Richard Dunne cannot stop thinking about trophies. The Irishman who, at the age of 30, is yet to win a major title, has two in particular on his mind. There's the World Cup, a tournament that, thanks at least partly to Thierry Henry's quick hands, he will spend this summer watching rather than playing in – and then there's the Carling Cup, a competition that his Aston Villa side have a very good chance of winning.
First, though, they have to get past Blackburn in the semi-final, the first leg of which is tonight. It's a match that Dunne is desperate to win. Echoing the thoughts of his former City team-mate Joey Barton, he said that regardless of an affluent lifestyle, medals and trophies would be the only currency of value when he retires. "I think if I can finish the season having done well in the league and with a trophy I can say it's been a successful season.
"The World Cup is obviously one big disappointment but any player that finishes the season with a trophy has to be happy overall. I've been to a quarter-final before but never a semi so this is a big deal for me. For every footballer the aim when they look back on their career is to have a medal or trophy to show for it.
"Every player in the Premier League will more or less finish his career having enough money and be financially happy and pleased but whether they're fulfilled career wise is different.
"For players to feel fulfilled, you have to have actual silverware to look back on. That's where your memories are. You keep your medals for ever. All of the players in the dressing room go into this game knowing that we're close to having that opportunity."
Under manager Martin O'Neill, Villa have progressed each season since his arrival four years ago but he is waiting for his first trophy with the club. O'Neill believes a Carling Cup victory would kick-start a glorious new era.
Dunne, one of O'Neill's shrewdest signings since his appointment, said: "I think it would be great for Martin to win a trophy. Obviously the fans love him and if he could bring them a trophy, it would only push him higher. But the club is progressing and for us to push on to the next level and win a cup is the start of a new and successful era for the club.
"The main thing is to focus on the semi-final and not get carried away with thinking about Wembley. Teams can get sidetracked thinking too far ahead.
"People are already asking about a possible final against Manchester City but I've not got any preference, I just want to win a trophy. My only concern is Aston Villa and getting them into the final."
Dunne does not think Villa's win over Blackburn in Saturday's FA Cup third-round tie will have a bearing on tonight's match."If any of their players playing on Saturday are disheartened, they probably won't be playing on Tuesday, so I think that takes away the psychological advantage we may have had," he said.
"And again, according to how the result goes on Tuesday, the teams may be different for the second leg. It's not nice because playing a team so often, you don't tend to be able to beat them every time. It will be a tough few games."
As the transfer window opens O'Neill has admitted he wants "to keep players who are making an impact" after praising the contribution in recent weeks of in-demand striker Emile Heskey.
Heskey has been linked with a £4m to Chelsea, with Liverpool also reported to be interested in signing their former player. "After the Blackburn game on Saturday, someone asked me about Heskey, a hypothetical question about 'What if Emile wanted to go?' and it took me a bit by surprise," O'Neill said.
"I haven't really sat down yet and spoken to any of the players... [but] Emile in the last number of weeks has been really excellent for us. Ideally, because we are involved in different competitions at this minute, I would try and keep them if it's at all possible."
However, O'Neill admits he may struggle to hold on to the England Under-21 midfielder Craig Gardner who has had few first-team chances, despite his ability to play a number of positions including full-back. The 23-year-old is believed to be attracting interest from Birmingham City – another Villa product, Liam Ridgewell, crossed the divide to the bitter local rivals in 2007 – and Wolves.
O'Neill said: "I haven't heard anything yet from any of the two clubs in recent times. A number of clubs have enquired about him, but there's been nothing definite about. In an ideal world I'd love him to stay, but like everything else, players want to play and like to play."Reuse content