THE APPOINTMENT OF Martin O'Neill has certainly set Aston Villa off in the right direction this season and the players have responded with a number of positive results that has seen them remain unbeaten so far.
I played against Martin many times when I was a player here and he was at Nottingham Forest. He was always a good player who was bought up in a very good footballing team. By his own admission, his management style has in some ways been influenced by his former manager Brian Clough, while Martin himself was always regarded as one of the brighter individual players in the game with an academic background.
He certainly hasn't got to the top in management the easy way. He managed in non-league at Grantham and went through the levels before reaching where he is now. He comes across as being full of enthusiasm and determination - and this is reflected in his teams.
There has been an upturn in results and fortunes since his arrival and what he has bought them is an excitement about the place, certainly among the supporters who are delighted by his appointment. The fact that they've had this run since the start of the season, playing in a very attractive manner, the supporters must very much be enjoying the games.
I think Villa possibly needed a lift, they are a big club in an area where the other sides have fallen into the Championship over the last few seasons. They now have the chance to really establish themselves again. It is a wonderful stadium and, if things carry on going well, it will not be long before the place is full again on a regular basis.
The changes on the playing side at Villa have not been huge, Petrov is a player Martin knew from Celtic and rated very highly, who has done very, very well in a system that suits him.
Villa - who mostly adopt a 4-3-3 shape - are a very attacking side who break very well from midfield. McCann, who has been a top pro for them over the last few years, sits in midfield, while in attack Moore tends to feature on the left, with the talented Agbonlahor on the right.
Agbonlahor has been a very good player for them this season in a system which, in effect, contains three genuine forward players. They have a lot of pace, with Angel back to where he was and Baros either playing or coming off the bench. Villa are a very adventurous side and the fact they are winning games has lifted the team, with people like Barry coming into the England reckoning again, I'm sure.
They are playing with a lot of confidence in a system that suits them very well.
Chris Hughton looks ahead to the challenge of taking on Martin O'Neill's unbeaten Aston Villa on Saturday...