'Champions League will tempt Young'
The future of Aston Villa's Ashley Young continues to be a concern for his club, and caretaker boss Gary McAllister has admitted that the lure of Champions League football is likely to tempt the England man away from the Midlands.
Young has just a year left on his current contract, and so this summer represents the last chance for Villa to cash in one of their most valuable assets. Manchester United and Liverpool are the most heavily linked of his likely destinations, though only United can provide him entry to Europe's blue riband competition.
McAllister, who has assumed control while manager Gerard Houllier recovers from his heart problems, said: "I don't think it's inevitable Ashley will go. We will do everything we can to keep him here. He has become an England player playing for Aston Villa.
"The partnership of him and Darren Bent has looked exciting for Fabio Capello, for sure. The grass is also not always greener somewhere else but we are not silly. We have to be realistic. All players have ambition to play in the Champions League.
"We can't give them that. It's a goal but we all know how difficult it is to get up there.
"You can always understand the lure of playing in that competition. I managed to get a touch of it as a balding old man (with Liverpool) and it is a great experience."
McAllister knows Young will have to come to terms with being more under the microscope if he joins one of the top four clubs compared to at Villa.
He said: "It's difficult because you know how high the expectation levels are here. But when you go to these other clubs - I'm talking about the top four or five where the pressure is on - then the microscope becomes even greater. The criticism becomes greater because each and every little move is under scrutiny. Some people can't deal with it."
McAllister is quick to praise Young for the way he has remained focused on helping Villa in their relegation battle.
He said: "The facts are that Ashley could have been distracted with all the talk. There's not a day passed when he hasn't been linked with somebody but he is a good professional. Maybe in games he's been a wee bit up and down - but he gives 100%"
McAllister also confirmed Villa plan to hold talks with midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker, who is out of contract in the summer, over his future.
McAllister insists Aston Villa do not need ''major surgery'' to their squad this summer for them to again become challengers for a European spot.
McAllister said: ''We should be looking at the European positions and that goes without saying. Everything is here and set up for that. That has got to be the target. You can't necessarily jump from sixth, seventh, eighth right up to those top four places.
''Everyone has got to hold their hands up and say those top four spots are very hard to obtain these days. There are loads of factors coming into play to get this club to that level.
''But that next group of teams is where Aston Villa have got to be targeting themselves without a shadow of a doubt. Everything is here, it's equipped to do that, players, stadia, training facilities.''