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Gérard Houllier is planning an overhaul of his Aston Villa squad that could see as many as nine players leave the club before the start of next season. Steve Sidwell and Curtis Davies are expected to lead the exodus, although there may also be a few surprising names on the list, including the England international Stephen Warnock.

The Villa manager is looking to offload a number of senior players who are on the periphery of the first team as well as those who have been resistant to the changes he has introduced since taking charge in September. Richard Dunne, Stephen Ireland and John Carew, who were all left out of the squad who travelled to Wigan Athletic before Saturday’s game was postponed, are expected to move on. Carew’s contract is up in the summer and there is no prospect of him being offered a new deal.

It is understood that Brad Friedel, who will turn 40 in May, has also been told his contract will not be renewed in the summer. Villa have begun looking for a replacement for the former Blackburn Rovers goalkeeper. Roman Weidenfeller, the 30-year-old Borussia Dortmund keeper, was watched at the weekend. Houllier is also closely monitoring Allan McGregor’s situation at Rangers.

Houllier is today expected to sit down with Randy Lerner, Villa’s owner, to discuss plans for the January window. The club are looking to change their recruitment strategy and will seek to target promising young talent as opposed to experienced players in the twilight of their career who come with big wage demands and have no sell-on fee. For that reason Villa have no interest in signing Robbie Keane from Tottenham Hotspur despite continued speculation.

With Nigel Reo-Coker’s new contract discussions at an impasse, it remains a strong possibility the midfielder will leave on a free transfer at the end of the season. Sidwell is on the verge of completing a move to West Ham United. Habib Beye, who has started only seven Premier League games for Villa, will also be encouraged to find another club.

While Villa supporters will not be surprised at most of the players Houllier is looking to shift, Warnock’s name will raise a few eyebrows. Although the left-back’s form tailed off towards the end of last season, he was named in the England squad for the World Cup and has generally been a solid performer. Houllier, however, has already set the wheels in motion to bring in a new left-back in the summer.

Source: Guardian

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