O'Leary: We miss McCann
By Graeme Mair. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
Aston Villa boss David O'Leary admits that his midfield have struggled to cope with the absence of the injured Gavin McCann.
The industrious England international recently underwent knee surgery to correct a longstanding problem and is unlikely to play again this season.
New recruit Eric Djemba-Djemba has struggled to make an impact since his arrival from Manchester United, matters coming to a head after Villa were booed off the pitch by their own fans following their 3-1 home defeat against Everton.
"We are a better team and stronger when Gavin McCann is in the team," admitted O'Leary.
"We have to have a harder edge to ourselves. We haven't got that - particularly when McCann is not playing for us.
"He is a bread-and-butter professional, an unsung hero type of player who does not get the credit he deserves - but the players who play alongside him know the contribution he makes.
"He'll definitely be back for next season - and it would be nice to have him back at the end of the season."
Former Arsenal defender O'Leary, who enjoyed success blooding young players whilst manager of Leeds United, also admits he is unsure about the present crop of young talent at Villa Park.
Young prospects Liam Ridgewell, Steven Davis and Luke Moore have all been given opportunities at Villa this season but are yet to convince O'Leary they are good enough for The Premiership.
"I think we can get carried away with youngsters," said O'Leary.
"Youngsters can get in, but they've got to be good enough for you to say 'are they going to take us forward to where this club wants to be?'
"We've got to see now just how much quality these youngsters have. Only time will tell."