AS ASTON VILLA overcame an uninspired West Ham on Saturday, Savo Milosevic increased his chances of playing in Europe next season. It will not be in Villa's colours that he will be playing, however - even if they do scrape an unlikely place in the Uefa Cup - but in those of one of the Continental clubs he hopes to attract with his performances.
"I don't want him to leave, but I don't want unhappy players here," said John Gregory, who has seen his charges win five of their six Premiership matches since he took over as manager and has seen the value of Milosevic head towards pounds 5m.
Gregory added that the Yugoslav would be very unhappy if he could not move in the summer, so now it seems only a question of where, rather than if or when, the player will go.
Milosevic played a significant role in a dull game after being introduced as a third striker after 65 minutes. He hit the post in 75th minute, helped in the build-up that led to Ian Taylor's shot being deflected into the net by Julian Joachim a minute later, and was on hand to score a goal of his own eight minutes from time after Lee Hendrie's shot had been parried by Bernard Lama.
"We needed that extra body in the penalty box," said Gregory of his decision to gamble on Milosevic. He added that if his side continue to produce the kind of grinding, waiting-for-a-break performance that they produced on Saturday, he believes they can still finish in the top six.
More likely seems a European place for West Ham, as long as they can quickly forget what was obviously an off-day and return to a more attack- minded style. Harry Redknapp, the Hammers' manager, erred on the side of caution and dropped Eyal Berkovic and Samassi Abou to the bench, despite the fact they had both contributed to the 3-0 defeat of Leeds last week.
The effect of bringing back Steve Lomas and Frank Lampard was to create a reactive and ultimately vulnerable midfield, unable to create anything of note and struggling in a stifled environment.
Redknapp did not mince his words in his analysis, the most printable part of which was: "It was a piss poor game, totally ******* useless." He added: "We've been playing tremendous, but both sides were poor today."
Apart from the two goals, inspired by a man who doesn't even want to play football for his team, it was hard to disagree with him.
Goals: Joachim (1-0) 76; Milosevic (2-0) 82. Aston Villa (3-5-2): Bosnich; Staunton, Southgate, Ehiogu; Wright, Hendrie, Draper (Grayson, 69), Taylor, Charles (Milosevic, 65); Yorke, Joachim. Substitutes not used: Oakes (gk), Barry, Nelson.
West Ham United (3-5-2): Lama; Unsworth, Ferdinand, Potts; Lazaridis, Lampard, Moncur, Lomas, Pearce; Hartson, Sinclair (Abou, 80). Substitutes not used: Forrest (gk), Impey, Mean, Berkovic.
Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).
Man of the match: Taylor.
Attendance: 39,372.Reuse content