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Football: CUTTING CAREW; PREMIER LEAGUE STRIKER'S VOW TO FANS Our goal is a top four place this season or why bother says Aston Villa star.

Byline: BY DAVID ANDERSON

JOHN CAREW has told his Aston Villa team-mates they must believe they can smash the Big Four's closed shop.

Carew refuses to accept that the leading places in the Premier League are forbidden territory, and insists Villa can qualify for the Champions League.

The 6ft 4in striker claims there would be no point in Villa starting the new season on August 16 if they do not believe they can achieve this goal.

"Top four is our aim," said the Norwegian international.

"Last season we ended up sixth. We could have been fifth and, with a bit of luck, we could have been closer to finishing fourth in the best league in the world.

"You always try to do better the following year, so hopefully this time we can finish fourth. Fifth would also be better - but fourth is what we want. We are ambitious. If we didn't believe we could be among the top four, there would be no reason to play."

The well-travelled Carew claims success is not dictated by who spends the most money and pointed to Martin O'Neill's astute business in the transfer market.

The Ulsterman made Villa a credible force last season despite spending less than many of his rival managers, and Carew insists this shows what can be done.

"Of course a top-four place is possible," said the former Valencia and Roma hitman.

"It's not just down to who spends the most money. You can spend a lot of money, but it's also about how you do things.

"You can buy all the players in the world, but you have to make a team out of them all and this does not always happen.

"I'm sure the gaffer will pick the right players again this summer to make us even stronger than last year, so I'm not worried."

Carew, 28, is not prepared to lower his sights despite Gareth Barry's imminent departure for Liverpool and claims the players still have total confidence in their boss.

O'Neill is working to bring in the likes of Steve Sidwell, Paul Robinson, David Bentley and Anton Ferdinand - and Carew believes Villa can keep progressing. I think the players are quite calm about what's going on," he said.

"Gareth wants to do something else, but in the end that is between the club and the player. Our business is to go out, work 100 per cent and focus on what is there and not stick our noses into anything else.

"We have to concentrate on ourselves if we're going to be totally effective and we're confident the club will take care of everything else.

"We're in the same boat and we have to fight together as a team on the pitch and not think about which players are leaving and which players are coming in.

"I am very happy to be here and I would like to stay for many years more. I feel that Premier League football really suits me.

"We're 100 per cent sure the club will do what is necessary to make this team even stronger than last year."

Villa kick-off their season with an Inter to to Cup third round tie against either Odense or Turku on Saturday week, and Carew is confident they can do well in Europe.

Villa flew to Switzerland to their pre-season training camp yesterday and Carew said: "There's no reason why we can't go all the way in Europe.

"You need to be very good in the UEFA Cup and have a bit of luck to do well.

"We will have to wait and see if we are lucky - but we certainly know we have the quality."

VILLA IN PREMIER

1992-93 2nd

1993-94 10th

1994-95 8th

1995-96 4th

1996-97 5th

1997-98 7th

1998-99 6th

1999-00 6th

2000-01 8th

2001-02 8th

2002-03 18th

2003-04 6th

2004-05 10th

2005-06 16th

2006-07 11th

2007-08 6th

CAPTION(S):

AIMING HIGH Carew says Villa must build on last season; TALL ORDER Carew and Zat Knight train
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 9, 2008
Words:664
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