O’Neill praise for ‘brilliant’ Milner

Martin O’Neill hailed a “brilliant performance” from Aston Villa‘s James Milner and said his versatility can earn him a place at the World Cup.

Milner was switched into central midfield for the second game in succession and turned in a starring role in the 3-0 home success over Hull.

The club’s £12million record signing set up the opening goal for Richard Dunne and scored the second himself before John Carew sealed victory with a late penalty.

Milner has played on both flanks, right-back and as a second striker for Villa in addition to being used by Fabio Capello in a left-back role at one stage.

O’Neill said: “Milner was brilliant. That is the second game in a row he has played in central midfield for us and he performed as if he has been there all his career.

“I always felt he was capable of doing that. It is a different game when you move inside. I know that from my own experience at Nottingham Forest. You see a different game.

“But he performed brilliantly. The great thing about James is that versatility.

“Apart from being on the wings, he has played right-back on a couple of occasions and can do that as well.

“He is really thriving here and has taken his game on a notch or two.

“Eventually Fabio Capello must have one or two players in that group of candidates who can play in two or three positions.

“I said to James at the start of the season he could play in the middle and he is proving me right.”

Villa were always in control after Dunne and Milner had put them in command with their first-half strikes.

O’Neill added; “The first-half performance was really good. Our first goal should have been our third goal given the opportunities we had. There was a lot of fluidity about the team. The second half was more stop-start but overall I was delighted with our win.”

Hull are keeping their fingers crossed that key midfielder Jimmy Bullard is not facing another lengthy spell on the sidelines after suffering a first-half knee injury which forced him to be substituted.

The ex-Fulham player only returned to action in October after an eight-month lay-off, although the latest problem is in his left knee and not the right one which has required two major operations during his career.

Tigers assistant boss Brian Horton said: “It is too early to say how bad the injury is. We will probably have it scanned and just hope there is nothing seriously wrong.

“You don’t want to see that sort of thing happen because he has come back and been playing brilliantly. He has been such an influence and just fell awkwardly.”

Horton had no complaints about Hull’s first setback in five games.

He said: “We never got out of the traps. They are a good side who have spent a lot of money on good players and caught us cold.

“We’ve just had a good spell and are disappointed we didn’t perform today to that level.

“We went missing for the first goal which was not good enough and that was disappointing.”