Martin O’Neill will keep a close eye on Jlloyd Samuel before deciding whether to offer the Aston Villa left-back a new contract.
Samuel, aged 25, began the season in the starting line-up but a torn thigh muscle has limited him to only two starts under O’Neill, in August. Samuel returned to training this week and has to impress the Villa manager all over again as he goes into the final six months of his contract.
"Jlloyd was in the side here and got injured, now he’s coming back, and it’s now up to me to assess him properly playing at first-team level," O'Neill said. "I’m not talking about what might have happened in the past, it’s up to us and Jlloyd to sit down and discuss his future.
"I’ve not had a chance to assess Jlloyd because of his injury in the Reading game. He is just coming back now. I’ll be sitting down with him and asking him what his own views are.
"There may be interest from other clubs, that doesn’t mean people aren’t already chatting to him although they can’t do anything about it this year. They’re not officially able to speak to somebody until January 1 but, in the next few weeks, I’ll be sitting down and having a chat with Jlloyd about his future."
Meanwhile, Martin Laursen, the Denmark international defender, says it will be difficult for him to regain his first-team place when he returns from injury.
Sidelined with a knee-ligament injury, he has found that Liam Ridgewell and Gary Cahill are more than comfortable in the centre of the defence and have pushed Olof Mellberg out to right-back. And with O'Neill looking to the future, it is easy to see frustration ahead for Laursen. "It's not going to be easy to get a regular place when I'm fit again," he said. "It's fair to say the manager has a few positive problems at the back."
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