O'Neill looks beyond Reo-Coker clash

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The Independent Online

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill has demanded all the focus at Villa Park is on tomorrow's clash with struggling Portsmouth and not his training ground bust-up with midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker.



Reo-Coker was sent home from training today for disciplinary reasons with reports indicating he had a disagreement with O'Neill in training yesterday.

When the former West Ham player arrived for training this morning, he was told to stay away until Monday.

O'Neill said: "There was a confrontation between Nigel and myself. It usually happens between players really.

"There were no fisticuffs. There was no wrestling to the ground as reported in one newspaper. That was a figment of the onlookers' imagination.

"There was enough for me to treat the incident seriously enough. Nigel will not play against Portsmouth and come Monday it will be forgotten about.

"I make the rules. I am the manager and custodian of the football club so my rules apply. Players have to get used to my rules. It's as simple as that."

Putting the incident to one side, O'Neill is wary of the challenge Villa face when they host rock-bottom Pompey who are without a point in the Barclays Premier League this season.

The Villa boss is not underestimating the challenge of Paul Hart's side and feels Portsmouth's results do not reflect the way they have played so far this term.

O'Neill said: "Naturally I am concerned about the Portsmouth game.

"They do not have any points but I think their performance deserved some points on the board.

"Major decisions haven't seemed to go their way which caused them to concede a few goals but overall the performance must have been very encouraging for Paul Hart.

"He has obviously had a tough time since the end of the season and did well to guide them through pre-season when he hoped to get some of the better players bedded down at Portsmouth.

"Some have gone and he has had to make changes but if their effort and determination last Saturday is any guide it will genuinely be tough for us.

"As I've often said in the past and will continue to say we wouldn't be good enough to treat anyone lightly.

"But we are going into the game with a lot of confidence."

Villa have made their best start to a Premier League season since 1998 and O'Neill added: "We have won three consecutive Premier League games and it is great.

"Portsmouth, however, will be dangerous as they showed last week from set-pieces and counter-attacks.

"I just think that we have got to be really focused on the game and I think the crowd can be encouraged by our recent performances."

O'Neill could recall Fabian Delph to replace Reo-Coker in the heart of the Villa midfield and he has also has not ruled out a return for striker John Carew to join Gabriel Agbonlahor in attack.

Carew, a firm favourite with the Villa fans, created the winning goal for Agbonlahor at Birmingham last weekend after going on as a substitute.

O'Neill added: "We will make assessments accordingly. I will give it some consideration and have a look at it.

"I made some changes against Birmingham but it was imperative that I got a couple of defenders into the side as it gives us a bit more stability considering that Curtis Davies will be out from a lengthy time after his shoulder operation.

"We are reasonably flexible within the system we play.John Carew came on and made the winning goal at Birmingham which was delightful.

"At least I now have some options and I have players chomping at the bit which is encouraging from my view point."

New defenders Richard Dunne, James Collins and Stephen Warnock, who made their debuts at Birmingham, will all make their home bows as Villa players.

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