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O'Neill: Villa didn't pressure Heskey into retirement

Martin O'Neill insists he put no pressure on Emile Heskey to end his England career, though the Aston Villa boss does believe his striker will reap the benefits of having the international breaks free in the coming season.

Heskey announced his decision to quit England last month after a disappointing World Cup campaign in South Africa.

But having struggled to hold down a regular spot at Villa - although he still made 24 starts in all competitions - Heskey could now flourish thanks to extra rests, according to O'Neill.

"No-one at the football club forced Emile to retire from international football," O'Neill said. "That was a decision he made all on his own.

"He feels now that international football is something he can do without. There are weeks when you've got the international breaks that you can rest.

"In that sense he will see that there is a benefit. But international football shouldn't really have any effect on your club form - apart from not getting a break.''

Heskey will face a battle for his place at Villa despite O'Neill not recruiting any new strikers so far this summer, with England Under-19 player Nathan Delfouneso is expected to make a bigger challenge for a starting berth this season.

"I don't think there will be too many players at the club who can complain about not getting chances to play," O'Neill said.

"When you get them, you've got to grasp them. We've got Emile, John Carew, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Nathan Delfouneso and young Andreas Weimann who I think has got a chance.''

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