Aston Villa prepare bid for Wigan Athletic defender Titus Bramble
Villa manager Martin O'Neill is in need of a new centre-back following the retirement of Martin Laursen, whose absence from the side with a knee injury coincided with Villa's tailing off of form in the latter stages of last season. Sol Campbell remains high on O'Neill's wish list but uncertainty over whether or not he is eager to leave Portsmouth means the Northern Irishman is scouting out other possibilities, according to a report in the Star newspaper. Villa have made tentative inquiries over a host of centre-backs with Premier League experience as they look to build on the good work they did in the early part of last season and make a renewed challenge for a place in the top four. West Ham's Matthew Upson, Michael Dawson of Tottenham and David Wheater from relegated Middlesbrough are all options. However, Bramble is viewed by O'Neill as an adequate and cheaper option with a deal being put together that would see midfielder Barry Bannan travel in the opposite direction. Bannan, a promising 19-year-old, spent two months on loan at Derby last season and impressed there, though O'Neill is willing to let him leave to facilitate the deal. Bramble enjoyed the best season of his career at the JJB Stadium last year and O'Neill believes now is the time to lure the 27-year-old to a bigger club. The former Ipswich and Newcastle United defender became a byword of calamitous mistakes and poor concentration at his former clubs but has gone a long way to repairing his damaged reputation at Wigan.
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