O'Neill rues Delfouneso absence
Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill is disappointed that Nathan Delfouneso has missed pre-season.
Last Updated: 28/07/09 4:31pm
Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill has confessed his disappointment that Nathan Delfouneso has not been able to take part in pre-season due to international duty.
The striker is away with England Under 19s at the European Championship and is therefore missing Villa's preparations for the new season.
O'Neill rates Delfouneso, who scored three times in his opening four first-team appearances last season, and was keen for him to experience the benefits of Villa's build up to the start of the Premier League.
The 18-year-old will be vying with the likes John Carew, Emile Heskey and Gabriel Agbonlahor for a starting place in 2009/10 and his manager is frustrated that he is not able to train with his team-mates.
O'Neill said: "Nathan has been with the U19s which is great in one sense but I am particularly disappointed because it is our pre-season.
"It would be important for him to be with us now. I have joked before that they keep inventing these tournaments.
"I see the benefit of Nathan taking his place in our team for the recent warm-up games. It would have been fantastic for him.
"I know that would give him the incentive where he would be thinking, 'I'm vying with Agbonlahor, Heskey and Carew for a first-team place'.
"He's beginning to leave his mark here now and I just wish he was with us at this important stage."
O'Neill is hoping that Heskey will have recovered from a head injury suffered against Malaga in time to face Atlante in Wednesday's Peace Cup match in Spain.
Heskey said: "I feel a lot better. It was a nasty clash of heads and I can't remember anything afterwards.
"Whether I will be fit for Wednesday I don't know. My head still hurts. It's the first time something like this has happened to me."