Dunne and busted...
When Richard Dunne winced away from Villa Park on Sunday evening clutching his collarbone it was clear the Aston Villa defender was badly hurt.
Up until his bruising stoppage time collision with Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart, the durable Dunne had been Villa’s only ever-present in the Premier League and both domestic cup competitions.
With figures of 29 not out in terms of games so far this season it was always going to take something seriously painful to make the 32-year-old battler leave the field prematurely – and he now faces two months on the sidelines with a fracture to his right clavicle.
He might be prone to lapses in concentration but he’s not prone to play-acting. So when he was lying prone in City’s penalty box in the closing stages of last weekend’s defeat, his team-mates knew he was in trouble.
“You know when Richard goes down it must be bad because he’s a strong guy,” said close friend and Villa and Republic of Ireland colleague Shay Given.
“It is a big loss obviously because he has been the mainstay of our defence all season – he hasn’t missed a game.
“Dunney has been great in a sense that he is a leader and he has been the rock at the heart of the team.
“It is difficult for any player being injured, but the other players will support him and we hope to see him back on the pitch sooner rather than later.
“He will be a loss and we will miss him, but there is nothing we can do,”
Although he would be the last to admit it himself, Dunne could probably do with the rest after showing signs of mental and physical fatigue in recent weeks.
From colossus to carelessness, the strapping central defender has all too often undermined commanding performances with unforced errors in keeping with the claret and blues’ collective defensive deficiencies.
However, after confirming Dunne underwent surgery on Monday afternoon, Villa manager Alex McLeish insists the former Everton and Manchester City stopper leaves big boots to fill during his eight week lay-off.
“We’re gutted to be losing the big man,” said McLeish. “He was trying to get us back in the game when he made a tremendous leap but, unfortunately, he landed badly on his shoulder and fractured the collarbone.
“He is a stalwart defender and has been that for the past dozen years or so in the Barclays Premier League. It’s not good for us to be without such a top player and a defender of his massive experience.
“We wish Richard a speedy recovery. We will look now for someone else to step up to the mark.”
Villa winger Marc Albrighton agrees that Dunne’s absence creates an opportunity for another player to fill the breach at the back.
Carlos Cuellar is the favourite to take Dunne’s place alongside James Collins at the heart of Villa’s defence during a crucial time of the season for the claret and blues, while there are also a number of youngsters including Chris Herd, Nathan Baker and Eric Lichaj providing cover.
“Dunney is the kind of guy who will chuck his body on the line and chuck his head anywhere,” said Albrighton.
“On this occasion he’s landed funny, had a bit of an impact and he is not looking good, but he’ll bounce back.
“We’ve players who can step into his boots and hopefully they can do a job.”