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Aston Villa defender Richard Dunne has been hit with a new blow after being told by manager Gerard Houllier that he is fourth choice centre back at the club, according to the Daily Mirror.

The former Manchester City captain excelled at Villa Park last season and was named in the PFA’s team of the year, as well as being awarded the club's Player of the Year.

However, his form has dipped this season, with Villa leaking 28 goals in 17 Premier League games.

Dunne was also reported to have clashed with assistant boss Gary McAllister in training, and it now seems that Houllier has lost patience with the Republic of Ireland international, preferring to partner James Collins with Carlos Cuellar in Villa’s defence.

It is believed the pair will play against Tottenham on Boxing Day, and that Houllier has also told Dunne that he has now fallen behind young star Ciaran Clark in the pecking order.

However, with Dunne’s £52,000-a-week wages and two-and-a-half years still running on his current contract, it would seem that a permanent move away from Villa Park will not be on the cards, so the defender is set for an extended stay on the sidelines.

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