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Football: BERGER KING; O'Neill hails 'classy' Villa show by Patrik.

Byline: By MAT KENDRICK

BOSS Martin O'Neill is more determined than ever to have Patrik Berger on board for next season - after the former Czech international steered Villa to a crucial victory at Blackburn Rovers.

The 33-year-old former Liverpool man capped his first start for 18 months by opening his Villa account and setting up the winner at Ewood Park for Gabby Agbonlahor.

And O'Neill is ready to hand Berger a cameo role in his Villa Park revolution following the veteran playmaker's revival.

O'Neill, who believes the 2-1 win will go a long way towards securing their Premiership status, has been delighted with midfielder Berger's impact in recent games and said earlier this week he would be ready to talk to the player about a new deal.

"Berger rolled back the years with that performance," said O'Neill. "He has been able to change games for us from the bench, and this time he earned the right to start the game. I never for one minute thought he would last as long as he did.

"I told him not to get too concerned about saving energy and just put his lot in, so he stayed on longer than we would have thought, but he's a class performer."

Berger has been plagued by a string of injuries since signing from Portsmouth. And his Villa Park career seemed to be over when he was allowed to join Stoke on loan earlier in the season after a bust-up with O'Neill.

But after stepping off the bench to help Villa earn a point against Everton on Monday, Berger played a starring role at Ewood Park, where he was given a standing ovation by the travelling supporters.

"In these little cameo roles, I think I would look at that situation," said O'Neill, when asked about Berger's future. "It's the longest he's stayed fit since he left Liverpool. He trains with us every day, whereas last season I don't think he was ever at the training ground."

But O'Neill has yet to make mention of a new deal for Thomas Sorensen despite the Villa goalkeeper having just 12 months of his current contract left.

MATCH REPORT -

PULL-OUT P2-3

CAPTION(S):

PAT ON THE BACK: Berger, left, celebrates his goal for Villa at Blackburn
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Apr 8, 2007
Words:376
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