Football: Collymore to seek stress counselling

STAN COLLYMORE is to seek stress counselling to help him overcome his "current difficulties."

It was thought that Aston Villa's pounds 7m record signing would be on the carpet after failing to turn up for Saturday's FA Cup match against Fulham. But Villa have said that Collymore was not in a fit state to be considered and have vowed to help the former England striker through his problems.

Villa issued a brief statement after meetings during the day between Villa's manager, John Gregory, Collymore, his representative, Paul Stretford, and the club's board of directors. As a result of those talks, Collymore has put his career on hold while he seeks the counselling that he feels is vital.

The statement said: "Stan Collymore has made it clear that pressures and stress have been building up for a long period of time, which culminated in the decision by the club not to consider him fit to play on Saturday.

"Following this, Stan has declared that he wishes to seek further counselling to help him overcome his current difficulties." It added that the Villa's manager and board of directors had expressed their desire to help Collymore.

Gregory was unavailable for comment after the meeting and Stretford would only say: "We have had talks all day and I think the statement says everything that has to be said. I am certainly not letting on when the counselling will get underway or where it will take place."

Collymore has expressed his unhappiness at Villa in recent weeks and last week spelt out his disappointment at being only a "peripheral" part of Gregory's title plans. The former Liverpool player had been a substitute for six of the previous eight matches before the shock Cup defeat by Fulham. Gregory had responded by urging Collymore to follow the example of Julian Joachim in fighting his way back into the side.

Then came Collymore's non-appearance for the Fulham match after Gregory had admitted he was originally selected to play another role from the substitute's bench.

Stretford insisted yesterday that Collymore had not gone Awol and that the player had contacted the Villa physio, Jim Walker, on Friday, claiming that he was not fit to play. The extent of his condition has now been revealed and he may now face a long battle to overcome his problems.

Another errant striker, Mark Viduka, yesterday promised he is at Celtic to stay and that he will never again turn his back on the Glasgow club.

The Australian international striker lasted a mere 72 hours at Parkhead in December following his pounds 3m signing from Croatia Zagreb, before leaving for Australia complaining of stress. Yesterday was his first public appearance with the club since his return.

Viduka was keen to avoid apportioning blame for his seven-week absence, saying his only concern now was launching his Celtic career on the pitch. He pointed to his unhappiness in Zagreb as the overriding factor in his swift departure from Scotland, but claims that his personal troubles are out of his system and will not return.

Viduka, who now wishes to be known as Mark rather than Marko, said: "I understand all this is not a usual occurrence, but it is hard to understand. I felt I wasn't ready to fulfil my contract without having a rest before that and getting things back into balance.

"Is there a guarantee I'll stay? I am back here - that is a good enough guarantee. I'm ready to start playing for Celtic and give my heart to the team.

"I thought at the time I first came here I would be able to take it in my stride, but the whole package was too much - including the pressure from the fans at Zagreb. The last months in Croatia were hard to take, and that only hit me when I came to Glasgow."

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