O'Neill puts faith in Sutton to reach Celtic standard

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The Independent Online

Martin O'Neill, the Aston Villa manager, has challenged Chris Sutton to recapture the form he showed for him at Celtic after the striker made his debut for the club in a reserve match at West Ham.

Sutton, who has joined Villa until the end of the season, had a goal disallowed and played 74 minutes of the 3-2 win at Upton Park.

It was the 33-year-old's first meaningful action since parting with Villa's close rivals Birmingham at the end of last season after an injury-hit time at St Andrew's.

However, O'Neill knows what Sutton is capable of from their time together at Celtic. He said: "People might say I knew Chris when he was 'only' playing in Scotland but he was magnificent for us over a number of years in Europe.

"Juventus, Milan and other quality teams like that can bear testament to that," O'Neill added. "Chris was brilliant for us and if he can recapture anything like that sort of form at Villa, he will do well."

O'Neill is unconcerned at Sutton's failure to make an impact at Birmingham after bringing him to strengthen Villa's attack following Luke Moore's shoulder injury. "Chris started off well at Birmingham and then got injured very quickly - but deep down I'm not concerned about what he did or didn't do in the past," O'Neill said.

"If that had been the case, I wouldn't have taken him from Chelsea to Celtic. He went to Chelsea for £10m and didn't settle in there so we picked him up after Mark Viduka left Celtic and he was fantastic for us."

O'Neill believes Sutton will want to improve his match sharpness before challenging for a regular first-team place. "If Chris has a point to prove, and he wants to do well at Aston Villa, he'd like to be fitter and that will come."

Villa's promising central defender Gary Cahill completed the game at Upton Park, his first involvement since suffering a pre-season knee injury. "There were a couple of occasions when I was breathing heavily, but that is to be expected," Cahill said.

"It wasn't a bad game for a defender to return in," he added. "Carlton Cole and Marlon Harewood have caused all sorts of problems in the Premiership so there was no chance of an easy comeback."

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