'Frustrated' Dunne will play again, insist Villa
PAUL LAMBERT has insisted that Richard Dunne's career is not in doubt despite being unable to put a time frame on when the defender might be available for first-team action.
The Dubliner has spent the entirety of this season on the sidelines with a groin complaint that continues to flare up when he steps up to full training.
In an attempt to solve the problem, Dunne has made a number of trips to America seeking specialist advice. However, they have been unable to resolve the issue.
"It's been really complicated, that injury," said Lambert yesterday. "Richard has been over to the United States a couple of times to try and get it sorted.
"But there are little niggles that aren't clearing up. That's a real frustrating thing for him. Is it career threatening? No, nothing like that. You can't say that.
"Richard has been trying his utmost to get back fit. He's been to the best people on the other side of the world. He feels good at some points, but not so good at other times. He can't play through the pain barrier with that injury."
The injury couldn't have come at a worse time for Dunne, who turns 34 in September. He is out of contract in the summer and, while Lambert has made positive public noises about the chances of a renewal, he is also keen to cut the wage bill.
A number of clubs have been monitoring his situation, including MLS pair New York Red Bulls and LA Galaxy, but it is all dependent on the player demonstrating that he is fully healed.
Giovanni Trapattoni would like Dunne to help in the battle to make the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but he must do without him for the forthcoming double-header with Sweden and Austria that is crucial to Ireland's prospects.
Doubts have emerged about Aiden McGeady's fitness for the key fixtures. He missed out on Spartak Moscow's weekend win over Terek Grozny which marked the resumption of the Russian season. Coach Valeri Karpin said that the player has been troubled by a lingering knee problem.
Even if McGeady gets the all-clear to join up with the rest of the squad in Dublin, he will come into the game short of match practice; this weekend's meeting with local rivals Lokomotiv offers a last chance to be involved in a competitive game.
With the luckless Anthony Pilkington ruled out after damaging his hamstring again on Saturday, Trapattoni faces a headache in the wide department if McGeady is also in difficulty.
The Italian was preparing to pitch Pilkington into the game in Stockholm on Friday week, and must now devise another strategy. He has consistently suggested that he might use a striker in a wide role, with the 73-year-old seemingly reluctant to rely on the relatively inexperienced Robbie Brady and James McClean.
The latter will be available, although he missed Sunderland's 3-1 reverse to QPR due to an illness that required a stint in hospital. "He only got let out of hospital around about 11.0 last Saturday morning having spent the previous two days on a drip," said Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill. McClean should return for the troubled Black Cats' weekend showdown with Norwich.
Meanwhile, Irish youngster Conor Clifford has signed a short-term deal with Championship side Leicester City.
Clifford was released by Chelsea in January after failing to make the breakthrough at first-team level, a disappointment for a player who was highly regarded as a teenager – he captained the Blues to FA Youth Cup success in 2010.
He has found it harder at senior level and struggled to set the world alight in loan stints at Plymouth, Notts County, Yeovil, Portsmouth and Crawley Town. The 21-year-old has been signed by Leicester to link up with their development squad for the rest of this campaign; he scored the winner in a trial match with Birmingham last month.
Trapattoni is a fan of Clifford and drafted him into the squad for October's thrashing at the hands of Germany. He was not involved in that game and will need to reignite his career at club level if he is to have a realistic chance of figuring in the future.