Football: Villa eye Harford as partner for Saunders

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The Independent Online
ASTON VILLA, facing the possibility of being without Dalian Atkinson for the run-in to the Premier League title, were last night rebuffed over their enquiry for Mick Harford, Chelsea's top scorer whom they had targeted for a pounds 100,000 deal.

Ron Atkinson, Villa's manager, learns this week if his namesake requires an operation on the stomach muscle injury which has prevented his playing a full match this year, and sees Harford as the ideal short- term replacement. The Chelsea striker had a productive partnership at Derby with Dean Saunders, Villa's own leading scorer.

Harford, 34, cost Chelsea pounds 300,000 from Luton last summer, and Villa's valuation may prove one stumbling block. Another is likely to be that the new manager at Stamford Bridge, David Webb, wants to assess his squad before sanctioning transfers, and has already vetoed Port Vale's attempt to take Tony Cascarino on loan. 'Mick is very much a part of what we are doing,' Webb said after yesterday's defeat by Blackburn. However, if the diagnosis is bad for Dalian Atkinson, Villa may come back with an offer to tempt Webb.

Villa, who also have Stephen Froggatt (knee), Shaun Teale and Garry Parker (both pelvic) requiring surgery at the end of the season, hope to have Tony Daley back after injury this week. Meanwhile, Ron Atkinson has offered a week's trial to Trevor Snowden, a forward who has made only two brief appearances as substitute for Rochdale. Snowden, a Geordie, rejoices in the nickname 'Snazza'.