Dunne targets Champions League
Richard Dunne is convinced Aston Villa can cross the great divide and break into the top four in the Premier League this season. The Republic of Ireland defender finally joined Martin O'Neill's side in a £6m deal from Manchester City today, despite passing his medical and the two clubs having agreed the fee five days ago.
Speculation regarding the delay centred around the fact Dunne was negotiating a pay-off from a club he had served for the last nine years, and with a testimonial in the offing. But with the Premier League now granting clearance after sifting through the backlog of transfers following a hectic deadline day, he is a Villa player.
Despite losing their opening-day game at home to Wigan Athletic, and crashing out of the UEFA Europa League to Rapid Vienna, Dunne firmly believes the club has the potential to clinch a UEFA Champions League place for next season. "I'm delighted," he said after signing a four-year deal.
"It's a great opportunity for me. Aston Villa have improved each season recently, and hopefully I can be part of a squad that can challenge for a Champions League spot.
"With Aston Villa, with the experience they would have gained from last season - they went so close for so long at the top end and the manager has bought in some new players into the squad this year - maybe it might help us go that bit further."
Dunne, who turns 30 later this month, was relieved that what proved to be a surprisingly protracted move was finally done and dusted. "I came on Friday and passed my medical, and I thought it would be a straightforward day for me," he told AVTV.
"I think there was just a lot of pressure on a lot of people with so many deals going through, but I'm just really pleased that finally we have it all done."
Collins ready to make his mark
Villa's other new defensive signing has already warned O'Neill he has not joined the club just to keep the bench warm. James Collins also signed a four-year contract to complete a £5m move from West Ham United as Villa took their summer spending to £40m.
With Dunne also on board, Collins faces a fight for a place along with Curtis Davies, Carlos Cuellar and the emerging Ciaran Clark. Relishing the battle, the 26-year-old Wales international said: "I've come here to play, not to sit on the bench.
"Richard Dunne's going to be a fantastic signing, so there's going to be serious competition for places. There are two lads already here, and Ciaran Clark did very well against Fulham.
"But I think you need that because that keeps an edge to your performance and gets you playing well. I'm looking forward to the challenge and the sooner we get started, the better."
With three 90-minute games already under his belt this season for the Hammers, Collins is raring to go for his new club. "I'm fit, I'm playing well and I've played the first few games of the season, so I'll be looking to carry that on," he continued.
"They've got off to a tremendous start, so it's exciting times for myself and everyone going forward at Aston Villa. It's a fantastic squad here, so hopefully I can add to that. It's in great shape."