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Richards aiming to replace Ron Vlaar in defence at Aston Villa

Ex-England defender Micah Richards is targeting a starting spot at centre back with Aston Villa, 4/1 shots with Coral for a top 10 finish, after his free transfer from Manchester City.

Netherlands international Ron Vlaar, the West Midlands outfit’s last club captain, left Villa Park when his contract expired and, although Richards is best known for powerful displays at right back, he is now set to move into the middle after talks with new boss Tim Sherwood.

“I did have other options, I spoke to the manager,” Richards said. “He knew what I needed as a player, to get back playing regular. He understood my situation more than anyone.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Manchester City v West Bromwich Albion - Etihad Stadium

“He told me want I wanted to hear. Coming to this club, the positions these last two seasons have not been good enough, but if we can hold on to the best players, then next season we’ll have a good season.

“I always said when I get older I wanted to play centre half. I think the time has come now. I feel like I’m in good shape now, and hopefully I’ll get a good pre-season. I feel as though my best years can still be ahead of me.”

Richards spent last term on loan with Serie A side Fiorentina, and has struggled for regular football and fitness despite a prodigious start to his Man City career. Blooded by then Eastlands boss Stuart Pearce, he made his name scoring off the bench at Villa Park in an FA Cup tie way back in 2006.

BRITAIN SOCCER FA CUP

Almost a decade on, Richards will now be out to improve Villa’s lot, but will England midfielder Fabian Delph be going the other way to the Etihad? “Every player wants to play at the highest level,” he added when asked of Delph, who has been linked with City.

“If he’s going to be playing Champions League, I don’t know, but if he’s going there to be a squad player, then no. James Milner has played six or seven positions and still wanted to leave.

Britain Soccer FA Cup Final

“So if he [Delph] gets assurances he’s going to play, then the decision is his. I wouldn’t say don’t go to Manchester City, because if he’s playing well he could play. It’s just being given that chance. If [Manuel Pellegrini] is going to give him the chance to play, then it’s hard to turn down the chance of playing Champions League football.”

Villa were FA Cup finalists last term, and odds of 50/1 say they shall go one better this term. Richards will have to be back to his best, and put his physical assets to their best use and prior injury problems behind him if Sherwood’s side are to improve.