Aston Villa boss Dean Smith happy to have a "great problem" as Tom Heaton nears return

Villa boss Dean Smith insists he will relish the headache caused by Tom Heaton’s impending return to full fitness.

Tom Heaton has not featured since suffering a serious injury on New Year's Day
Tom Heaton has not featured since suffering a serious injury on New Year's Day

Heaton is expected to be back in full training next week after more than 10 months out with a serious knee injury.

But the England international goalkeeper faces a battle to reclaim the No.1 jersey from new boy Emiliano Martinez, who kept three clean sheets in four Premier League fixtures.

Smith said: “Tom is back working with Neil Cutler now. I am expecting him to be with our group next week and we are looking to get him some practice games.

“When he is back and flying he will give me a great problem and one I enjoy having.”

Heaton was one of Villa’s top performers last season before damaging his anterior cruciate ligament in a 2-1 win at Burnley on New Year’s Day.

Smith continued: “You have these conversations with players all the time. Being in this industry for 35 years you experience an awful lot.

“The players here are paid to be footballers and their job is to try and get into the manager’s thoughts.

“I always say to them it is only my opinion someone is doing better than you. It is their job to try and change that opinion.

“It is part of the job. If I found it difficult I don’t think I would have been a manager for as long as I have.”

Smith has confirmed Henri Lansbury will continue to train with the rest of the senior group after being left out of Villa’s 25-man squad earlier this week.

The 30-year-old, who has started just 35 matches since joining in a £3million move from Nottingham Forest in January 2017, was among several players the club were attempting to move out during the recent transfer window.

With Villa having signed Ross Barkley on loan and teenager Jacob Ramsey impressing Smith during the early weeks of the season, Lansbury found himself even further down the pecking order.

Fourth-choice goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic was ultimately included on the squad list ahead of him.

Smith said: “Henri has been unfortunate with injuries and players’ form ahead of him in his position.

“He was looking for a club in the window and, unfortunately, nothing happened and we just felt there’s too many players in front of him at the moment.

“He’ll continue to train with the football club, but we felt it was right to omit him from the 25 with the players ahead of him.”

Striker Keinan Davis was due to train today after missing Sunday’s 1-0 win at Leicester with a calf injury. Defender Kortney Hause (groin) and forward Wesley (knee) remain out.

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