Martin O'Neill Said I Would Never Make It In The Big Time, Says Aston Villa's Barry Bannan

The Scot is enjoying new opportunities from Gerard Houllier
Aston Villa midfielder Barry Bannan has told how former club boss Martin O'Neill told him he would never make it at the club.

The Scot told the Daily Record how he became disillusioned under O’Neill, who told him the top grade of the game was not in his future.

The former boss never gave Bannan a first team appearance and sent him on loan the last two seasons, firstly to Derby County and then to Blackpool.

Current coach Gerard Houllier granted the 20-year-old his first league appearance for the club against West Ham in August, and after a handful of subsequent starts he played his first international fixture on Wednesday night against the Faroe Islands.

"Martin had size issues with me and he kept bringing them up in conversation over the many meetings we had when he was at Villa," explained the 5ft 7in Bannan.

"I'd been at the club since I was 14. My parents had left Lanarkshire and moved to the Midlands to look after me while I tried to become a success. But Martin left me disheartened when what I really needed was his trust.

"I knew I couldn't afford to be totally disheartened because then my confidence levels would have dropped and my game would have gone to pieces along with them.

"The only thing that kept me going during that period of rejection was when I said to myself, 'some day somebody will show confidence in you'.

"Gerard likes a passing game for Villa so now I've gone from the stage where I was on loan to Blackpool and playing every now and then to the point where I've been first pick for Villa for the last three matches in the Premier League.

"And all of that's been based on what the manager saw of me in training each day. I'm grateful to say he's taken to me and I've experienced a total change of fortune since Gerard arrived at the club."

As well as making Scots proud by having one of their youngest footballers become a Premier League regular, Houllier brought in Gary McAllister as his assistant manager.

Bannan expressed how McAllister has helped him immensely: "He's been working on the defensive side of my game and I know that's important because anything that keeps me in the first team is vital where Scotland's concerned.

"The next competitive international isn't until the start of next season. That means I have to stay in Villa's team and keep my mind focused on winning Scotland's attention. Otherwise there's no place in the Euro 2012 qualification squad for me.

"I've got one cap and now I'm hungry for more. I know I wouldn't have got a chance at Aston Villa if Martin O'Neill had stayed there as manager.

"Now I'm enjoying every minute of life under his successor."

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