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Heskey will get chance - O'Neill

O'Neil wants Heskey to fight for place

Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill has reassured Emile Heskey he will get his chance in the first team as he chases a place in England's World Cup squad.

The striker has not started a league game for Villa since the 2-0 defeat by Wigan on the opening day of the season.

But Villa boss O'Neill said: "Emile is a key part of our squad. I accept he hasn't started games but we have Gabby Agbonlahor who's been on fire recently.

"I have a little sympathy for him, but players here will get their chances."

Earlier in the week Heskey, 31, denied saying he was considering leaving Villa to help him get first-team football and secure a place on the plane to South Africa in 2010.

He spoke to O'Neill to explain comments in various newspapers on Monday suggesting he would look for a transfer in January.

O'Neill said: "I understand how these things come out. I have been in this business for a long, long time.

"Emile is not the one to be starting ructions around this football club - certainly not public ructions.

I am a Villa player and I am here to fight for my place like any other player

Emile Heskey

"I have known him a long, long time and he is very quiet. If he has anything to say to me he knows he can knock on my door.

"But I can understand people asking these questions with the World Cup looming and him not playing regularly."

O'Neill added that when he was a player and out of the starting line-up at Nottingham Forest he would speak to his manager Brian Clough.

"I used to knock on the door of Mr Clough's office and he would say to me 'it is a long, long season son and you will get your chance'," said O'Neill.

"It is a long, long season before Christmas and then Easter and a long, long time before the World Cup."

Heskey has started six of England's 10 World Cup qualifiers to help the national team finish top of Group Six and book their passage through to next summer's tournament in South Africa.

He has played in seven of Villa's 13 games so far this season but that has included only three starts - one in the Premier League and two in the Uefa Cup - as well as four games coming on as a substitute.

"WorldClass" Master of Gnomery Ba Bsc

His lack of action reportedly had him fearing for his international place and questioning his future with the Midlands club following England's recent defeat in Ukraine.

But Heskey told Villa's website: "I didn't say I want to quit Villa or anything like that.

"I have spoken to him (O'Neill) and explained the quotes.

"I am a Villa player - and in spite of what the headlines say - I'm not going to quit."

"After a game, you are faced with about 10 million questions," explained Heskey, who joined Villa from Wigan for £3.5m in January.

"Most of my replies were one-word answers, and then I read headlines saying I'm going to quit Villa and things like that. It confused me a little.

"You try to go over the questions you were asked and piece together things you said, trying to work out when I said I was going to quit Villa."

Heskey added: "I am here to fight for my place like any other player. Everyone is in the same ball park - they want to play and they are ready to fight.

"I'm not running away from things - you have to embrace the challenge. These are the hurdles you have to get over. I've said that before."

see also
O'Neill unmoved on Heskey future
14 Oct 09 |  Aston Villa
Barry understands Heskey stance
13 Oct 09 |  Internationals
England 3-0 Belarus
14 Oct 09 |  Internationals
Ukraine 1-0 England
10 Oct 09 |  Internationals
O'Neill angry over Heskey start
13 Feb 09 |  Aston Villa
Villa sign England striker Heskey
23 Jan 09 |  Aston Villa

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