O'Neill out to beat Watford and plunder £9.6m Young

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The Independent Football

Aston Villa aim to plunder Watford twice over today - first by defeating the Premiership's bottom club at Villa Park to stem their slide down the table and then by capturing their 21-year-old attacker Ashley Young for a club record £9.6m.

Martin O'Neill, the Villa manager, has already agreed terms with Watford for the England Under-21 international and spoken to Young, who is unlikely to play this afternoon. "I reckon that by close of play on Saturday, I will have a fair idea [of the player's decision]," he said.

Villa's swoop for Young, who spurned West Ham earlier in the week, became public knowledge on Thursday. However, O'Neill admitted he would not feel comfortable until the player had actually signed. "I prefer not to be having this conversation. I'd rather be speaking about something I was more certain of."

Pressed to elaborate on the qualities that led him to watch Young "loads of times", the Northern Irishman added: "I think he could [play for England] because he has the natural ability. I believe he has the potential to go on to do great things."

O'Neill took away from their meeting a positive impression of the Stevenage-born, Arsenal-supporting Young as a person, as well as a striker with blistering pace, two-footedness and scoring prowess. "I actually think that selling this club to him wasn't particularly difficult," he said. "I don't know the innermost thoughts of people. But regardless of what happens, I was really impressed with him and his maturity."

Villa have made only a small dent in the fortune of their American chairman, Randy Lerner, since O'Neill succeeded David O'Leary. They paid Celtic £7m for Stiliyan Petrov in August, but until he moved for Young, O'Neill had added just full-back Phil Bardsley on loan from Manchester United during the current transfer window.

O'Neill, whose team have gone 12 games without a win and fallen from third to 15th, declined to comment on reports linking Villa with Tottenham's Finnish midfielder, Teemu Tainio. But with Lee Hendrie a target for Blackburn, he is looking to bolster the engine room. "I'd want to try to get some people. We need to get help for the younger players and take the so-called pressure off the senior boys. Things suggest we're not a million miles away."

Villa have the Premiership's longest sequence without a victory and Watford the fewest wins. But O'Neill laughed off the notion that this was an "ideal opportunity" to end their run. "There's no such thing in this league," he warned.

"From the experience of my early days at Leicester, when I couldn't win a game to save my life, I'd be hoping that when this run ends, it will stand me in better stead - if I'm still standing. The clubs below us a few weeks back, like Blackburn and Manchester City, have won a couple on the trot and got a bit of luck. We need to start winning - simple as that - and I'll feel a lot better when we do."

Lyon are interested in buying the Villa striker Milan Baros, the French club's coach, Gérard Houllier, said yesterday.

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