Trapattoni's case for the defence improves as Dunne looks set to resume training


WORLD CUP QUALIFYING: Group CGiovanni Trapattoni’s prospects of fielding his first choice defence in the key World Cup qualifying games against Sweden and Austria continued to improve yesterday as Paul Lambert revealed that Richard Dunne is set to resume training at Aston Villa over the next couple of days.

Dunne has been struggling to get over a groin problem since before the European Championships and has endured a few false dawns during the months since, but his club manager is now optimistic that the 33-year-old defender is finally on the road to recovery.

“If you look when Richard did his shoulder (last season),” said Lambert, “he only came back for a couple of games and then had the groin problem at the Euros. He’s not played much football for a year really. But the (latest) operation in America was successful and the main thing for everyone is to get him back fit.”

Dunne will have a lot of work to do in order to get fully match fit again but should get opportunities to play again once he is, given the way Villa have been leaking goals over the last few weeks.

The club appear not to have put a timeframe on his return at this stage but with the trip to Stockholm and visit of Austria still more than two months away, he suddenly looks to have a very good chance of being involved again as long as he does not suffer any further injury setbacks.

Shay Given has already confirmed to Trapattoni that he will be available for the qualifiers while Sean St Ledger and Marc Wilson also look to be on course to be fit again by the time the World Cup games come around.

St Ledger was in Munich on Monday to see the specialist who has been treating him for a particularly troublesome hamstring problem but his club insisted that reports last week in a number of newspapers suggesting that he had suffered a recurrence of the injury were mistaken.

The defender’s latest trip to Germany was described as a “routine follow up” and St Ledger, who has been laid up since October with what he says is the worst injury of his career, is said to be making solid progress in his campaign to get fit again although, again, no firm schedule is envisaged at this stage.

Wilson, meanwhile, is more specific about his position with the Stoke City left back insisting that he will be fit and available for the March games despite Trapattoni all but writing him off before Christmas due to what the manager said was a very bad leg break.

“If everything goes according to plan I’ll be back and fully fit well before the Sweden game,” says the 25-year-old northerner, “that’s a big target for me.

“The game in Sweden could well define the group so it’s a game that I don’t want to miss and once there’s no problem with the injury I’ll be available to the manager. I have had a few texts from the Ireland manager, asking how I was getting on, so I was able to tell him that things are on course.”

Robbie Keane will join in with training at his former club, Tottenham Hotspur, for a fortnight from today. The Irish captain will use the opportunity to work on his fitness before returning to Los Angeles for Galaxy’s MLS pre-season tour.

Twenty-year-old Joe Shaughnessy from Galway has been named SPL Young Player of the Month for December after a strong run of form from the Aberdeen defender.

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