O'Neill yearns to rekindle old flame at Scunthorpe

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The Independent Football

Martin O'Neill's love affair with the League Cup runs deep, so he is to field a near full-strength Aston Villa side at Scunthorpe tonight.

O'Neill won it twice as a player with Nottingham Forest and built his managerial reputation by lifting the trophy twice at Leicester in 1997 and 2000, in addition to reaching the 1999 final. Villa on the other hand, suffered humiliation at the hands of Doncaster Rovers, 3-0, in the competition last year under David O'Leary.

The Northern Irishman, whose side are unbeaten after five Premiership games, may make a couple of changes for the second-round match and Milan Baros is a candidate to start after his foot injury.

O'Neill said: "If you win five or six games in this competition, you will be pretty well advanced and might even have won it by then. It will be a difficult game and we won't take it lightly because if we have that attitude we will get nothing.

"We will approach the game in the best manner possible and this competition has been really good for me. My record in it is pretty decent and the first trophy you win as a manager is really pleasing. That first trophy at Leicester gave the players extra belief and confidence. They all thought they could play after that!

"We are in three competitions this season, we are not involved in a heavy European schedule, so why would we want to go meekly out of the competition?

"I understand why managers with the major sides prioritise for the season, but for us the League Cup is very important and I would love to do well in it.

"Most of the people here were in the side beaten by Doncaster last season and Burnley the year before. So, hopefully, the players will not need geeing up."

O'Neill is to hold talks with Randy Lerner, who has now acquired almost the 90 per cent of the club's shares needed to take over and de-list the club from the Stock Exchange.

O'Neill said: "We are going to sit down [tomorrow] or Friday and Mr Lerner will outline what he has in mind for the club and, hopefully, he will listen to what I have to say about it myself. His intentions for Aston Villa are good. He wants to get back to doing work on the training ground and he wants some sort of input from me on that.

"He is committed to putting things in place and that commitment is great news for Aston Villa."

O'Neill admitted: "I do not think Mr Lerner is going to throw money at the club like Chelsea. That is not in his nature. But that doesn't mean there aren't some things we can put in place now and reap the benefits of those things later on."

As expected, the chairman Doug Ellis and non- executive board members Stephen Kind, Anthony Hales, David Owen and Peter Ellis have resigned but Steve Stride remains an executive director.