Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has said central defender Richard Dunne could still have a future at the club, despite having not played a game since last summer’s European Championships.
Republic of Ireland international Dunne has been widely expected to leave Villa Park this summer after being plagued by groin and hip injuries in what is the final season of his contract.
But Lambert said no final decision on the 33-year-old - who joined from Manchester City three-and-a-half years ago – had yet been made.
“He’s an international player, and I have to see how his fitness is,” the manager explained. “He has been unfortunate, because this injury has been an absolute nightmare.
“The door is not closed, though, and the most important thing is to make sure he carries on playing.”
Lambert has ruled out any prospect of Dunne, who last played in Ireland’s 2-0 defeat to Italy on June 18, playing for his country in the summer.
He said it was inconceivable that the defender could be considered for duty with Giovanni Trappattoni’s side against England and Georgia without having played any club football this season.
Of more pressing concern to the Vila boss is whether Matt Lowton, whose ever-present record in his Premier League debut season is threatened by a leg injury picked up in the win at Norwich on Saturday, is fit for this weekend’s home game against Chelsea.
The former Sheffield United defender had to go off in the first half at Carrow Road and Lambert was impressed with the contribution made by his replacement, Eric Lichaj, in what was his first senior match since late January.
Lowton’s fellow defender Ciaran Clark is still sidelined by a foot problem.
“We know we are in for a really hard game because Chelsea are going for a Champions League place and won the tournament last season,” Lambert added.
“They are a top, top side, but winning gives you confidence to go and compete, whoever you are playing against.”