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Page last updated at 16:17 GMT, Tuesday, 20 April 2010 17:17 UK

Villa boss Martin O'Neill denies James Milner exit talk

James Milner
Midfielder Milner has become a key player for Villa this season

Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill says speculation over England midfielder James Milner's future is an unwelcome distraction for his club.

The 24-year-old, signed from Newcastle in 2008, has impressed this season and has been linked with both Manchester City and Manchester United.

"It is irksome at this stage of the season," said O'Neill.

"He's under contract with us and it's a case of dampening fires that weren't there in the first place."

Milner has been in a rich vein of form during a season in which Villa reached the Carling Cup final and FA Cup semi-final, as well as maintaining a push for fourth place in the Premier League table.

The former Leeds and Newcastle midfielder has also become a regular in the England squad under Fabio Capello, and is widely tipped to be part of the 23-man squad for the World Cup in South Africa.

O'Neill said he was impressed by the progress that Milner has made this season, and is keen for him to maintain it.

"He has had a really brilliant time, particularly since moving into the middle of midfield and I am delighted for him," he said.

"We want the best players to stay here at Aston Villa so we can keep the momentum going.

"But I have kind of accepted it now. If it is not James it will be Ashley Young and if it is not Ashley it might be Richard Dunne and then someone else the following week."

O'Neill was also quick to deny that there had been any contact from Manchester City about a possible summer move, with newspaper reports suggesting a £24m offer would be forthcoming from Eastlands.

"I can categorically say that I have not heard anything from Manchester City," he said.

"I spoke to my chief executive late on Monday evening and he never mentioned it so I assume they have not been in touch with him either."

Nathan W C Delfouneso

One player will who definitely not be going anywhere in a hurry is Fabian Delph, after the midfielder was ruled out for eight months with anterior cruciate knee ligament damage suffered in training.

"He puts his heart and soul into training," said O'Neill.

"He loves the football and he just turned away from a couple of players, someone came in to close him down and he has fallen awkwardly.

"He will recover from it. These things were career-threatening about a quarter of a century ago but nowadays players recover from them very well and just take it as a normal injury, albeit one that takes longer to recover from."

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see also
Villa hit by Delph injury setback
19 Apr 10 |  Aston Villa
Delph proud of performance against United
11 Feb 10 |  Aston Villa
Delph desperate for more starts
11 Feb 10 |  Aston Villa
Milner excited by Villa potential
17 Dec 09 |  Aston Villa
Milner enjoying central position
17 Dec 09 |  Aston Villa
Milner set to realise his dream
10 Nov 09 |  Aston Villa
Aston Villa complete Delph deal
04 Aug 09 |  Aston Villa
Aston Villa seal Milner transfer
29 Aug 08 |  Aston Villa

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