Steve Bruce is a leading candidate to become the new manager of Aston Villa if they cannot persuade Nigel Pearson to lead the club’s return to the Premier League, The Independent reports.
Pearson is the bookies’ favourite to take over at Villa Park but as the man responsible for building the foundations of Leicester’s astonishing season he may wait for other offers to come in before committing himself. The club has yet to establish what its budget will be for the upcoming season in the Championship.
Bruce is seen as a strong contender to repair the shambles left by Villa’s relegation, although the club would have to persuade him to leave Hull City, who are firmly on course to contest the play-offs.
The one significant question mark surrounding Bruce is that he is a former Birmingham City manager. Alex McLeish’s move from Birmingham to Villa was not a success on any level and Villa’s relegation was openly celebrated by fans at St Andrew’s.
In the wake of the 1-0 defeat at Manchester United that sealed their fate on Saturday, caretaker manager, Eric Black, spoke of the need to repair the ‘disconnect’ between supporters and the club.
“I am sure there will be a thousand people who will want to sit in that manager’s seat,” said Black, who worked as Bruce’s assistant at Birmingham and Sunderland. “It is a fantastic club with a great stature, a great stadium and great training facilities. The infrastructure of the club is set and I don’t know how many others would have had attendances of 30-35,000 when they have hardly seen a victory all season.
“But you have got to take it on the chin sometimes. We are relegated, that is the reality of it, and we now have to do whatever we can to take the club back to where it should be.”
Nevertheless for all the fine words, the odds are against Aston Villa coming straight back up. Only eight of the last 30 demoted clubs have achieved this feat, although statistically it makes no difference whether they finished last or in the other relegation places. In 2007 Bruce won immediate promotion after Birmingham’s relegation the previous season.
“I don’t think anybody is under any illusions how hard it will be,” said Black. “There are an extra eight games to start with. The physicality is different to the Premier League and we will be a big, big fish in that division. I don’t think anyone expects plain sailing.”
Under normal circumstances, the cry would be to keep the squad together much as Burnley did after their relegation last season. However, Aston Villa, who have been an ever-present since the Premier League was set up in 1992, have performed so abjectly that most supporters would welcome a wholesale clearout.
It says something about Aston Villa’s recent transfer policy, which has recruited a host of moderate French-speaking footballers that Marc Albrighton, allowed to leave the club on a free, may end up winning the Premier League with Leicester.