Can Steve Bruce lead Aston Villa back into the Premier League?

Mike Holden (@Ratings_Mike) previews Steve Bruce and Aston Villa ahead of the upcoming 2017/18 Championship season.

Background

Steve Bruce is banking on John Terry being the answer to his biggest problem at Villa Park - bringing courage to a timid dressing room. The former Hull boss replaced Roberto Di Matteo last October but made little headway as Villa started 2017 with seven defeats in eight matches and finished 13th. Di Matteo had spent big on nine new faces, then Bruce added seven more in January, but a weak mentality continued to permeate. Terry and fellow new arrivals Glenn Whelan, Chris Samba and Ahmed Elmohamady have an average age of 33.

Personality

Bruce is a charming and passionate explorer who often does himself a disservice with his self-deprecating humour because his standout qualities aren’t immediately apparent. "I’m not really into tactics," he once remarked at a Sunderland press conference, creating a dinosaur image that remains to this day. Theory isn’t his speciality, because people with theories get box themselves in. He’s an investor in people with a talent for reading emotions. He recognises hunger and desire and delegates tasks appropriately, handing ownership of ideas over to players and backroom staff.

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Verdict

It’s hard to imagine Villa turning up revitalised from the summer break, ready to devour the division - even though they have the personnel capable of mounting a title charge. A collective spirit has to be fostered and mental barriers have to be pushed through, but Terry’s acquisition could proved to be inspired in that regard. The cut-throat anxiety of the play-offs and the high-stakes Wembley stage could be tailor-made for the former Chelsea skipper to thrive come the end of the season.

Prediction: play-offs

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