To refer to this season as ‘pivotal’ for Aston Villa would be an understatement. After a mediocre beginning to life at Villa Park, Steve Bruce is already under intense pressure heading into the new campaign.
Simply put, the former Birmingham City manager must get the Villans up this season – anything else will be abject failure and a severe blow to the Geordie’s managerial career.
Having signed Chelsea legend John Terry, in what is almost certainly one of the oddest transfers in a long time, along with an already talented squad, Bruce really has no excuses.
Whereas last season you had a powerful Newcastle United side under Rafa Benitez and a strong, stable Brighton & Hove Albion team marshalled by Chris Hughton, this time round it looks a much more open field.
We make the Villans 13/2 favourites and it’s hard to argue when you consider Bruce’s reputation for getting clubs up, the quality at his disposal, and the fact that he has now had time to bed in and mould the squad to his own liking.
Villa owner, Dr. Tony Xia, tweeted recently that the Championship is easy, but in reality, it’s a difficult league to get out of once you get stuck there for more than a season.
FFP rules and dwindling parachute payments mean the Second City club won’t be able to continue flexing their financial muscles under the affluent Chinese businessman, which is probably why they turned to a tried and tested manager in Bruce.
There’s a sprinkling of other promising teams, too, that will present major stumbling blocks to promotion.
Wolverhampton Wanderers have been making transfer waves of their own with the signing of Portuguese wonder boy, Ruben Neves.
With Jorge Mendes pulling the strings behind the scenes, and ex-Valencia and Porto coach, Nuno Espirito Santo, coaching the side, the Black Country boys could be a surprise package at 10/1.
Middlesbrough under Garry Monk, Slaviska Jokanovic’s talented young Fulham team, Jaap Stam’s beaten play-off finalists Reading, Hull City, Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday will all be in the mix.
Make no mistake about it, Aston Villa is the biggest job of Bruce’s long career. Should he fail to produce the goods and win promotion, his chances of getting another job as big as this would be as good as over.
Ladbrokes Latest Betting:
Championship 2017-2018 Outright
Aston Villa – 13/2
Middlesbrough – 8/1
Fulham – 9/1
Norwich – 9/1
Derby – 10/1
Wolves – 10/1
Click here for the latest Championship odds.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing