Having consolidated their position in the Championship after the dreaded drop from the Premier League, Aston Villa were keen to make it a short stay in the second tier ahead of the 2017/18 campaign.
The remit upon their second season in the second tier was promotion back to the elite level of English football.
To do that, they needed to strengthen, as the team that finished 13th the year before, was just not good enough to challenge for promotion.
Steve Bruce was once again trusted as the man to get the club back up, and his rebuilding of the squad continued in the summer of 2017.
Four permanent signings were made in the close season ahead of what was expected to be a title tilt.
One of which was made official on July 20, 2017, when Christopher Samba put pen-to-paper on a one-year deal with the club to help them achieve promotion.
We are delighted to announce the signing of Chris Samba… ????????????
— Aston Villa FC (@AVFCOfficial) July 20, 2017
Having been training at Bodymoor Heath in the summer after an unsuccessful trial at Premier League side Crystal Palace, he played in a few U23 friendlies before going on the club’s pre-season camp in Portugal.
He was added along with John Terry to play at the heart of the Villa defence, and his signing was reacted to on social media well by the Villa Park faithful.
— Dan Baskeyfield (@baskeyx) July 20, 2017
1 word to describe this deal … deserved !
— Sean Langley (@seanlangley94) July 20, 2017
ITS ABOUT TIME
— Princey (@PrinceyAVFC) July 20, 2017
Excellent ! UTV
— The Pride Live #UTV (@ThePrideLiveUTV) July 20, 2017
What a signing, such a beast #avfc
— AVFCchats ???????? (@AVFCchats) July 20, 2017
It was a signing that captured the imagination of the club’s supporters along with the signing of Terry – on paper it looked like one of the most impermeable defences in the whole of the English Football League.
So much was expected from the then 33-year-old during his one-year with the club.
But it was a signing that fell flat a little while after his arrival.
Samba made his Villa debut in the 1-1 draw with Hull on August 5, 2017, but he would not be involved in his first clean-sheet in the league until his sixth appearance for the club.
The 1-0 over Bolton win was his first shut-out in the Championship for Villa – and four more would follow.
His first – and only – goal for the club came on November 4, 2017, when he scored Villa’s only goal in the 2-1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday.
Samba only made 14 appearances during his time in the Midlands due to injury and failing to make the squad.
It was a mixed time for the Congo defender who would manage five clean sheets during his time under Bruce.
He missed four months between December and April and that would be too much of a setback to overcome at his age and two late appearances within three days of one another would be the end of his time at Villa.
Bruce guided them to a play-off final that Samba would not be a part of as they eventually lost out to Fulham at Wembley.
The signing promised so much and got the fans excited ahead of the 2017/18 campaign, but despite being within one game of the Premier League, it ended on a sour note.
The signing of Samba was undoubtedly a mere footnote in their campaign that would mirror their run in the league – it promised so much but ultimately failed to deliver.