Aston Villa play down Carew transfer talk

Martin O'Neill insists Aston Villa striker John Carew remains a key part of his plans amid speculation linking him with a January move to Fenerbahce.

Carew's representatives are reported to have held talks with the Turkish club over a possible move for the Norway international.

But O'Neill has stressed Carew has a key part still to play at Villa despite struggling to reproduce his best form on a consistent basis this season.

O'Neill said of the mooted deal: "I've no idea about that at all. Absolutely not - but it's that time of year again coming up. There's nothing in it.

"I haven't spoken to John or his agent about it. He's played in Turkey before and I'm sure that won't be the only link to one of our players this season. I've not even bothered to chase it up.

"We're at a really important stage and John is very important to us. I would be pretty loathe to be losing players.

"John has been an integral part of the side, he's done very well and I want a bit of genuine competition for places, which I think I have at the moment - maybe not everywhere but in a number of areas."

Central defender James Collins is making good progress after being sidelined for the past three weeks with groin and calf problems and could return to training tomorrow.

O'Neill said: "James is improving. He still hasn't done any work with us yet but I'm hoping he'll be able to join in, maybe with a bit of luck, on Thursday.

"He's feeling much, much better. The groin seems to have eased a great deal and the calf problem he suffered seems to be not bad at all.

"He has done some running on his own today under the guidance of the physios. He's had a great start here and these injuries have been particularly frustrating for him.

"I don't think he would have anticipated walking off at West Ham knowing he wouldn't have played another game for us now for this number of weeks."

Left-back Wilfred Bouma, who has not tasted first-team action for 17 months, has suffered another injury setback.

Bouma, who dislocated an ankle in July 2008 during an Intertoto Cup tie with Odense, is now sidelined with a toe problem.

O'Neill said: "Freddie had a bit of a setback with a toe injury.

"He has gone to see a specialist who is recommending we immobilise it for a week or two and see how that works. It probably should do the trick.

"But again it's been a setback for him and it's been a rather frustrating time for him. We will see how he is in a couple of weeks."

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