Richard Dunne is set to return to Premier League football this weekend, having missed two and a half months with a collarbone injury.
Dunne’s Aston Villa travel to midlands rivals West Brom on Saturday (kick off 3pm) with the Villains still needing at least one more win to ensure their Premier League survival for next season and the Baggies are sure to be in no mood to lie down.
Under pressure Villa boss Alex McLeish must decide whether to throw Dunne back into action, with the 32 year-old’s experience at the heart of the back four having been sorely missed following his collision with Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart back in February.
Dunne is unlikely to be 100% match fit, having only returned to full contact training with the first team squad this week, but his understanding with fellow Republic of Ireland international, Shay Given, is something which has been sorely missed by the club who have mustered just eight points from the 10 Premier League games Dunne has missed.
Dunne’s return to action will of course be good news to Republic of Ireland fans, with Dunne voted 2011 FAI Player of the Year and the real lynchpin of the side from his center half role. Dunne certainly has considerations of Euro 2012 at the back of his mind as the Tallaght native is fully aware that he needs to have a few games under his belt before the end of the season if he is to board the plane to Poland in June.
For now the priority is club football however. Villa lie three points above the drop zone with three games to go, with Bolton, who lie in the relegation zone, having a game in hand on the Birmingham side. One hopes – for both club and country – that Dunne is not being returned to top flight football before time.