RICHARD DUNNE'S chances of playing any part in Aston Villa's season are fading with manager Paul Lambert admitting that the Dubliner is still short of full fitness.
The Ireland defender has not played a competitive match since Euro 2012 and has undergone three operations to cure hip and groin issues.
Dunne is out of contract at Villa Park in the summer and his chances of securing a new deal have been seriously damaged by his lay-off. He is one of the higher earners at the Birmingham club and Lambert is keen to cut the wage bill.
The 33-year-old's experience would be a huge asset to Villa in their relegation battle, but Dunne has not been able to shake off the recurring groin problem.
"He is still not ready to start playing again," said Lambert yesterday. "Richard's injury is one of the most frustrating I've seen.
"It's been stop and start for him. It's been most frustrating for Richard to get back. We just have to see how he progresses over the rest of the weeks this season."
MLS sides New York Red Bulls and LA Galaxy were monitoring Dunne's situation during the January transfer window, and there has also been interest from Stoke and La Liga side Malaga in the past 12 months.
However, the American opportunity was conditional on the Tallaght man demonstrating his well-being and he is running out of time to do so in a meaningful match.
Indeed, the experienced defender could view Ireland's end-of-season gathering as an opportunity to put himself in the shop window.
Giovanni Trapattoni's side play England at Wembley and then move onto a friendly with Georgia in Dublin before the World Cup qualifier with the Faroe Islands and a trip to the United States which may just consist of one game with Spain.
While the older players in the squad who are feeling the effects of a long season might seek reduced involvement in that particular window, Dunne is desperately keen to get matches under his belt.