Gerard Houllier appears to be following suit from Martin O’Neill in his interest in acquiring young, English talent. Villa have been linked with 3 of the Championship’s bright young stars in the last few days as the French manager looks to build on his depleted squad in the January transfer window. Middlesbrough duo David Wheater and Jason Steele have both been linked with a move to the Midlands in the past and according to reports Villa’s interest has not relinquished. Crystal Palace right-back Nathaniel Clyne has also come back onto the Villa radar after MO’N had reportedly shown an interest. If Houllier is to capture the signatures he faces competition from a number of Premier League clubs in some of the Championship’s hottest prospects.
David Wheater impressed with Middlesbrough in the Premier League and was tipped for a senior call up to the England set up at the time. Now in a bottom of the league scrap in the Championship, it is thought that the big centre back is looking for a return to the Premier League. Villa face tough competition from the likes of Stoke, Everton and Newcastle who have all been linked to the 23-year-old. Wheater has started all but one of Boro’s 20 league games in a disappointing season for the club netting one goal. His contract runs out next year and it is believed that the Championship side are willing to cut their losses on their prized asset with a fee as low as £1.5m being mentioned.
After Gary McAllister joined the club from Boro to assist Gerard Houllier it is perhaps unsurprising that the club are being linked with some of the Championship sides brightest stars. 20-year-old keeper Jason Steele is being touted as a long term replacement to Brad Friedel who may be on his way out next summer. Similarly to Wheater, Steele has featured in 19 games for his club this term having only missed the opening day of the season. In what has been a dreadful season for the club, Steele has kept just 3 clean sheets from his 19 league appearances which doesn’t make for great reading on his or Wheater’s part for that matter. Despite this Steele is regarded as one of the country’s top keeping talents and has also aroused the interest of Arsenal recently with a £4m fee believed to be enough to persuade his manager Tony Mowbray to sell.
Nathaniel Clyne is a 19-year-old right back currently plying his trade at Crystal Palace. Despite his age, Clyne is a permanent fixture at Selhurst Park but is thought to be trying to engineer a way out of the club. He has been linked to Villa in the past although it seems that rivals Birmingham are favourites to capture his signature. Clyne has rejected several new contract offers at Palace with his contract running out next year. This may well force the club into an unwelcome sale with the likes of Villa and Everton looking to snap the defender up from under the Blue noses, I mean Blues noses! Clyne has started every game this season but has just one senior goal to his name since breaking into the first team two years ago.
SkySports claimed today that Villa were in a battle with Manchester City for Watford and England Under-21 international Scott Loach. The rumours follow the likes of Jason Steele to be linked to the club since reports have suggested that Brad Friedel may soon be on his way out. Loach may well fancy a move to Villa if he is looking for game time as he would have to replace England’s No1 Joe Hart at Eastlands. With Watford facing financial difficulties, their hands may be tied in their attempts to keep their stopper. The 22-year-old’s future has been in doubt for some time now after impressive performances have led to interest from a number of Premier League suitors. Loach has 13 Under-21 caps but at club level has kept just 4 clean sheets this term in a Watford team that, similarly to Middlesbrough, leaks goals.
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