Decision Time For Bruce
Aston Villa will still be licking their wounds following the play-off final defeat to Fulham, with the cost of missing out on the Premier League looking like it could be extremely costly at Villa Park.
Big decisions have to be made this summer, with Dr Tony Xia already releasing a statement suggesting that big changes are going to be made to Villa's strategy ahead of the 2018/19 campaign. Xia praised Steve Bruce in that statement, but didn't publically back the 57-year-old to take Villa into next season.
Bruce had Villa on the cusp of promotion, with Tom Cairney's 23rd minute goal at Wembley all that separated the Midlands side and Fulham at the national stadium. For Bruce, this season has been an emotional struggle due to family reasons, whilst the emotion of a promotion push and play-off final defeat will have been difficult.
Despite 2017/18's success, it remains to be seen if Bruce is still in charge next season.
Currently, Villa are amongst the favourites to win promotion next season, with Bruce's side 10/1 to win the Championship with bet365's football betting market.
Bruce is a master of promotion, having already recorded four to the Premier League during an impressive managerial career. That could well be the reason Villa are considered amongst the favourites for a Premier League return.
Villa need to be asking whether parting company with Bruce is a sensible option at this time. However, asking the 57-year-old to build on the 18 months he's had at Villa Park is going to be difficult, particularly when you consider that Bruce will watch his squad be picked apart this summer.
John Terry is already not returning to the club
, whilst it looks almost impossible that Sam Johnstone, Robert Snodgrass and Lewis Grabban will be pulling on claret and blue next season. Added to that, James Chester and Jack Grealish will attract interest. Of course, Villa will look to be positive and keep that impressive duo in their ranks, but money talks in the Championship, particularly for a club in Villa's position.
That could well lead to Bruce walking away, with this summer shaping up into a period where a fresh playing squad might need fresh direction from a different manager.
However, there's going to be very little consistency within that playing squad, and Villa, a club that are in a very vulnerable position, could probably do with Bruce's consistency and nous to guide them through at least the next 12 months.
Only time is going to tell how damaging Villa's Wembley defeat was, with the 2018/19 campaign set to be an intriguing journey for those at Villa Park.
Ahead of that campaign though, Xia has a lot of work to do, with his early statement not giving too much away, but also an acknowledgement that things need to be addressed this summer.
Xia's first, and perhaps most important, decision needs to be on Bruce. The 57-year-old has had a terrific year but now needs either some public backing or the confirmation that Villa will search for a change.