Stevens set for baptism of fire in first Premier League start

The former Shamrock Rovers full-back could be thrown into the deep end against Manchester United at Villa Park tomorrow.

Stevens (file photo).
Stevens (file photo).
Image: INPHO/Donall Farmer

AS ANDRE SANTOS discovered last weekend, there are few tougher assignments for a full-back than containing Antonio Valencia.

Now it looks likely that the man tasked with the job when Aston Villa host Manchester United at Villa Park tomorrow (5.30pm) will be Dubliner Enda Stevens.

The 22-year-old was part of the Shamrock Rovers side which won back-to-back Premier Division titles in 2010 and 2011 until his performances at home and in the Europa League group stages earned him a three-year deal with the Midlands club.

Making the move in January, Stevens began in Villa’s reserves and captained the team before earning his senior debut in the Capital One Cup win over Tranmere back in August.

He appeared in the Premier League for the first time last weekend, coming on as a 71st-minute substitute during the win over Sunderland, and is set to be named in Paul Lambert’s starting XI with Joe Bennett struggling to shake off an injury and Eric Lichaj suspended.

Villa sit just above the drop zone in 17th having amassed nine points from ten games and  have won just once in 33 league meetings with United, who are currently top of the table.

Speaking at his press conference this morning, Lambert praised Stevens for last weekend’s display.

“There’s still one or two knocks and it will pretty much the same squad that went up to Sunderland,” he said on the club’s website. “Joe Bennett is a doubt but we will have to see.

Enda Stevens came in and did really fine against Sunderland. So credit to Enda for coming in a doing as well as he has done.”

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As well as talking up Stephen Ireland, Lambert added that Richard Dunne has suffered a minor set-back.

The Ireland defender has been out all season with a groin injury and returned to training this week but picked up a “little strain”.

“Richard was back but then he got a little strain. It’s not to do with his original groin injury.

“It’s probably due to lack of training. It’s nothing serious or untoward. Just a little thing.”

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Ben Blake

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