O'Neill backing for Davis
By Lewis Rutledge. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
Steven Davis has been assured he is still part of Martin O'Neill's plans for Aston Villa.
The midfielder has not started a game for more than two months and was not even named among the substitutes for last Sunday's Premiership clash with Liverpool.
After being recognised as the club's Player of the Year last season O'Neill accepts it must be frustrating for Davis to be kept on the sidelines.
But the Aston Villa manager has backed the Northern Ireland midfielder to regain top form and re-establish himself in the side.
"Sunday's game with Liverpool was the first time that Steven has been out of the 16 all season," said O'Neill.
"It's his second full season after having done so well before - and he's not the first young player to struggle to find his feet after an impressive start.
"But he will come back and is very much part of our plans."
O'Neill insists he is not surprised when young players start to struggle after making an initial impact, as he has observed the same trend for years.
But he is adamant the likes of Davis, Isaiah Osbourne, Craig Gardner, Gary Cahill and Gabriel Agbonlahor all have big futures at Villa.
He explained: "I don't want to have incredible expectations of these young players because I know that after a number of games, not many people in the game can come in and stay in Premiership sides for the length of time you'd expect.
"Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and the rest all came into the Manchester United side around the same time, and stayed in the team and proved themselves.
"But they are the exception because there isn't another example.
"The very fact that we're still talking about that Manchester United side now, so many years later, shows how exceptional it was to get so many youngsters through all at once.
"It doesn't mean I've disregarded the young players at our place."