McLeish ready to sanction defensive clearout at Villa Park

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Whilst Aston Villa were not widely expected to be involved in a relegation battle this season, few could argue that their defensive record has actually been quite impressive even in their plunge to 15th place, that now sees them as an 11/1 shot for relegation.

Therefore, it is somewhat surprising to see Alex McLeish reportedly willing to oversee the departures of some of his defensive staff, with James Collins and Stephen Warnock believed to be the first to be heading for the Villa Park exit.

Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill is in the market for a left-back, with Wayne Bridge’s loan deal at the Stadium of Light due to expire in the summer, and Warnock could be the perfect solution, available at a cut-price £2.5million in the midst of an indifferent season for Villa.

Now 30 years old, Warnock was seen by many as the long-term successor to Ashley Cole for England, but Leighton Baines’ form has seen him propel past the former Blackburn full-back in international selection reckoning.

He could see a reunion with O’Neill, whom he found his best form for during the Ulsterman’s time as Villa boss, as the ideal opportunity to re-ignite his international career.

Collins meanwhile, who has been on the end of disciplinary action from McLeish earlier in the season, is a controversial £5million target for Welsh outfit Swansea.

The Swans have taken to the Premier League like a duck to water, and boss Brendan Rodgers now looks to have identified former Cardiff man Collins as the perfect defender to complement his elegant side.

A 6ft 5in dominant centre half, Collins represents the type of player Swansea lack in the defensive department, and should he be willing to forget his links with the Bluebirds, he could well make the switch back to his native Wales.

McLeish will need to sell to strengthen come the summer to improve his faltering squad, but for now he will need both Warnock and Collins fully focused on the task at hand, if they are to stave off the lingering prospect of relegation.

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