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MacDonald pushes for young Villans to play

Aston Villa caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald is hoping a new boss will look favourably upon his youngsters if he decides the job is not for him.

Even after a taster of heady European action last night, MacDonald remains undecided as to whether he would like to make his temporary role more permanent. The young players he has blooded in his two games following Martin O'Neill's shock exit must be hoping he stays at the helm.

MacDonald is not afraid to give youth a chance as Marc Albrighton, Ciaran Clark, Barry Bannan, Eric Lichaj and Jonathan Hogg can all proudly testify these past few days.

Bannan was the hero of Villa's 1-1 draw with Rapid Vienna in the first leg of their Europa League play-off at the Gerhard Hanappi Stadium.

The 20-year-old Scot was teed up for his first goal for the club by Albrighton, who again made his mark as in Saturday's season-opening 3-0 home win over West Ham. Clark made an impact in the centre of defence for that game, whilst Hogg and Lichaj were given their debuts against Rapid.

Whether a new manager will look so favourably on the emerging crop as MacDonald does remains to be seen.

"All the applicants, and I'm sure they are of a high standard and quite a few, will have looked at how we played Saturday and again against Rapid," said former Republic of Ireland assistant manager MacDonald. "So they will know themselves what some of those players are like, and if they were to ask me then I will give them good information, and hopefully a few of them will be around the squad.

"They're now getting to the age of 19, 20, 21 where they need to start picking up their education and development if they want to make it into the first team.

"There has been a lot of clubs enquiring about them going on loan, but at this moment in time, with the uncertainty, it'd probably be beneficial for them to stay around and see."

Bannan's 12th-minute tap-in to Albrighton's low centre gave Villa the perfect start, and although Atdhe Nuhiu hauled Rapid level 20 minutes later, it is MacDonald's side with the advantage ahead of next Thursday's home return.

Whether MacDonald fields another second-string side, and whether the fans will be happy if he does so bearing in mind their past criticism of O'Neill for such tactics, is open to debate.

"You'll have to ask the fans if they were happy with me doing what I did, but I was happy with the way they performed," added the 49-year-old Scot. "We got a good result, but it will only be the right result if we get into the group stages of the Europa League."

The only downside on the night was that lighters, coins and liquids were thrown on occasion at Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan, incidents which may yet be looked at by Uefa.