Smith reveals whether Elphick could return to Villa in January

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has opened the door to the prospect of Tommy Elphick returning in January, revealing the out-of-favour centre-back could be recalled to fix Villa’s defensive crisis.

Elphick was loaned out to Hull City by former manager Steve Bruce, but the decision has left the club short on cover if James Chester or Axel Tuanzebe pick up an injury.

Alan Hutton and Mile Jedinak are makeshift options in central defence, but Smith says he’s also looking at on-loan players’ progress and called them “valuable assets” to Villa.

Smith told Birmingham Mail: “We’re aware of all the players out on loan. Richard (O’Kelly) and JT (John Terry) have touched base with every player out on loan. Richard went to watch Mitch Clark last Saturday. He also went to watch Tommy play at Hull against Bristol City.

“We’ve got a number of players out on loan and it’s quite prudent of us to make sure we’re in touch with them, and making sure they know they’re still valuable assets to the football club.”

It’s potentially good news for Elphick as he may have been fearing the worst when Bruce opted to ship him out in August. The 31-year-old was initially signed from Bournemouth in 2016 and has gone on to make 35 appearances in all competitions.

He’s struggled for form at Villa Park, however, and was loaned out to Reading during the tail-end of last season. He’s put in some good performances at Hull this season and might be a useful short-term option until next summer. Elphick’s contract with the Midlands outfit expires at the end of the campaign.

Stats from Transfermarkt.