Aston Villa supporters will be hoping for a much-improved campaign from their side when the new Championship season gets underway in a few months’ time.
The Villans surrendered their status as a Premier League club little over 12 months ago after collecting just 17 points from their 38 league matches, yet there was renewed optimism around the club following the appointment of Roberto Di Matteo last summer.
However, he lasted just 12 games as a poor start to the season saw him replaced by former Birmingham and Hull chief Steve Bruce who, with some highs and some lows along the way, led the side to an underwhelming 13th place finish.
Nonetheless, with a full pre-season and summer transfer window to come, expectations are high that Bruce can deliver a sustained promotion push next season, although it’s clear that reinforcements will be needed this summer if they are to bridge that 18-point gap to the top six.
And one man the 56-year-old could look to bring in is goalkeeper John Ruddy, who will be released by Norwich at the end of the month at the expiration of his contract.
The 30-year-old moved to Carrow Road back in 2010 and embarked on seven fine years at the club, appearing 242 times for the Canaries, which included stints in both the Premier League and the Championship.
However, his time in Norfolk will be coming to an end this summer, but at the age of 30, Ruddy surely still has plenty to offer in English football, and with Villa’s goalkeeping situation hitting crisis point, Bruce must look to bring him to the club this summer.
The Villans began the campaign with Pierluigi Gollini between the sticks, who was occasionally disposed by Mark Bunn before going out on loan to Atalanta, and then replaced by Sam Johnstone, who was on loan from Manchester United.
However, with Gollini’s future far from certain, and Bunn out of contract at the end of the month, Villa are low on shot-stopping options, and it remains to be seen whether Johnstone will be coming back on loan to Villa Park this summer, with much likely depending on what happens with David de Gea at United.
Thus, regardless of whether the Johnstone saga rumbles on or not, Bruce must look to bring Ruddy in as he remains a quality goalkeeper at this level, even if last season wasn’t his best.
The one-time England international is an excellent shot-stopper, is brave in one-on-one situations, and has great command of his box, and add in 118 appearances at Championship level, as well as 117 at top-flight level, he is vastly experienced, which would surely rub off on this Villa squad.
The know-how of earning promotion, be it automatically in 2011 or via the play-offs in 2015, would also be invaluable, and with Villa in a position whereby players have to go before they come in, a free transfer may be one of their best bets in bringing players in.
Thus, sealing a move for the £2.55 million-rated ace (as per Transfermarkt) is something Bruce must look to do this summer.