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MacDonald can ease Ireland's transition

ASTON Villa caretaker Kevin MacDonald will use the experience he gained while acting as Steve Staunton's Republic of Ireland sidekick to keep Stephen Ireland on the straight and narrow.

Still favourite to succeed Martin O'Neill, MacDonald's previous contact with Ireland appears to have played a significant role in smoothing the Cobh midfielder's path to Villa Park.

"I think Stephen is an outstanding footballer," said MacDonald. "I thought he was wonderful when he played for the Republic of Ireland."

Ireland secured £1.5m in loyalty payments from Manchester City on the way out the door -- less than he had asked for but enough to ease the move away from a club he joined as a trainee five years ago.

He will earn over £65k a week in salary and joins Ashley Young as Villa's best paid player.

However, the cash Villa have received from the sale of James Milner will not be used to fund further forays into the market and that means that Robbie Keane will have to hunker down and fight for his place at Spurs.

Both Keane and Aiden McGeady had thought that Milner's sale would generate enough cash for Villa to splash out but O'Neill's shock exit and chairman Randy Lerner's comittment to cost cutting put an end to that.