Leeds United: Whites linked with Aston Villa star

Aston Villa centre-back Richard Dunne is emerging as a possible January transfer target for Leeds United.

The Republic of Ireland international is out of favour at Villa Park and could appear on Simon Grayson's radar with United's manager planning key improvements to his in-form squad.

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Dunne has played no part in Villa's season since reports of a training-round fall-out with the club's assistant manager and former Leeds boss Gary McAllister earlier this month.

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The 31-year-old last appeared in a 3-0 defeat to Liverpool on December 6 and was not included in the squad for either of Villa's Christmas matches against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City.

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His surprising drift down the defensive order under manager Gerard Houllier will encourage Villa to listen to offers to take the highly-rated defender on loan once the winter transfer window opens.

Scottish Premier League side Celtic have already been credited with an interest in the Irishman but Dunne is likely to fit Grayson's requirements as United's boss gears up for the second half of a promising Championship term.

Grayson looked to England's top-flight to secure Andy O'Brien on loan from Bolton Wanderers in late October and he is looking for high-calibre signings next month with a large squad already available to him at Elland Road.

Dunne has made over 400 Premier League appearances in his professional career but he is said to be fourth-choice within Houllier's pool of centre-backs and free to look for another club.

Villa, however, are highly unlikely to consider loaning him to another Premier League team with a single point between them and the division's relegation places.

Dunne is one of a number of top-flight players being linked with Leeds ahead of the start of the transfer window.

Former United defender Jonathan Woodgate has been made available for loan by Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City midfielder Michael Johnson recently spoke of his wish for a temporary move to Elland Road following his return to training from a series of injuries.

Johnson said: "You can't pick or choose but I've always been a Leeds fan. I'd love to play for them and a loan deal would be an ideal scenario."

United, meanwhile, are anticipating another crowd of over 30,000 on Saturday with more than 27,000 tickets sold for their clash with Middlesbrough.

The attendance at Elland Road during Tuesday's game against Portsmouth reached 31,556, the second highest turn-out of the season.

VERSATILE: Leeds United's Conor Shaughnessy. Picture by Tony Johnson.

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