Paul Lambert has started the next phase of his rebuilding job at Aston Villa by releasing defender Richard Dunne.
Lambert will not be renewing the contract of the Republic of Ireland international after an injury-ravaged 12 months.
Dunne, 33, a £5million signing from Manchester City by Martin O’Neill in 2009, has not made a single appearance under Lambert after struggling with persistent hip and groin problems.
His £50,000-a-week contract will expire at the end of next month and the former captain has been told he can look for a new club.
Lambert is set to meet other highly paid fringe players, including Darren Bent, Shay Given and Stephen Ireland, to thrash out their futures. The trio all earn more than £3million a year but have barely played under the Scottish manager and Villa are keen to lower their wage bill by offloading them.
Ireland has only 12 months left on his deal and is keen to discover his fate after failing to make the 18-man match-day squad since the home defeat by Newcastle in January. Bent and Given have more than two years left on their contracts, so Lambert and chairman Randy Lerner will find them harder to shift.
Alan Hutton, the Scotland international, is also due to return after a loan spell at Real Mallorca, with the Spanish club struggling to pay the £1million fee to make the full-back’s move permanent.
Lambert said: “We’ve had to strip the squad right back and get it going. Randy has been fantastic with it and he understands what we are trying to do. We are trying to build a club.
“Any club will be busy and trying to do something but we have set a standard that we have got to do better. To do that you have to keep trying to build your squad and keep belief in your own philosophy.”