RICHARD DUNNE COULD make a shock return to action tonight as Aston Villa look to halt their Premier League slump against Newcastle.
The Republic of Ireland defender, who has battled hip and groin injuries, last played when Ireland crashed out of Euro 2012 over six months ago.
But with Villa teetering on the edge of the relegation zone with only two points from their last six league games, under-fire manager Paul Lambert hinted yesterday that he is tempted to rush Dunne back in a bid to steady the ship.
“If we were in mid-table I probably wouldn’t contemplate bringing him back,” Lambert said, according to the Telegraph. “But he’s been around the block and he’s what we need.”
Dunne, 33, has been back in training for less than a fortnight but that progress was enough to give a glimmer of hope to Giovanni Trapattoni who named him on standby for next week’s Dublin friendly against Poland.
The Italian will be less concerned about Dunne’s fitness for the match in the Aviva Stadium on 6 February, however, than he will be for the crunch World Cup qualification double-header against Sweden and Austria in March.
Villa’s recent run of poor form has been matched by Newcastle, who have lost four of their last five domestic encounters and are 16th, only one place and one point better than Lambert’s side ahead of tonight’s meeting. The Magpies have not won at Villa Park since February 2006.