With Ron Vlaar confirming that he was on the verge of completing a ’dream move’ to Aston Villa earlier in the week (see The
Manager Paul Lambert was quick to point out to the Villa faithful that a deal was far from a formality. On Wednesday morning, he explained to the Birmingham Mail that:
“Ron came over and we had a chat with him, that’s basically where it has been left, there’s nothing imminent at all. I spoke to the guy and he is a really top bloke and a very good player. We’ll see what happens, I just had a chat with the guy, that’s all it was.”
If the deal does go through, it will almost certainly see the end of the defensive partnership of Richard Dunne and James Collins, which had been created by former manager Martin O’Neill and managed to stay firmly in place during the brief spells of both Gerard Houllier and Alex McLeish.
With Dunne a fan favourite and a contender for the captaincy whilst club captain Stiliyan Petrov continues his recovery from acute Leukaemia, Welsh international Collins is the player most likely to miss out on a starting place. Collins has been with the club since O’Neill signed him on transfer deadline day from West Ham United in 2009. He has made 91 appearances for the club and although suffering from a lack of pace and poor tactical awareness, he has always given 100% for the Villa cause, throwing his body on the line regularly to ensure a clean sheet for his club. If Vlaar does come in to replace him, he will have to make sure he gives that same effort if he is to keep the former West Ham man out of Villa’s first team.
Collins has played his part in both Villa’s pre-season friendly games – narrow victories against Burton Albion and Philadelphia Union. One player that has stood out in those games has been 21-year-old striker Nathan Delfouneso. Having come on to set up Brett Holman to score the winner against Burton Albion on Saturday in a 2-1 victory, he followed up by netting the only goal in a 1-0 victory against Philadelphia Union on Wednesday.
Delfouneso has spent his entire footballing career at Aston Villa apart from two brief loan spells at Championship clubs Burnley and Leicester City in 2011 and 2012, respectively. He has struggled to be a regular at the Midlands club, but with Emile Heskey leaving the club and Darren Bent working his way back to full fitness, similar performances in the remaining pre-season fixtures could earn him a starting spot when Villa begin their season away to West Ham in August. It is a chance he was never really given by former managers, but Lambert may have other ideas for the England Under-21 international.
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