O'Neill hails Friedel influence

Villa boss delighted with goalkeeper's start

Friedel: Commanding presence

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Martin O'Neill believes Brad Friedel is an 'immense signing' for Aston Villa and will play a crucial role this season.

The 37-year-old goalkeeper joined Villa from Blackburn over the summer and kept his first clean sheet in the goalless draw with Liverpool before the international break.

Villa conceded 51 goals in the Premier League last season but O'Neill expects an improvement in that area following Friedel's arrival.

He feels the American can also bring out the best in the defenders in front of him.

"I think Brad Friedel is an immense signing," O'Neill told the Birmingham Mail.

"I'm absolutely delighted and he's already had an influence on the players in front of him.

"He's talking them through things, telling them where to go. The start he's made has been incredibly encouraging. Add to that the obvious fact that he's an absolute quality goalkeeper.

"We went into this summer just looking to get a bit more solidity at the back. That was something we didn't possess last year when we conceded a lot of goals. We've tried our best to rectify that.

"Defenders respond to a very commanding goalkeeper and Brad has definitely got that presence that you want at the back. He's a very experienced goalkeeper and I'm delighted with the start he's made."

Cuellar praise

O'Neill has also paid tribute to Carlos Cuellar, who joined from Rangers in August but has yet to make his debut due to injury.

Cuellar is set to step up his comeback with a game for the reserves on Monday and O'Neill is confident he will soon be pressing for a place in the side.

"He's a strong centre-half. He played a big part in Rangers' run to the Uefa Cup final last year," O'Neill said.

"He played exceptionally well in that. He hasn't got any particular frills about his game but I think he is strong, he wants to compete and, as importantly, he wants to go and see if he can make it in the Premier League."