- Premier League
Lambert ready to shift Villa outcasts
Paul Lambert will begin the process of trying to remove high earners Darren Bent and Stephen Ireland from his Aston Villa squad next week.
The Villa manager expects to hold meetings next Tuesday with Bent, Ireland and possibly Richard Dunne and Shay Given as part of the restructuring of the club for next season.
Lambert has been asked by owner Randy Lerner to introduce a more streamlined budget at the club since he took over as manager from Alex McLeish last June.
And now that Villa's Premier League position is secure for another campaign, Lambert is now ready to remove a large number of the outcasts from this season.
"We expect to hold meetings with various people next week and sort through things. We don't expect it to be too complicated," said Lambert.
Bent has already made it clear he is seeking talks with Lambert regarding his future after barely figuring for the club this season.
The 29-year-old still has two years remaining on his £65,000-a-week contract and moving him out of the club could prove to be a difficult task, unless Villa drop the £12 million asking price they put on the former England international in the January transfer window.
Ireland has a year left on his deal and remains among the top earners, but is understood to be willing to come to a deal with Villa to leave.
Dunne is out of contract and his Republic of Ireland international colleague Given - another of the players on a chunky salary at the club - has three years remaining on his contract.
Villa want to free up space on their wage bill to offer new deals to Christian Benteke, Andreas Weimann, Ashley Westwood and Matthew Lowton, but Lerner wants a far leaner wage bill from next season and the age of austerity at Villa means there will be more shopping for hungry young players.
"The days of big summer signings have gone. We have stripped it right back. We want players who are hungry. I look at players with character, not those who just want money," said Lambert.