Richard Dunne can stay at Aston Villa if he proves his fitness
Villa boss Paul Lambert says Dunne will not take part in Republic of Ireland’s end-of-season games
Dunne hasn’t played since last summer’s European Championships
Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert said he hasn’t ruled out keeping Richard Dunne at the club next year but admits the Dubliner would need to demonstrate he can make a contribution next season after sitting the entirety of this one out due to a serious groin problem.
The 33-year-old hasn’t played since last summer’s European Championships and despite coming close to a return this year, his fitness remains a real concern as Lambert and his players look to complete what looks like a remarkable escape from relegation.
The manager said yesterday Dunne will not join Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland squad for the end-of-the-season games against England, Georgia, the Faroe Islands and Spain, which will be announced on Monday.
Despite being under pressure to reward his brightest younger performers of late with improved contracts, the Scot insists he has not made any firm decisions regarding the veteran centre half who he had previously appeared keen to offload. “He has no chance of playing international football this summer,” he says. “Richard has not played for nearly a year and to ask the lad to play would be too much at this moment in time.
“Touch wood, he will be okay and he is doing really fine right now, training with the younger lads to keep himself going, but he has got to be comfortable himself with the injury.
“As for the contract situation,” Lambert continued, “I haven’t spoken to him. I need to wait and see what his fitness is. The most important thing for me is that he can continue playing. He is an international player and this injury has been an absolute nightmare for us and him. Once I know we are all right in the league I can address this situation.
“The most important thing at the moment is for us to get over the line. But the door is certainly not closed in regard to Richard Dunne.”
The door did appear to close on the Villa career of club captain Stiliyan Petrov yesterday, as the 33-year-old Bulgarian midfielder announced his retirement from football as he continues his struggle with acute leukaemia. He is now in remission.
“It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing my retirement,” he said.
Trapattoni, meanwhile, is unlikely to have been banking on Dunne’s return but he will be concerned about his options as he sits down to put together his squad, with Keith Andrews and Keith Fahey having been laid up in recent weeks.
Robbie Keane, however, should be available after returning to training with LA Galaxy yesterday.
Glenn Whelan and Marc Wilson have also had injury problems, while Darron Gibson would not be expected to accept a call up even if offered.