Aston Villa had a huge impact on the final day of the Championship season when they faced Brighton and Hove Albion. Despite being pre-season favourites for promotion themselves, Villa was instead appointed kingmaker, denying Chris Hughton’s Seagulls the three points they needed to secure the title and restore some much-needed pride at Villa Park after a disappointing campaign.
Steve Bruce, who was appointed Villa’s manager in October, endured a poor start to the season, will have wanted his side to put in a good performance on the day, showing the rest of the Championship they are serious about competing for promotion in 12 months’ time. It has been a disappointing season at Villa Park, and despite threatening to challenge the top six in late 2016, Villa has never seriously been a candidate for promotion.
But for the goals of £15 million signing Jonathan Kodjia, and a magnificent run of form between February and April, Bruce’s side could have realistically been fighting against relegation towards the end of the Championship season.
A busy January transfer window, which brought seven new faces to Villa Park, did not help the club in their quest for the playoffs, with high-profile signings not replicating the early season form that earned them their move to Villa Park. Perhaps most disappointing has been Scott Hogan, who has had injury troubles since arriving at Villa but has still only managed to score one goal since his multimillion-pound move from Brentford on January deadline day.
It has been a difficult first season in the Championship for Villa, but since Bruce’s arrival in October there has been a definite improvement, and even during the club’s difficulties in early 2017, their performances deserved more at a key stage of the campaign.
Wholesale changes are not needed at Villa Park, with Bruce seemingly the right man for the job, with three previous promotions to the Premier League behind him.
The key to the club’s success next season will be the goalscoring form of Kodjia, who this year has found the net on 19 occasions. Should the Ivorian replicate that form across the 2017/18 campaign, and January addition Hogan rediscover his goalscoring touch, Villa has the potential to be one of the Championship’s most dangerous teams.
Bruce will certainly make some additions during the summer, and a winger is surely high on the agenda, with Albert Adomah and Andre Green the only serious options Villa have in the wide areas.
Perhaps the most remarkable story in the Championship this season has been the rise of Huddersfield Town as a serious threat, who now find themselves at 3/1 in the football betting to achieve promotion. Their emergence as a promotion contender goes to show that plenty can change over the course of a year in the Championship, as they’ve moved from the pits of the division to compete in the playoffs in just 12 months.
Should Villa opt to stick with Bruce, and the 56-year-old have a successful summer transfer window, there is every chance that comes the final game of the 2017/18 season, it will be Villa competing for promotion rather than playing the sideshow.