Milner's Villa form justifies record fee, says O'Neill

Martin O'Neill knew he was not taking too big a risk when he made James Milner Aston Villa's record signing, but the manager has nevertheless been delighted with the impact the winger has made at the club.

In August, O'Neill spent £12m on the England Under-21 player, who had to bide his time before finally breaking into the starting line-up. But, while Ashley Young is earning praise for his performances on the left wing, Milner has started to show on the opposite flank the form he displayed during his loan season at Villa three years ago. A spell that O'Neill believes was crucial in the winger's decision to make the move from the north East.

"James had to wait a while to get into the team but I signed him for the next four or five years – not the next four or five games," he said. "I never ever doubted him and he is doing fine. There is more to come from him. He works exceptionally hard for the team. I have been very pleased with him."

O'Neill also said that Milner may have stayed at Newcastle United had it not been for the turmoil at the club. "When we signed James, there were a number of clubs interested," O'Neill said. "I was delighted to get him but, had things been right at Newcastle, James may well have stayed there.

"I was delighted when he agreed to come and his experience during his previous year definitely had a big bearing. He did very well here during a year-long loan and the crowd took to him. He enjoyed it immensely. That would have been the deciding issue."