Kevin Toner talks of his admiration for former Aston Villa defender Richard Dunne

The 19-year-old Irish centre-back played for Dunne's former youth club, Home Farm, before joining Villa in 2012.

Aston Villa defender Kevin Toner has told AVTV of his admiration for former claret and blue star and fellow Irishman Richard Dunne.

Dunne, who officially retired in November, joined Villa from Manchester City in September 2009 for £5 million and went on to make 111 total appearances for the club before being released in the summer of 2013.

The ex-Republic of Ireland centre-back also earned a spot in the 2010 PFA Team of the Year after helping Martin O’Neill’s side secure their third straight sixth-place finish in the Premier League and won 23 of his 80 international caps during his time in the Midlands, including three starts at Euro 2012.

Toner was a big fan of the Dublin native long before joining Villa as a scholar in 2012 from Irish outfit Home Farm and revealed to AVTV that he even used to get compared to him when he was coming up through Ireland's under-age levels.

Asked about his idols, the Under-19 international said: “I had two or three. Richard Dunne obviously when I was younger. I always got compared to him because of the way I play.

“Him, John Terry and [Nemanja] Vidic – defenders that just go through people and give their all.”

Toner is now aiming to establish himself as Villa’s next great Irish defender over the coming seasons after making his senior debut for the club and first Premier League start during the past two games, but he has a long way to go before being considered anywhere near the same class as their most revered player of the modern era, Paul McGrath.

The 19-year-old recently met the man affectionately known as God by supporters at the Bodymoor Heath training ground, and he admits that he and his Under-21 teammates were somewhat starstruck.

“He’s a legend,” Toner told AVTV on McGrath. “We were training one day and he came over and started talking to Sid [Gordon Cowans] and we were looking over and nearly starstruck. He’s big at home. Everyone at home asks, ‘Do you ever get to talk to him?’

“He’s obviously a legend and was a quality player.”

After going the full 90 minutes in last weekend's 3-2 loss at Watford, Toner could make his second straight start for already-relegated Villa on Saturday afternoon when they host Newcastle United in their final home game of the season.

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