Milner request alerts Villa

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The Independent Football

Aston Villa are expected to step up their bid to sign Newcastle's want-away winger James Milner, who has handed in a transfer request.

Villa are already believed to have had one offer, in the region of £9m, rejected for the England Under-21 player.

Now the midlands club look set to renew their attempts to sign a player who spent the 2005-2006 campaign on loan at Villa Park.

Villa manager Martin O'Neill thought he had landed Milner two years ago after agreeing a fee for the former Leeds star.

But Newcastle stopped the deal going through at the 11th hour and Milner returned to the North East, and last summer signed a new four-year deal.

Now the 22-year-old has made it clear he wants to leave the Magpies with his official request.

O'Neill is maintaining his policy of making no comment about potential signings until they are completed.

But he did admit: "I will tell you that we are very keen to try and strengthen our side between now and transfer deadline day.

"I am sure I could get one or two in anyway but it is just adding the sort of quality that I would want - and that is exactly what I will be trying to do.

"Am I a fan of Milner? He was nearly here two years ago. He nearly signed two years ago but it didn't materialise. But I never think anything is done and dusted until anything happens.

"So many things have happened to me as a player and as a manager that I would never take anything for granted. It was disappointing at the time but it was two years ago."

Milner's possible arrival would give Villa the balance on the right flank they have been lacking with central midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker filling the role against Stoke before Wayne Routledge came on as a substitute.

Meanwhile, O'Neill believes midfielder Gareth Barry has been in the right frame of mind mentally since returning to the Villa side after the apparent collapse of a move to Liverpool.

Barry's agent Alex Black insisted today the England player would not be moving during the current transfer window.

O'Neill said: "If Gareth stays with us for the foreseeable future, I will be really delighted.

"I would have said only a few weeks ago, I was resigned myself to the fact he would no longer be here - around about the time we played Reading in a friendly and when he didn't come with us to Malaga.

"If he does stay, I will be delighted. It will be a really big bonus for us.

"I think Gareth has played four games in quick succession - with the one for England. Four in 12 days after a stop-start pre-season, which hasn't helped him.

"He will have better days for us than on Saturday at Stoke with a bit of luck but Saturday might just have been a culmination of the four games in quick succession, the lack of any steady pre-season, and all of those things.

"I couldn't have faulted him in any of the matches he had played for us before that."

O'Neill is set to ring the changes for the second leg of the UEFA Cup clash with Hafnarfjordur tomorrow evening with Villa holding a 4-1 lead from the first leg.

The likes of Marlon Harewood, Craig Gardner, Zat Knight and Isaiah Osbourne are expected to be given an opportunity.

But left-back Nicky Shorey is ruled out with a slight medial ligament injury.