Page last updated at 17:13 GMT, Saturday, 28 February 2009

Villa fans offered thank-you meal

Martin O' Neill
Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill has invited fans to dinner

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill has offered to host a dinner for fans who flew to Russia and saw an understrength side knocked out of the Uefa Cup.

Fans who had followed the West Midlands team's Uefa Cup run were angered when O'Neill rested eight first-choice stars in the 2-0 defeat at CSKA Moscow.

O'Neill made the offer to about 300 passengers during the flight home from Moscow on Friday.

He said he stood by his choice but the meal was a way of thanking the fans.

'Takes bottle'

The dinner is due to be held at the club's Holte Suite on a date yet to be decided.

It is seen by some as an apology for leaving regular first team players Gareth Barry, Brad Friedel, Emile Heskey, James Milner, Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Carlos Cuellar and Stiliyan Petrov behind in England when the squad flew out to Moscow.

Thursday's match was the third game in six days for Aston Villa, who are battling for a place in the Premier League's top four - which would bring with it a place in next season's Uefa Champions League.

One of the supporters who was on the plane said: "Its a nice touch to come and say that and softens the blow of the trip. It takes a lot of bottle to do that and shows what type of manager he is."

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