Former Aston Villa striker Dion Dublin has told Football Focus that the Premier League strugglers should attempt to bring his old teammate Liam Ridgewell back to the club to captain them in the Championship next season.
Ridgewell, 31, originally began his career in West Ham United’s academy but opted to leave the Hammers in 2001 to join the Villa setup, aged just 16.
After captaining the club’s 2002 FA Youth Cup-winning side, the London-born defender earned his senior debut for the claret and blues eight months later following a loan spell at Bournemouth and went on to become a first-team regular during the 2005-06 season.
In total, the former England Under-21 international racked up 93 senior appearances and seven goals for Villa before eventually leaving in August 2007 to join local rivals Birmingham City, where he won the 2011 League Cup under Alex McLeish.
After finishing his tour of the Midlands with a subsequent stint at West Bromwich Albion, the experienced centre-back opted to move across the Atlantic in the summer of 2014 to join the Portland Timbers and has since picked up more silverware, captaining the club to their first-ever MLS Cup title last season.
However, he now has less than 12 months left to run on his contract and has been open in the past about his desire to return to England for the latter stages of his career.
Dublin was a guest on Saturday’s Football Focus when an interview with Timbers Designated Player aired, and having been discussing his Villa’s plight earlier in the show, he was quick to point to Ridgewell as the kind of leader that the club are missing.
Villa currently sit 15 points from safety at the foot of the Premier League with only six games remaining, and with relegation now all but inevitable, the former forward-cum-defender believes his old centre-back partner would be the perfect man to lead them through their Championship campaign next term.
“We played centre-half with each other many times. He’s the perfect player to go back to Aston Villa and play centre-half. Give him the armband. He’s a proper leader – somebody that I’d trust and take to the trenches if I needed him.”
Nevertheless, Dublin does not think Villa will find life much easier in the second tier, adding: “Don’t expect just to bounce back because you’re Aston Villa. That Championship – with the size of football clubs in that league – they all want to go up into the Premier League.
“You have no given right to come straight back up again. They will find it incredibly hard. They won’t come straight back up with the players they’ve got, I don’t believe. They need to get some new players that realise it’s going to be difficult and will pull their socks up.”
Ridgewell, who played alongside Dublin at Villa until 2004, actually enjoyed a spell in the Championship this past winter, having gone out on loan to Brighton & Hove Albion during the MLS offseason – his second such stint after spending two months at Wigan Athletic last term.
The Timbers skipper impressed in five league appearances and one FA Cup start for the Seagulls, which suggests that he could well prove a shrewd signing for Villa if does indeed decide to head back to England in the near future.