Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has confirmed that he is keeping Welsh international and free agent James Collins on standby at their Bodymoor Heath training ground as the club make defensive recruits their top target for January.
The 50-cap powerhouse has been out of contract since leaving West Ham in the summer and made his way to Villa as a free agent when Steve Bruce was in charge to try and earn a contract, but injuries have left him sidelined and still without a deal.
With Bruce gone and Smith at the helm, the new boss has insisted the defender is on standby in case they need him, and that on his return to training they will start to judge whether he fits the bill, insisting defenders are a weak point.
He told the Birmingham Mail: “James is not fit at the moment so he’s going through his rehab to get himself fit. We’ll take it from there after that. He’ll have some rehab for seven to days then he should be ready to go and train with the first-team.
“Everybody knows our lack of centre-backs so I think it is right to keep him around us. It was Steve who brought him in here for the same reason. We’ll keep him around us and see what fitness levels he can get to. He’s one we can add to the squad if need be.
“At the moment we’ve got two recognised centre-backs. We certainly need to look to add to that area, that’s for sure.”
Collins is an experienced head but his injury problems should have alarm bells ringing at Villa Park. There is no guarantee he will be able to overcome them any time soon, and while the club do desperately need recruits at the back, they are best off waiting until January to see who is available. Still, it seems as though Smith has first call on where Collins ends up and if they do really want him then a short term deal might well make its way onto the table. Keeping him in and around the first team, ensuring he is up to date with their tactics and playing style, means he should be able to slot straight into the side if and when he is fit and signed a deal. Until then, keeping him in reserve is a sensible decision by Smith, who has been dealt a bum hand on his arrival to Villa Park courtesy of Steve Bruce.