x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

O'Neill: Milner is key to Villa success

Martin O'Neill has insisted James Milner will have a big role to play at Aston Villa despite only using him sparingly since his £12million move from Newcastle.

BIRMINGHAM // Martin O'Neill has insisted James Milner will have a big role to play at Aston Villa despite only using him sparingly since his £12million (Dh81.3m) move from Newcastle. Milner joined Villa on a permanent basis towards the end of the transfer window last month after spending the 2005-2006 campaign on loan at the midlands club.

But he has had to battle for his place and has yet to start a league game since his return. Milner was only a substitute for last weekend's victory at West Brom before being cup-tied for the shock Carling Cup reversal at home to QPR on Wednesday. He must wait to see if he will start in tomorrow's meeting with Sunderland but O'Neill is adamant he will be a vital cog in the Villa machine for many years to come.

"We went into the West Brom game with the same side as against Tottenham the previous Monday and the same side as against Liverpool - but James will play. Don't worry about that," O'Neill said. "We've got another 1,000 games to play. James didn't sign for a month and a half! He will play and so will Carlos Cuellar. "James couldn't play against QPR because he was cup-tied. I get asked 'where I am I going to fit James in'. It is a nice problem to have. But he will play. He didn't come here to sit on the bench."

Milner will be in contention to face Roy Keane's side as O'Neill looks to freshen things up for Villa's fifth game in 13 days. * PA Sport