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Update: Bent Hopes for N’Zog Deal, Walsall Report, Ireland Injured?

Very little news on the transfer front at Villa Park ahead of the club’s trip to Hong Kong this weekend suggests that move for N’Zogbia may well be in the balance due to the prolonged nature of the proceedings. Either way, Villa striker Darren Bent, who hit the ground running in the clubs opening friendly with Walsall last night, claims that the Frenchman would be a great signing, for the benefit of both himself and the club.

Wigan were quick to deny claims that the winger had gone on strike from training after growing frustrated at the Latics’ reluctance to do business. The delay in agreeing a fee, despite reportedly claiming that a £9m bid would be enough to force their hand initially, has seen any deal come too late with Villa set to fly out to Hong Kong on tour this weekend. The timing may put any potential deal for the wide man in the balance, with McLeish already confirming that alternative targets are in place were the prospect of signing N’Zogbia to fall through.

Striker Darren Bent helped himself to 2 first half goals in Villa’s opening friendly 3-1 win over Walsall last night and claimed that, although the departures of both Young and Downing were disappointing, he believed Villa have a ready-made replacement in Marc Albrighton. The poacher also added that any deal for N’Zogbia would be somewhat of a coup for the club, stating;

“N’Zogbia would be fantastic. He’s a top quality player who is always getting linked to top clubs. If we can get him down here that will be tremendous for myself – and also for Aston Villa.”

Last night’s victory at the Banks’s Stadium was a resounding success in the majority of senses for new manager Alex McLeish, who received a decent reception from the 4,000 or so Villa fans. The Scot’s strong initial line-up figured the likes of Ireland and Warnock, with both having a point to prove to earn a recall to the side after falling out of favour under Houllier. The impressive starting XI began the game well, with a front four of Albrighton, Ireland, Heskey and Bent running the show. The latter two player’s combined for Bent’s first side-footed finish, before the England international added a second later in the half. It was then Heskey’s turn to get on the scoresheet just minutes later after Bent as denied a first-half hat-trick by the frame of the goal before Heskey applied the finishing touch.

Amidst the goals the impressive Stephen Ireland was forced off with a slight hamstring strain having been sharp early on, whilst Warnock was also performing well with an all-action display. Midfielder Jean Makoun also caught the eye, pulling the strings from the centre alongside Petrov. Half-time saw a flurry of changes, with debutant Shay Given taken off having had little do in the opening 45 minutes. Delfouneso, who replaced Ireland in the first half, had a couple of bright moments in a second half which unsurprisingly slowed in tempo due to the number of substitutions from both sides. The likes of Bannan, Lichaj and Daniel Johnson all got playing time with the latter rattling the crossbar before the home side scored a consolation goal with 10 minutes remaining.

It has since been confirmed that Ireland will undergo a scan on his hamstring but it is thought to just be a minor strain and the midfielder will travel with the squad to Hong Kong. McLeish was full of praise for the 24-year-old, adding:

“He was very involved in most of the moves in the first half. “He had a little bit of a sore hamstring so he was maybe over doing it a little bit on the training ground. We’ll have to be careful with him because, in terms of playing games, he’s not played a lot in the last couple of years. We need to really watch Stevie and keep the reins on him.

“He’ll probably get a scan, but he’ll still come to Hong Kong. He’s doing extra work at the training ground and obviously when players show that kind of enthusiasm it’s hard to hold them back. But we hope that it’s just a little nick and not a tear.”

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