Into the plush players' suite at Villa Park they strode, towering over their new manager, but for all their power and poise, Martin O'Neill yesterday warned Aston Villa supporters not to expect too much, too soon from his his new strikers John Carew and Ashley Young.
Carew and Young were paraded before the media after moving from Lyon and Watford respectively. The 6ft 4in Norwegian arrives in the Premiership, aged 27, with a wealth of experience, but it is the potential of Young, an England Under-21 international of 21, that has the normally phlegmatic O'Neill waxing lyrical.
With Villa 14th in the league, those fans who hoped that O'Neill's bright start on his return to the frontline might lead to a push for a Uefa Cup place may have their optimism revived. The Northern Irishman duly welcomed the duo by declaring that "with this type of ability in the team, we can only look forward".
However, O'Neill was keen to ensure that they were not weighed down by the expectations of Villa's restless fans. Speaking about Young, but broadening the point to take in Carew, he said: "Not for one minute would I think that he is going to change our fortunes overnight. He will take time to settle in, and so will John."
Carew, recruited from Gérard Houllier's Lyon in a straight swap for Milan Baros after spells with Valencia, Roma and Besiktas, admitted he had "always been curious about the Premier League", adding: "I hope it will suit my style." O'Neill enthused about his display for Valencia against Celtic in the Champions' League. "If he plays anywhere near his best, he will be a good signing for us."
Young had been impressed by the ambition of O'Neill and Villa. "They want to get into Europe and I want to help them," said the £9.65m buy. "It was a big wrench to leave Watford. And there were other offers. But I liked what I saw here."
O'Neill, who praised the readiness of the club's new owner, Randy Lerner, to back his judgement, may yet make additions to his squad before the transfer window closes. He said that Villa wanted to take Shaun Wright-Phillips on loan from Chelsea but the champions were not interested in taking Baros with a view to a permanent transfer.Reuse content