Aston Villa have shrugged off speculation linking young striker Nathan Delfouneso with a reunion with Martin O'Neill at Sunderland.
Villa No.2 challenges young forward to crack first-team
Aston Villa assistant manager Peter Grant has shrugged off speculation linking young striker Nathan Delfouneso with a reunion with Martin O'Neill at Sunderland.
Reports at the weekend claimed new Black Cats boss O'Neill was planning to raid his former side for the 20-year-old in the January transfer window.
But Grant is adamant Villa are not looking to sell Delfouneso, a youth product at the Midlands club.
He has also challenged the young frontman to prove himself at Villa by forcing his way into the first team.
Asked if the club have received any enquiries about Delfouneso, Grant told the Birmingham Mail
: "No, we have not and we're not looking for enquiries in any shape or form.
"We're very thin on the ground with the squad as it is. Nathan is getting some game time with the England under-21s.
"Look at the weekend (against Bolton), we were really down to the bare bones.
"We're looking now to just maintain the squad and it's up to lads like Nathan to make sure they're part of the squad and the team."
Delfouneso is in contention to replace the suspended Gabby Agbonlahor at home to Liverpool on Sunday having not started a Premier League match since November last year.
Grant added: "It can be a great opportunity for them when somebody like Gabby misses out. Sometimes a suspension is something that kicks off somebody else's season."
The assistant boss believes Delfouneso must show more desire and consistency if he is to establish himself as a regular first-team player.
"He probably should be more hungry to score goals and show a little bit more devilment around the box," he said.
"We're trying to put that into his game in training sessions. We're always saying to him, 'Listen, you're playing against Premier League centre-backs here. We see you turning them inside out at times and then we see you making life easy for them the next day. You've got to keep on top of that'.
"But, like all young boys, the consistency level has got to be there all the time. He's getting to that stage of his career now that that's the next thing that's got to kick into his game. He's certainly got the raw talent."