O'Neill hopes to tie Petrov to new contract
Martin O'Neill has urged Aston Villa midfielder Stiliyan Petrov to sign a new contract - and believes the Bulgarian can have a major part to play in the club's future.
Petrov's current four-year deal expires at the end of next season and he has held talks on extending his stay at Villa Park.
O'Neill is satisfied with the way negotiations are progressing but will take nothing for granted until the former Celtic player puts pen to paper.
Petrov has won over the Villa fans with his performances this season after initially struggling to make an impact following his £6million move from the Bhoys.
O'Neill said: "If Stiliyan could commit himself to a new contract, I'd be delighted.
"Contract talks are going pretty okay. Of course, nothing is ever okay until someone has actually signed on the dotted line. But we would like him to stay.
"We are waiting to hear back (from his advisors). The discussions have been going on very amicably. We would hope to be continuing those discussions very shortly.''
O'Neill added: "It is only just a year ago that people were concerning themselves about whether Stiliyan had a future here.
"But he has battled back, so much so that I'd like him to be around here for the next couple of years.
"If every person shows the same determination and willingness and drive that Stiliyan has shown during the last year, it would be brilliant.
"He has shown consistency and self confidence. He had a lot to overcome and he has gone on to show he is the player I thought he was capable of being. He has shown great character.''
Meanwhile, O'Neill is content for midfielder Gareth Barry to wait until the end of the season to decide upon his future.
O'Neill said: "The speculation regarding Gareth is inevitable. It will happen, it's not a problem. I have discussed it numerous times with the player.
"He is very happy to wait until the end of the season to see how things develop. That's the way we have left it. But this is not like last year. This is a situation which I realised would come around and that's the way it is. It's not an issue.
"I'm not bothered (by last summer). From the experience of last year I don't think that will materialise. I really have not got an issue with any of this here come the end of the season.''
O'Neill has been delighted with the way Barry has responded after failing to land his move to Anfield after the Reds failed to meet Villa's £18million asking price.
He said: "Gareth has played very, very well indeed. He gets a freedom to play that might not be afforded in other places.
"But at the end of it all I'm delighted with him and Stiliyan Petrov in the heart of the midfield, I've been delighted with the other boys as well.
"We can play different systems which we have proved during the course of the season. It's great to have learnt these things because next season they will probably have to come into play.''