David O'Leary, the Aston Villa manager, yesterday warned that he would not tolerate any "sulkers" among the fringe members of his squad. Villa will go into Sunday's FA Cup match against Manchester United bubbling with confidence after six wins in their last eight matches.
But O'Leary knows the dangers of players currently on the edge of his plans damaging morale and he is closely monitoring the situation. The Swedish striker Marcus Allback has not been in any of the last four squads after a disappointing performance in the home win over Wolves a fortnight ago and the midfield pair Mark Kinsella and Mustapha Hadji have also only had bit parts to play.
O'Leary said: "You've got to watch that those players out of the side don't get sour because that can be disruptive. It's no good if you have people on the bench going around sour and sulking, throwing their dummies out. It's no good having that at the club. You've got to watch out for that.
"It's also important when you bring people into the club to know if they are going to accept being on the bench. In general, not just here, you're always going to have a few sour people in a big squad because they are out of the team - and you can't do anything about that."
O'Leary added: "At Manchester United, Alex Ferguson can do better because of United's name. It is Manchester United so they all want to stay. So you've got to watch the people who are out of the side more and keep them involved."
* John Ward, the Cheltenham manager, hopes his side's lucrative third-round match against Fulham at Loftus Road on Sunday will provide the springboard for Football League survival. Ward said: "It will be the first time our club has played against a Premiership team so it will be a great experience for the players."