Aston Villa suffer double injury blow


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The Independent Football

Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish admits it will be a massive blow to be without Richard Dunne for eight weeks after the defender fractured his collarbone during yesterday's clash with Manchester City.

Centre-back Dunne was undergoing surgery today in Birmingham after landing awkwardly on his shoulder during City's 1-0 success.

Utility player Ciaran Clark will also be sidelined for a month after suffering a medial ligament strain to his left knee during training at the weekend.

McLeish said: "We're gutted to be losing the big man (Dunne). He was trying to get us back in the game when he made a tremendous leap but, unfortunately, he landed badly on his shoulder and fractured the collarbone.

"He is a stalwart defender and has been that for the past dozen years or so in the Barclays Premier League.

"It's not good for us to be without such a top player and a defender of his massive experience.

"We wish Richard a speedy recovery and Ciaran, too, from his knee injury. We will look now for someone else to step up to the mark."

The plus point for Villa was the return to full training today of midfielder Chris Herd.

He has recovered from an ankle ligament injury which has left him sidelined since December.

Villa hope Herd will be available for the game against Wigan on February 25.

Herd said: "I'm relieved to be back fit and training with the team.

"I'll be training as hard as I can over the next few weeks to try and work my back into the side.

"It's been really frustrating but I'm glad to be back and I still plenty more games to look forward to this season."

McLeish said: "Chris did his usual in training today in that he gave 100% in the session and worked like a demon. We're really pleased to have him back."

Villa midfielder Marc Albrighton has called on all within the club to unite if they are to avoid a relegation scrap at the end of the season.

Villa are currently just seven points above the drop zone after the home defeat to City.

It was a seventh loss in 14 league matches since a 3-2 victory over Norwich on November 5, remarkably their last win at home since when they have collected two points from seven games at Villa Park.

These are worrying times for Villa, to such an extent that some fans have started to protest against McLeish, as was the case before kick-off against City.

It was relatively minor, with no more than 100 or so voicing their concerns, but such numbers could swell if Villa fail to improve.

Albrighton, like many of the other Villa players, firmly believes McLeish is the right man for the job.

"I'm in favour of the gaffer. He's been doing well in training for us, he helps us out and speaks to us, which is what you want from a manager," said the 22-year-old.

"I thought the fans were terrific inside the ground, they were brilliant, they got behind us from the first minute, and that's what we need going through this bad time.

"Hopefully we can repay them over the next couple of games."

Those two matches, at teams in the thick of the relegation battle in Wigan and Blackburn, now appear crucial for Villa if they are to either haul themselves away or get sucked in.

"We're staying positive," said Albrighton.

"We've these two games now where we know we are good enough to beat those teams.

"So we're aiming for six points, nothing less, that will lift us back up the table."

As for the home form, Albrighton added: "Villa Park should be a fortress, but it's not been good lately, and the fans will be the first to tell you that.

"We knew we faced a hard game against City, so the next time we play at home we have to put it right.

"We've just got to stick together, everybody at the club has to unite and hopefully we can get out of this slump and start winning football matches."