Villa fight to keep Barry

Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill has vowed that he will not allow captain Gareth Barry to leave for Liverpool without an almighty fight to keep the England midfielder.

Barry, a priority target for Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez, was one of Villa's scorers in a 2-2 draw with West Ham on Sunday which ensured O'Neill's men finished the season in sixth place with the option of entering Europe next season via the Intertoto Cup.

"We will do our utmost to keep Gareth at the club because he's so important to us," O'Neill said.

"It's interesting and ironic that apparently there was an offer from an Italian club for Steven Gerrard yet Liverpool were quick to remind everyone that he is under contract.

"Gareth has two years left on his contract and we want him to stay. The chairman will talk to him to show how much we value him. I will not be made to feel under pressure by other clubs because they want one of our players. We're going to talk it through with Gareth.

"I can't understand why Gareth would want to leave. He's only 27 and has been brilliant for us. He has been selected for England and has played regularly for them because of his exploits with Villa."

West Ham boss Alan Curbishley also has concerns about his best players being tempted away with striker Dean Ashton, whose late strike rescued a point on Sunday, rumoured to be under consideration by newly-crowned champions Manchester United.

"Every club has its problem over sides wanting to buy their players, look at Tottenham," Curbishley remarked. "It's something you have to deal with if it comes along but fans saw last summer that we had players coming in rather than leaving.

"We've had to balance the books a bit since but the numbers joining us was a big plus for us. We're hoping to build on that, I'm not under pressure to cut costs."

West Ham finished in 10th place and Curbishley insisted he could not have asked for any more from his injury-hit squad.

"I've said all along how well my players have done. We let ourselves down in a couple of games but in the main we have done well despite having to contend with a lot of problems."