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Premier League

Heskey has a future at Aston Villa says O'Neill

Martin O'Neill insists striker Emile Heskey is a key part of his plans at Aston Villa despite his lack of first-team starts this season.

And O'Neill has told the England star that "players here will get their chances" during the course of a 10-month campaign.

Heskey was reported to be considering his future after England's World Cup qualifier in Ukraine because he feared for his place in Fabio Capello's plans if not playing regular club football.

But the former Liverpool player has since claimed he has no intention of quitting Villa.

O'Neill said: "Emile Heskey is a key part of our squad. I accept he hasn't started games but we have Gabby Agbonlahor who has been on fire and done brilliantly recently.

"I have a little sympathy for Emile actually. We spoke and I understand how these things come out. I have been in this business for a long, long time.

"Emile is not the one to be starting ructions around this football club - certainly not public ructions.

"I have known him a long, long time and he is very quiet. If he has anything to say to me he knows he can knock on my door.

"But I can understand people asking these questions with the World Cup looming and him not playing regularly."

O'Neill admitted he used to speak to the legendary Brian Clough when himself out of the starting line-up at Nottingham Forest.

He said: "I used to knock on the door of Mr Clough's office when I was a player and he would say to me 'it is a long, long season son and you will get your chance.'

"It is a long, long season before Christmas, Easter and a long, long time before the World Cup. Players here will get their chances."