Dunne's Villa future in doubt after blazing Houllier row
ASTON VILLA 2
WEST BROM 1
RICHARD DUNNE'S Aston Villa future has been thrown into doubt after a blazing row with manager Gerard Houllier and his assistant, Gary McAllister.
The Dubliner was dropped for Saturday's victory over West Brom following a showdown on the training pitch, during which Dunne is said to have labelled the club's training methods "a joke" and tactics as outdated.
The word is that Dunne set out on his critique with the backing of the squad, who held a group meeting on Wednesday to which Houllier was not invited. All very intriguing and, at the same, all very worrying for Houllier's teetering regime.
And Dunne isn't the only Irishman who's unhappy at Villa, with Stephen Ireland heading for showdown talks with Houllier after being left out of the squad for Saturday's match.
Villa's highest earner, who arrived from Manchester City in August as an £8m makeweight in James Milner's transfer before Houllier was appointed as Martin O'Neill's successor, has arranged to meet the manager on Thursday.
A loan move might be seen as the best compromise for all sides. But, as the player is thought to earn £65,000 a week, Villa would have to subsidise his wages to move him on.
Whether or not Dunne really did launch a verbal tirade against Houllier and McAllister, at least one thing is certain. In footballing terms, Villa did not miss their captain on Saturday.
In fact, anybody who saw their respective performances against Liverpool and West Brom will wonder how Dunne will displace the excellent Carlos Cuellar.
"It's my job to make big decisions," was Houllier's answer when questioned why Dunne was dropped after the debacle at Anfield. He then went on to praise Cuellar's attitude.
It was a curious derby atmosphere which eventually gave way to full-throated relief when Villa hung on for their first win in five League games. As the rumblings in the background continue, Houllier will look to the players returning from injury and the sort of performance Ashley Young put in in the second half for an upturn in Villa's fortunes.
After Villa had ridden their luck in a first half West Brom dominated, Young came into his own and Emile Heskey was the hero as his 80th minute header gave Villa the cushion to survive the late rally triggered by Paul Scharner's riposte.
The big man came to his old manager's rescue after fluffing a few chances early on, continuing a resurgence which has seen him score four from his last seven.