Aston Villa stand on the brink of a Premier League return as the Championship play-off final fast approaches.
Dean Smith’s side are preparing to face Derby County at Wembley on Monday afternoon after seeing off Midlands rivals West Brom with a penalty shoot-out victory in the semi-finals last week.
It has been an eventful season for Villa who saw a turnaround in form following the arrival of Smith, with the former Brentford boss leading the Villa Park outfit on a 10-game winning streak in the second half of the season.
This came after former manager Steve Bruce failed to get the best out of his Villa side in the opening months of the campaign after almost guiding them to the Premier League last term.
Following their Wembley heartbreak last season, Bruce attempted to strengthen his squad with the signing of Bristol City full-back Joe Bryan following an impressive season at Ashton Gate.
However, Villa’s Wembley conquerors Fulham then hijacked the deal with Bryan preparing to complete his Villa Park medical and the defender eventually joined Slavisa Jokanovic’s newly promoted side.
Bryan admitted that he came extremely close to linking up with Villa, but said he could not turn down the prospect of Premier League football at Craven Cottage.
“I got a call that Fulham had an offer accepted while I was at Villa and I said ‘I want to play in the Premier League, I can’t turn down this opportunity,'” Bryan told the Mirror.
However, the events that have unfolded this season mean Villa could be about to have the last laugh in this transfer duel, as they could be about to replace Bryan’s Fulham in the Premier League.
The 25-year-old spent the season playing regular top-flight football, but it was a miserable campaign for Fulham as they finished 19th in the final standings.
The left-back made 30 appearances under three different managers at the West London club this season, but he is now preparing for life back in the Championship after his brief top-tier stint.
Bryan can hardly be blamed for turning down Villa to play Premier League, but there would certainly be smirks on the faces of Villa fans if they climb into the top-flight while Bryan heads the other way.