Aston Villa’s failure to win promotion to the Premier League this season is undoubtedly a major disappointment for the club’s fans and they face a crucial summer as they plan for another year in the second tier.
Villa’s 1-0 defeat against Fulham at Wembley on Saturday consigned them to a third season in the Championship – something that owner Tony Xia probably hadn’t planned for when he took over in 2016.
Sportslens takes a look at five key talking points from Villa’s disappointing end to the campaign.
Xia must keep faith with Bruce
Xia was quick to dispense with Roberto Di Matteo’s services as manager, but he must resist the temptation to do the same with Bruce.
Since being appointed in October 2016, Bruce has succeeded in stopping the rot at Villa Park and led a strong promotion challenge this season.
He has guided teams out of the Championship before and should be given the chance to finish what he started at Villa.
Loanees should look to stay
Bruce stated that he wanted to secure the squad’s loanees on permanent deals if Villa won promotion.
Their failure to achieve that complicates things, but the likes of Sam Johnstone, Robert Snodgrass and Lewis Grabban would do well to try and ensure they are at the club next season.
Each has played regularly under Bruce and while they might be able to earn more money elsewhere, they have the opportunity to achieve something special at Villa Park.
Grealish owes Bruce and Villa
In 2015, after helping Villa to an FA Cup final and survival in the Premier League, Jack Grealish was pictured slumped in the street during a holiday in Tenerife.
He has matured significantly since then and credit should go to Bruce for helping the 22-year-old unlock his talent.
There has already been speculation about his future, but Grealish owes it to Villa to have another go at winning promotion next season.
Jokanovic age jibes ring true
Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic claimed that Villa looked like an ‘old and tired’ team before the game.
His side played Villa off the park in the first-half, leaving the likes of John Terry and Alan Hutton looking sluggish on numerous occasions.
An injection of youth in a couple of areas is needed if Villa are to make it back to the Premier League.
Terry’s time is up
John Terry’s one-year contract is now up at the club and the option of an automatic year extension is dead in the water as Villa didn’t achieve promotion.
There has been talk that Terry may consider a move to either the USA or China, but he would be well-advised to hang his boots up.
He looked every bit of his 37-years-old against an energetic Fulham side and the time is right for Terry to call it a day.