Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill has admitted he wants "to keep players who are making an impact" after praising the contribution in recent weeks of in-demand striker Emile Heskey.

The England player voiced concern earlier in the campaign about a lack of first team opportunities affecting his World Cup chances, but he has been more of a regular starter in recent week, making a telling impact despite reported interest from Chelsea and former club Liverpool.

O'Neill told Press Association Sport: "After the Blackburn game on Saturday, someone asked me about Heskey, a hypothetical question about 'What if Emile wanted to go?' and it took me a bit by surprise. I haven't really sat down yet and spoken to any of the players about what is going to happen in January."

He added: "I couldn't give you any guarantees about anything but we are in a situation here where I would be wanting to keep the players who are making an impact at the football club.

"And I think Emile in the last number of weeks has been really excellent for us.

"Ideally, because we are involved in different competitions at this minute, I would try and keep them if it's at all possible. I just don't know. I will take every situation on its merits."

But O'Neill admits he may struggle to hold onto England Under-21 midfielder Craig Gardner who has had few first team chances and is believed to be attracting interest from Wolves and Birmingham.

O'Neill said: "A number of clubs have enquired about him, but there's been nothing definite about. In an ideal world I'd love him to stay, but like everything else, players want to play and like to play. He's one player I would genuinely like to keep but that might not be possible."

O'Neill will block any attempts from Cardiff to sign another midfielder in Fabian Delph - signed from Leeds last summer - on loan.

He said: "The answer would be no. Because he played so many games for Leeds, he would have liked to play a bit more often this season. But it is the kind of season I envisaged for him. It is hard breaking into the side but I thought his contribution in the first half on Saturday against Blackburn was brilliant."

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Topics:
#Blackburn Rovers
#Emile Heskey
#Chelsea
#Premier League
#Cardiff City
#Fabian Delph
#Aston Villa
#Birmingham
#Wolverhampton Wanderers
#Leeds United
#Craig Gardner
#Liverpool
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