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Barry saga did not distract us; VILLA NEWS.

THE Gareth Barry saga never deflected Villa away from the need to strengthen the squad, insisted Martin O'Neill.

And he denies that Liverpool's prolonged hunt for his former skipper left a cloud over the club.

O'Neill said: "I never saw it like that at all.

"I don't know if there was discontent, there might have been some unsettlement with Gareth Barry but I couldn't see it being any other way than being a time to try and get some players into the football club which is always what we intended to do."

O'Neill was in the thick of competitive football in the InterToto Cup before he was able to bring in the players he needed for the Premier League campaign.

Only Steve Sidwell had arrived when Villa took on Danish side Odense.

O'Neill recalls: "Pre-season was strange from a playing viewpoint, in that we had to start thinking about an Intertoto Cup game within a couple of weeks of coming back.

"Then you almost had to step back a bit and give the guys a bit of a breather.

"Then of course we didn't have the big, big game buildup to the pre-season.

"We didn't have the likes of Inter Milan or AC Milan to play but the competitiveness of the Intertoto and the qualifying part of the UEFA Cup would have helped because there's a tension and concern around it.

"I was still concerned about going into the first game against Manchester City because no matter what your preparations are like you are never really prepared for the opening of the Premier League season, you just aren't.

"There were lots of things in that Man City game which were very positive and there were lots of things that we could have done much better.

"But for the opening game of the season I thought the players' fitness was terrific."

CAPTION(S):

GARETH BARRY.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Sep 6, 2008
Words:314
Previous Article:O'Neill was spot on - Cowans.
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