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Dunne: You could see Aston Villa's downfall coming a few years back

The former Villa defender says the club may struggle to get back up from the Championship unless they make the right moves this summer.

Dunne spent four years at Villa.
Dunne spent four years at Villa.
Image: David Davies

ASTON VILLA’S RELEGATION to the Championship has been on the cards for several seasons, according to Richard Dunne.

The ex-Ireland defender, who has been out of the game since last summer, joined the Midlands club from Manchester City in 2009 and helped Martin O’Neill’s side finish sixth in the Premier League for the third successive season.

However, O’Neill departed at the beginning of the following season after growing frustrated with the lack of funds being made available for transfers by owner Randy Lerner.

The American businessman’s arrival was met with widespread positivity back in 2006 but his reluctance to invest in the club has seen a steady slide and Villa have narrowly avoided relegation in recent years.

However, they have endured a nightmare season under Frenchman Remi Garde, picking up just 16 from a possible 105, and are set for the drop from England’s top flight for the first time in 29 years.

“I think you could see it a few years back,” Dunne said in Dublin yesterday. “When Martin left, we were sixth the season beforehand and then the aim of the following one was to survive.

“We were surprised at how that could happen but it was well-documented at the time that the owner was taking his money away from the investment.

“The season Martin left we struggled and he ended up having to splash out on Darren Bent and he kept us up. But the following season was bad and it has just got worse from there.

They have probably been lucky over the last two seasons that they have stayed up. This year was almost inevitable that it would happen eventually.”

As many clubs have found out, bouncing straight back after going down is hugely challenging and Dunne believes they will need to build a team that is capable of pushing for promotion in the notoriously-difficult Championship.

“It’s very hard,” he adds. “I joined QPR and they had just been relegated. We started off really well, then we found out how difficult it was and we had a big slump.

“We were lucky that we fluked it through in a play-off match but it was really hard. You can see if clubs go into it with the wrong attitude and the belief that they’re going to stroll the league, they will be in for a big shock.

“Villa need to make sure that they get a core of good players who, first produce performances better than what they have done this season, and they also need to get the fans back on side.

“They’ve fallen out with the owner and they’ve lost a bit of respect for some of the players. They need to build that relationship back up and make sure the fans are back onside going into the season.”

Soccer - Pre-Season Friendly - Wolverhampton Wanderers v Aston Villa - Molineux Ciaran Clark. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Ireland’s Ciaran Clark has been in and out of the Villa team of late but the defender will have to put his club situation to one side when the Boys in Green travel to France to compete at Euro 2016 this June.

Dunne doesn’t see it being a major issue, however.

“Any time you leave your club and come away with your country it’s a different atmosphere,” he says. “The players always look forward to meeting up with Ireland.

“Martin has had Ciaran from a young age at Aston Villa and he knows his personality. He will have him fired up for whatever games he’s plays.

Ciaran and the club have had a disappointing season and when the Euros are over he can look forward to getting back up.

“I’m sure when he goes away with Ireland it’s a different scenario and a different group of lads. He’s not in a dressing room where everyone’s head is down and negative. They will be really looking forward to it and Ciaran will be too so he can thrive off that.”

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Ben Blake

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