David O’Leary believes Aston Villa striker Kevin Phillips could emulate Teddy Sheringham and play into his late 30s after hailing him as “a model professional”.
O’Leary, whose side entertain Manchester City in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Sunday, has been delighted with the contribution of 32-year-old Phillips since his £750,000 (€1m) move from Southampton to Villa Park in the summer.
He has netted five goals and O’Leary hopes Phillips can play a major part in the final third of the season now he has recovered from an ankle problem.
The Villa chief believes the way Phillips has conducted himself throughout his career means he could prolong his stay in the top flight in the same way as Sheringham.
O’Leary said: “Anyone who knows Kevin Phillips immediately says ‘good professional’ and that is the way he has been all through his career.
“He has got a chance of playing on like Teddy Sheringham because of the way he has looked after himself from day one.
“It is not a case of ‘I’m in my 30s, I’d better look after myself now’ and his approach for the past 10-12 years will stand him in good stead now.
“He has had an ankle problem and he has been able to get back after two months because of the way he has looked after himself during that period and given himself every possible chance.”
Villa have enjoyed an upturn in fortunes since losing to Stuart Pearce’s side 3-1 at Eastlands in October and have been beaten only three times in the last 14 Premiership games.
But O’Leary knows the FA Cup represents Villa’s best chance of obtaining an automatic European spot for the first time in eight years.
He said: “Everyone has been saying Villa should be in Europe for many years. There are only a certain few teams in this day and age who are going to win the league and for a lot of us the best thing a club can win is the FA Cup.”