Four games into 2017, Bruce has only a draw to show for it. As things stand at the moment, if you’re a Villa fan, it is hardly worth checking the latest weekend scores; you know there’s every chance that your team won’t have returned to winning ways.
Without a win since Boxing Day, the Villans have slipped to thirteenth in the Championship, a wholly unacceptable position for a club of its stature to be in.
Despite the acquisition of firepower in the summer, Bruce’s boys have scored a derisory twenty-six goals – only Derby County, Queens Park Rangers and Wigan Athletic have netted fewer – at an average of one per game. The need for a striker has never been more pressing, with African pair Jonathan Kodjia and Jordan Ayew away on international duty and Rudy Gestede sold to Middlesbrough.
Despite his undoubted connections, Steve Bruce has hit dead end after dead end in his search for reinforcements capable of digging the relegated Premier League team out of a hole.
With Villa’s reported number one target, Jordan Rhodes, seemingly out of the club’s reach financially – ‘Boro want £9 million upfront – Bruce has reportedly turned his attention to Burnley striker Ashley Barnes, who’s available for half the money.
The twenty-seven-year-old has only started half-dozen games for the Clarets and the prospect of regular first team football could be the carrot that tempts him away, even though he’d be playing at a lower level.
Bruce, however, has had better news when it comes to strengthening his midfield having landed Nottingham Forest skipper, Henri Lansbury, on a four-and-a-half-year deal.
Lansbury has made the short trip across the Midlands for an undisclosed fee, believed to be £3 million, and that, on the face of it, appears to be a good bit of business considering Premier League Watford, Championship rivals Derby County and Norwich City were all keen on the twenty-six-year-old who made 150 appearances for the Reds, scoring thirty-three goals.
Having bagged one captain from a rival Championship club, Bruce is thought to be after another – Barnsley’s Irish midfielder Conor Hourihane.
Hourihane has been an outstanding performer for the Tykes this season but is out of contract in the summer, so the Yorkshire outfit may well want to cash in on one of their star assets now before it’s too late.
With Lansbury signed and Bruce still reportedly keen on Hourihane, it is probably safe to say that Manchester City’s in-demand midfielder, Fabian Delph, will not be coming to Villa Park.
Leeds United are now reckoned to be favourites to land the services of the twenty-seven-year-old.
In defence, Villa is one of five clubs chasing the signature of Fleetwood Town’s highly-rated left-back Amari’i Bell.
As well as Villa, Crystal Palace, Norwich City, Brighton and Hove Albion and Derby County all believe that Bell has what it takes to play at a higher level than League One.
The twenty-two-year-old started his career at Birmingham and well-placed sources say that a return to the city isn’t out of the question.
Highly-rated defender James Bree, a team-mate of Hourihane’s at Barnsley, another player said to be on Bruce’s wish-list, joined Aston Villa yesterday while Bruce is close to agreeing a deal to sign teen sensation, Jacob Bedeau, from League One Bury.