Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce has pledged his future to the club after the heartbreak of missing out on the Premier League – but acknowledged there is less certainty about several of his players including Jack Grealish and John Terry.
While the 1-0 Championship play-off final defeat against Fulham wasn’t quite ‘win or bust’, it’s not far short with Chinese owner Tony Xia having to make big decisions to fit in with financial fair play.
Terry, 37, is out of contract, £25million-rated Grealish will have his suitors and four of Villa’s players on show at Wembley – goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, Robert Snodgrass, Lewis Grabban and Josh Onomah – are due to return to their parent clubs after the end of their loan spells.
Steve Bruce wants the chance again next season to guide Aston Villa into the Premier League
‘The feeling now is utter disappointment for everybody. Of course over the next few days, the hard part is where we go from here.
‘Let’s not forget we are a big club and we are going to try to move forward.. It’s been difficult this season financially. I have understood. There have to be discussions above me to say who we have got and what we haven’t.
‘We have come close, but not close enough.’
Bruce, who has been promoted to the Premier League four times before, clearly wants the chance to do it again with Villa next season.
‘I have been doing it a long time and I’m in charge of a great team with a big history. I am really gutted for everybody but I will roll my sleeves up again.’
£25million-rated Jack Grealish will have his suitors after an impressive season for Villa
37-year-old centre back John Terry is out of contract after joining Villa on a free last summer
He was irked to be quizzed about whether his squad would now break up.
‘It feels wrong to be asked that when I am aching inside,’ he said. ‘Of course there will be speculation over Jack. I would like him to stay, that is my personal view. He is playing regular football here.’
Grealish is 22 and time is on his side. He was consoled at the end by his 37-year-old captain, Terry. Now Villa aren’t promoted, there isn’t a year’s option on his contract and the former Chelsea captain has to choose if he wants to stay and the club decide if £60,000-a-week represents good value in strained times.
‘I think that is the question for everybody, John’s future. That will depend on John. The discussions over the next few weeks will be with John to see what he wants. He had an option if we went up.
‘We had to balance the books last summer to get loans and frees. It is something that has happened over the last two windows and something they are going to have to get used to.’
Former Chelsea captain Terry consoles Grealish after Villa were defeated 1-0 by Fulham
Getting Grealish back into top form is one of Bruce’s best achievements this season.
Fulham clearly singled him out for treatment at Wembley. His leg was stamped on by Ryan Fredericks early in the first half and was fouled more than any other player in a single Championship fixture during the regular season.
‘For me, he (Fredericks) stamps on Jack. I saw it straight away and thought the fourth official was there too. When it’s that close you’d think the officials would have the communication to deal with it. When it’s as deliberate as that, it is quite straightforward. He deserved a red card,’ said Bruce.
‘(Fouling) Jack was part of their gameplan. When he broke, they were a bit cynical.’
Up in the stands, owner Tony Xia gave as little away as Prince William did behind his shades.
Grealish is Villa to his core but his Wembley display, including one thrilling run past four defenders, showed he belongs in the big league.