everton
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By ESPN Staff

Laursen to keep armband even in Barry stays

Martin Laursen is to continue as Aston Villa's new captain in succession to want-away midfielder Gareth Barry.

The Danish international, who has battled back from a career-threatening knee injury, wore the armband during part of close season and in the Premier League opener with Manchester City.

Barry had been captain for the previous two seasons but his desire to make the move to Liverpool led to Villa manager Martin O'Neill making a change.

O'Neill confirmed: 'Martin is the captain here. I didn't say it officially to him but he is the captain of the side at the moment and I wouldn't see that changing.

'He leads by example, I'm not saying he is running around shouting all over the place - then but neither did Gareth.

'He had this long-term knee problem and it could have led to him giving up football but he showed his strength of character to battle back.

'He came back into the side for the final stretch of the season before last, when we had a long unbeaten finish, and since then has not looked back. He has been excellent for us.'

Midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker was the other candidate to replace Barry and led the side in the 2-2 draw at Liverpool last season and before that had skippered West Ham and the England Under-21s.

But O'Neill has plumped for a defensive player as his captain and, prior to Barry's appointment, centre-back Olof Mellberg had worn the armband.

Laursen, now 31, joined Villa from AC Milan in the summer of 2004 and played only a handful of games in his first three seasons but he earned a new two-and-a-half-year contract midway through the last campaign.

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