Steve Bruce

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Why Aston Villa deserve Premier League promotion

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With the Championship playoff final at Wembley Stadium on May 27, the richest game in soccer will see one of Aston Villa or Derby County promoted to the Premier League.

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Which club deserves a spot in the English top-flight, and the estimated minimum $120 million it will generate, more?

You can use metrics such as fanbase, stadiums, players, historical success and quality of coaches to try and sort this out, but the fact of the matter is, the playoffs are always a complete, and utterly brilliant, lottery.

The path Villa and Derby took to get to the final this season proves that.

Here’s a look at why Villa deserve to return to the PL after a three-year absence, while tomorrow we will focus on Derby…


Everything about Villa is a Premier League club.

Their incredible home at Villa Park is among the most historic and boisterous in England when it gets going and the Holte End is the jewel in its crown.

European champions in 1982, Villa are the biggest club from England’s second-city, Birmingham, and their fanbase is loyal, if not overly pessimistic as most Brummies are. The fact that there are no PL teams from Birmingham is astonishing. It is like having no top level sports teams in LA.

For three years they’ve now fought to get back into the top-flight after several seasons of struggle as former American owner Randy Lerner cut costs wherever he could. Under manager Dean Smith, a lifelong Villa fan who took charge midseason, they now play wonderfully attractive soccer and have youngsters like Jack Grealish, Andre Green and Tammy Abraham leading the way.

Previous manager Steve Bruce was known for his pragmatism and trusting veterans to be steady in pressure situations. All of that is out of the window at Villa Park, assistant coach John Terry alongside Smith to provide some steel to their flamboyant possession-based style.

Villa would be fun to watch if they were promoted to the Premier League. That much is sure. They’ll concede a lot of goals, but they would score a ton too.

There is also the potential for Villa to emulate Wolverhampton Wanderers. Seriously.

Their ownership group has strengthened in recent months with Chinese businessman Tony Xi selling 55 percent of his stake in the club to Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawiris and American billionaire Wes Edens.

If Villa come up the financial fair play shackles which restricted them in the Championship in recent years will come off. The potential for them to spend big is there, but they have a team full of players on loan from PL clubs who have formed a bond and could likely be kept together and bought permanently this summer.

Quite simply, Villa are a top 10 team in the Premier League. They have suffered due to Lerner’s decision to pull out his investment but they have now rebuilt themselves with a strong core of young talent and have a manager in place who is progressive and ambitious both with his style of play and where Villa can get to in the PL.

Under Bruce, Villa lost to Fulham in the playoff final last season at Wembley. But with local lad Grealish leading their charge there is a sense that failure last year was a blessing in disguise. This Villa side are young and hungry and they are exciting to watch.

That is why Villa deserve to be promoted to the Premier League for the 2019-20 season.

FOLLOW LIVE: Higuain starts in FA Cup

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Having clinched a spot in the League Cup Final, Chelsea aims for the next round of the FA Cup when it hosts Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday at Stamford Bridge.

Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET in London.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores ]

It’ll be the Chelsea faithful’s first chance to see Gonzalo Higuain in their blue, with the ex-Napoli man starting for Maurizio Sarri.Youngsters Ethan Ampadu and Callum Hudson-Odoi also start for Chelsea, the latter reportedly handing in a transfer request earlier this week.

[ MORE: Giovinco leaving TFC? ]

Ex-Premier League strikers George Boyd and Steven Fletcher start for Wednesday, who is managed by Steve Bruce.

Make sure to tune-in for our special Transfer Deadline Day show on NBCSN on Thursday, Jan. 31 from 5 p.m. ET as we focus on all of the moves across the Premier League in the January window. You can stream the show live online right here.

Aston Villa hires Smith, names Terry assistant

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Aston Villa has found its replacement for Steve Bruce, and he’s added a notable alumnus to his staff.

Dean Smith is the club’s new head coach, and he’s tabbed Chelsea legend and recent Villa center back John Terry as assistant coach. Jesus Garcia Pitarch has been named sporting director, having held similar positions at Atletico Madrid and Valencia.

[ MORE: 1 year on from USMNT’s dark day ] 

Villa’s press release notes that Smith is a lifelong fan of the club, and his resume features stops at Walsall and Brentford.

Terry had been rumored for moves to multiple clubs in continuing his playing career, but instead takes his first steps in management.

“John is one of the most decorated players in English football, has an affinity with the club and is ready to make the next step in his career working alongside Dean,” said CEO Christian Purslow.

Villa is 3W-6D-3L to start the Championship campaign, four points back of the final playoff spot.

As an odd aside, Smith’s son is a standout player at NCAA D-II side Limestone. He sounds pretty excited, as you’d expect.

Report: Faria, Terry may take charge at Aston Villa

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Rui Faria and John Terry worked together at Chelsea for many years and it appears they could be getting the band back together.

A report from Sky Sports states that Faria and Terry are being lined up by Aston Villa as their head coach and assistant manager respectively, with the long-time assistant manager for Jose Mourinho out of work since he left Mourinho’s side over the summer.

Yet separate reports suggest that Faria was happy to be offered the Villa position but is happy enough to spend time away from the game with his family.

Terry, 37, announced his retirement as a player just a few days ago (he played for Villa last season as they lost in the playoff final, coming up one win short of promotion back to the PL) and it is believed he is in the running to take on the vacant manager position at Villa after Steve Bruce was fired.

However it now appears that Terry is instead being lined up as an assistant coach, with previous reports stating he could link up with Thierry Henry in a managerial dream true. Henry is now expected to be handed the AS Monaco job, leaving the Villa position open for Terry, and Faria, to take on.

Faria, 43, was Mourinho’s assistant for 16 years, moving with him from Porto to Chelsea to Inter Milan and Real Madrid, before then heading back to Chelsea and being alongside him at Manchester United. He is represented by super agent Jorge Mendes, with the latter advising Villa in their search for a new manager. Faria worked closely with Terry twice, with the former Chelsea captain winning three PL titles with Faria as his assistant coach. These two know how to build successful teams and win trophies but given the resources at Villa and the unpredictable nature of England’s second-tier, this isn’t an easy job. At all.

Despite its obvious size as a club and Villa’s new Egyptian owners promising to spend what they can under Financial Fair Play restrictions, the lack of interest in this position sums up where the club is at right now.

Bruce assembled an experienced yet ageing squad and although Jack Grealish is talented, Villa face a bit of an uphill battle just to be among the promotion candidates in the Championship this season.

With Derby County hiring Frank Lampard to lead their promotion charge, plus Leeds United going well under Marcelo Bielsa, West Brom flying under Darren Moore and Tony Pulis plugging away at Middlesbrough, Villa are already nine points off the automatic promotion spots.

Add on top the expectation levels from home fans at Villa Park and this is a tough, tough job.

Reports: Aston Villa fires Steve Bruce

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Days after traveling Aston Villa supporters chanted “you don’t know what you’re doing” at Villa manager Steve Bruce, and less than 24 hours after he was the target of a cabbage assault at Villa Park, Bruce has reportedly been fired.

According to Sky Sports, Bruce has been let go after a run of 10 games that featured just a single win. The report has been confirmed by the Birmingham Mail. The club is down to 12th in the Championship table the year after losing in the playoff final.

Most recently, Villa drew 3-3 with Preston North End on Tuesday, the club at the very bottom of the Championship standings. In the match, Villa blew a 2-0 lead and missed a 97th minute penalty that would have won the game. An unidentified fan threw a cabbage at Bruce before the match started.

The move makes Bruce the first manager in the top two tiers of English soccer to lose his managerial position. He would have celebrated his two-year anniversary at the club on October 12. Bruce was not in charge when Villa was relegated in the summer of 2016, but took over for Roberto di Matteo just months after the start of their first season in the Championship since 1988.

According to the Birmingham Mail report, early candidates for the position include former Chelsea and Aston Villa defender John Terry and current Brentford boss Dean Smith. It also states a “number of” foreign managers are under consideration, although no specific names are given. That could be due to the reported likely involvement of popular agent Jorge Mendes, who has a relationship with new Villa owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens.