Martin O’Neill insisted his long-term relationship with Aston Villa striker John Carew has not been damaged ahead of tonight’s Premier League clash with Blackburn at Villa Park.
Carew has been heavily fined by O’Neill after being spotted in a Birmingham club in the early hours before the UEFA Cup meeting with Ajax last Thursday.
But O’Neill is adamant the matter has been put to bed and expects Carew to play a major role for Villa in their bid to break into the top four and also to challenge for glory in Europe.
He came off the bench to set up a goal and score one himself during the 4-0 win at Wigan on Sunday and could return to the starting line-up against Paul Ince’s side.
O’Neill said: “I have a perfectly good relationship with John Carew. I don’t think I would be guest of honour if any of the players were asking people to go out and eat with them.
“But I have absolutely no problem with John. He stepped out of line, I dealt with it. It’s over. There is not a problem. My relationship with John, I should imagine, wouldn’t really change.
“I’ve been fined as a player myself and it didn’t really change things. You might sulk for a day or two – or in my case for a month or two! But there is not a problem with John.
“If you talk about the way John reacted, he came on as a sub at Wigan and within 12 minutes had made a goal and scored one – not a bad way to resolve the situation, so I am really pleased.
“The crowd reaction to him was also very positive. It was great. Whether we would all have had a different reaction to everything had Wigan turned us over, who knows.”
O’Neill also insisted Carew had not been dropped as a disciplinary measure for the Ajax encounter.
He said: “I knew nothing about the incident (with Carew) until after the Ajax game. He was rested for the game – as he has been for certain other midweek games.”
O’Neill, meanwhile, has been delighted with the contribution of goalkeeper Brad Friedel, who ended an eight-year association with Blackburn by moving to Villa during the summer.
And the former Celtic boss believes the 37-year-old has improved with age as he prepares to face his former team-mates.
O’Neill said: “I think Brad Friedel had been an exceptional keeper for quite a number of those years at Blackburn and I think he has got better with age.
“He is a bit like David James from that viewpoint and so his age didn’t really concern me when I looked to sign him. He is 37 but he was as good a goalkeeper as there was in the Premier League.
“I feel he has been like that for the last couple of years and I felt his experience and general know-how would help us immensely and I think, touch wood, he has done those things for us.
“His head is well screwed on. He is brave and he has looked after himself and, at 37, he still feels he is capable of playing in the Premier League – which I think, so far, he has shown.”