Reports broke towards the end of last week that a friendly team bonding trip and spa in Leicester had ended all but friendly when a argument broke between players and the backroom staff over dinner. It has since been revealed that centre back pairing, James Collins and Richard Dunne were the culprits of the misdemeanor after the duo had had a little too much to drink whilst their team-mates were involved in a day of paintball. The two defenders sat out the game due to injuries but when the rest of the team returned for an evening meal a disagreement broke out, of which Collins and Dunne have now admitted to and apologized for. The incident is the second so called blip on Dunne’s disciplinary record under Gerard Houllier, who was away with assistant Gary McAllister watching the Spurs-AC Milan tie, after the 31-year-old had an apparent bust-up with Houllier’s right hand man. For that reason, many feel that Dunne will be forced to leave the club in the summer but whether there will be much forcing is another matter.
The media have blown it up like some kind of crisis, while the Villa management and many of the players have stated that the trip was highly successful. In the meantime the club announced that they would launch internal investigations into the matter with sources since revealing that a hefty four-six week fine, relative to the players wages, would be imposed against both. The Mirror claim that a Villa source has stated;
“We’ve got to do a standard disciplinary process. If you stray off it then everything can be null and void.
“The end result is likely to be a fine between four-six weeks’ worth of salary. Anything worse would be very extreme.”
Collins and Dunne both released statements apologizing for their involvement in the incident adding;
“I apologise unreservedly for my behaviour on Wednesday night,” said Dunne.
“It was not acceptable and I am genuinely sorry.”
Collins added: “We were wrong. This should not have happened and I apologise for the part I played.”
With both players currently injured it will be difficult to see what impact the matter has had on their status within the squad. Dunne currently has a dislocated shoulder and will be missing for the next two or three weeks at least. Whether he will earn a place back in the side after what is his second ‘offence’ of the season is uncertain. The more intriguing debate will be whether Collins is recalled to the squad having picked up a calf injury in recent weeks. The Welsh international was thought to be in for a return to the side to face Wolves this weekend alongside Carlos Cuellar who has recovered from a hamstring problem but that has now been thrown into severe doubt.
Ciaran Clark will be unavailable for the next two games after picking up his 10th booking of the season last time out, leaving Houllier with very few defensive options at the worse possible time. All things considered this was probably blown well out of proportion but it is exactly what the club don’t need as they fight to avoid relegation. If the manager is as stubborn as he has been, selection wise, with the players to have got on the wrong side of him up to now, e.g. Warnock, Ireland – than the club find themselves in a pretty perilous position with regards to their back line.
So far the likes of Nathan Baker, Fabian Delph and Chris Herd have been entrusted with starting roles in defence but can these players cope with a high-pressure run in. My thoughts would be yes but it could be closer than first feared. Here’s to hoping King Carlos comes back strong and Luke Young continues to deputise well at centre back to cover for Clark. I would suggest that the backline for the rest of the season may well be Walker, Cuellar, Young, Clark. What do you think? Can we cope with all these untimely distractions, made all the more annoying by the fact that I felt Dunne was starting to perform closer to his best from last season after a pretty disappointing start to this.
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