O'Neill not Keane on striker
Martin O'Neill has rubbished talk that Aston Villa are lining up a move for Tottenham striker Robbie Keane.
By Elliot Ball
Last Updated: 08/01/10 4:23pm
Martin O'Neill has rubbished talk that Aston Villa are lining up a move for Tottenham striker Robbie Keane and has quashed speculation suggesting some of his players could leave the club.
The opening of January's transfer window has sparked a frenzy of speculation over several attack-minded players in the Premier League and Villa have been one of many touted to be looking to spruce up their front line.
The UEFA Champions League hopefuls have not struggled for goals this term, but with a large proportion of them coming via Gabriel Agbonlahor, it has been believed that O'Neill has been looking to bring in another striker to complement the England international.
John Carew and Emile Heskey have been somewhat successful in providing that role for Villa this season, but both forwards have been linked with moves away from the club of late adding fuel to the rumours that Keane could head to the West Midlands.
However, O'Neill has moved to quell the gossip by insisting there have been no developments in either direction regarding any transfers.
"I see us linked with players and some of our players are being linked with other clubs but at this minute I have nothing to report," said the Northern Irishman, who has also seen young talent Craig Gardner linked with a move to both Birmingham and Wolves.
"There is no definite movement in either direction. Maybe like most Premier League managers, I'd probably like to keep it that way. Robbie Keane? There is absolutely nothing in it."
O'Neill is more focused on ensuring his players remain fresh in the run-in to Villa's quest for a top-four finish, especially after last season's failed attempt to dislodge the so-called 'Big Four'.
The key to that will be the fitness of leading scorer Agbonlahor and Villa's star performer James Milner, who has been a revelation in the heart of the midfield this term.
And O'Neill insists he will monitor the England duo during the second half of the campaign to ensure they avoid the possibility of footballing burn-out.
The pair were part of the England Under-21 squad which played in the European Championship until the end of June so had a reduced summer break despite not participating in the Peace Cup tournament with Villa in Spain.
But they have been virtual ever presents during the opening half of the campaign and key performers in Villa's challenge for a Champions League spot.
O'Neill believes they will reap the benefits of an unexpected 10-day break after being rested for the FA Cup tie with Blackburn and then seeing the Carling Cup semi-final clash at Ewood Park fall victim to the weather on Tuesday.
But he will still keep careful tabs through to mid-May on the pair who could have an even lengthier summer if they are included in England's World Cup squad.
"I think they should benefit from the break. They are preparing themselves now for this group of games in quick succession (seven in 21 days).
"Any little chance they have of getting a little break should be beneficial.
"Milner has been remarkable. We tried to give him and Gabby as much time off as possible after the Under-21 tournament and they didn't come with us to the pre-season tournament.
"But, for them to be in the sort of form they are, which is really terrific, is fantastic, and they want to play all of the time.
"Again we will have to monitor them during the second half of the season, and if there is a chance to give them some sort of break, international matches notwithstanding, we will try and do it.
"If they are picked for the World Cup, and England have a good run, it will be a long period for them.
"But for now these few days, although they weren't expecting it, should help them."