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Manager responds to speculation Aston Villa are chasing defender

By Amir Mir

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson has stated they have “no interest” in selling John Souttar who is being closely monitored by Aston Villa for the January transfer window.

The Scottish Sun claimed last Thursday that the Midlands club have had the highly-rated centre-back watched several times recently.

It is said that Villa’s interest started before the arrival of new manager Steve Bruce but scouts have been instructed to continue monitoring his displays.

However, his club manager Neilson has issued a stern warning to the 20-year-old about his short-term decision making.

“We see his future at Hearts,” Neilson told the Daily Record. “John understands he still has another couple of years to do here, to mature, get more physical and learn as a defender.

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“You can see the progression he’s made since coming to Hearts but, even with that, he can still move up a few steps before he is ready to move down south.

“It would be jumping the gun to talk about him leaving now. We have no interest in selling him and he has no interest in leaving.

“He has a great opportunity here, he is playing week in, week out for one of the top teams in Scotland. The next step for John is to try to get into the national team and play at a consistent level through an entire season at club level.”

Souttar has been a mainstay of the Hearts teams this season and has been touted for a spot in the senior Scotland squad in the near future.

The Scotland Under-21 international has made 12 appearances in all competitions for the Scottish Premiership club this season.

Villa are 16th in the Championship table with 17 points, as they are enjoying a small revival under Bruce, who has recorded back-to-back wins as boss.

Bruce will travel to St Andrews on Sunday afternoon, when Villa take on second City rivals Birmingham, in what is expected to be a feisty encounter.

In other Aston Villa transfer news, West Midlands police have made this significant decision ahead of the second City derby on Sunday.