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Premier League

O'Neill admits need to spread the load

The Aston Villa manager, Martin, O'Neill has admitted he needs to bring in further players after being "a wee bit surprised" at statistics relating to the workload of his squad last season. O'Neill recently attended a meeting of Premier League managers and discovered he used fewer players in the competition than any other club.

The reliance on the same players clearly took its toll in the final third of the season when Villa looked jaded and saw the chance of securing Champions League football disappear.

O'Neill, preparing for tomorrow's Europa League first-leg qualifier away to Rapid Vienna, is aware of the need to rectify the position before the transfer window closes in just under a fortnight's time, especially after last weekend's opening defeat by Wigan.

"It's going to be a long season ahead," he said yesterday. "At the end of last week, I went to a meeting for managers and they put up some interesting statistics. They showed 17 of our lads had played in the Premier League last season. Other teams had used 23, 27 and others over 30.

"I was a wee bit surprised. I knew how many we had used but I didn't realise it was less than anyone else. It is a team game. We are trying to get some extra players in if we can and, in our own way, we're hoping to look after the players. There's a long way to go. But, from the performance against Wigan, however, we've got a lot to do."

Villa were booed off the pitch after Saturday's 2-0 home defeat, but their captain, Stiliyan Petrov, wants them to put that dismal performance behind them tomorrow night.

"Everybody wants to be in Europe and we hope that after the next couple of games we will be in the group stages," he said. "I think after the weekend disappointment we want the next game with Rapid Vienna to come very quick so that we can show everybody it was a one-off. We hope we can put in a much better performance."