Alex McLeish has flown out with Randy Lerner on a transatlantic trip to share ideas with the Villa chairman’s American football club.

McLeish is making the most of a fixture-free fortnight to visit Lerner’s Cleveland Browns NFL franchise for the first time.

He has been joined by assistant Peter Grant, fitness coach Adrian Lamb, Dr Ian McGuinness and performance analyst Patrick Riley.

They will be shown around by Browns president Mike Holmgren, who is the former Super Bowl-winning coach of the Green Bay Packers.

There will also be meetings with head coach Pat Shurmur and his support staff during the week-long delegation.

The visit underlines the close relationship McLeish has developed with Lerner since taking over as Villa’s boss in June last year. The pair are in almost daily contact via phone and email and have regular meetings when the American billionaire is in England.

Although there are key differences between the two sports, Lerner believes there are transferrable methods both clubs can employ.

Former Villa boss Martin O’Neill made several trips to Cleveland, and ex-striker Luke Moore rehabilitated there after dislocating his shoulder in 2006.

Browns medics have spent time at Bodymoor Heath observing Villa’s physio work and sharing best practice ideas.

Commercial staff from both clubs have also got together to exchange tips during Lerner’s reign. Villa arranged this visit some time ago because of the two-week break between the Manchester City match and the February 25 visit to Wigan.

Meanwhile, Carlos Cuellar has been backed to fill the void in Villa’s defence caused by Richard Dunne’s serious injury blow.

Dunne is out for up to two months after surgery on the collarbone he broke during Sunday’s defeat to Manchester City.

Shay Given admits Dunne’s long lay-off deprives the claret and blues of one of their most experienced and important defenders.

But Villa’s goalkeeper is convinced Cuellar is more than capable of deputising for the Irish defender at the heart of the back four.

“Carlos is a quality player,” said Given. “He got man-of-the-match from the sponsors for his performance at left-back and rightly so.

“He played a very, very good game and out of position, too, because he is not naturally a left-back.

‘‘It is important we have got versatile players like that who can play right across the back four.”