Aston Villa’s first season back in the Championship didn’t exactly go to plan, especially given there was genuine optimism back in the summer.
The Villa Park faithful had seen Chelsea’s Champions League-winning boss Roberto Di Matteo take over and there was a sense of expectation despite their disastrous Premier League campaign, yet the Italian lasted just 12 games, winning only once.
And this led to former Birmingham manager Steve Bruce taking over at the Midlands outfit, and helping them to a 13th place finish in the division, but a full 18 points adrift of the play-off positions.
And that will surely be a minimum target for the Villans next term, especially with Bruce having a full pre-season to embark upon, yet it does appear that they will need to bring several players in to improve the current squad to reach those expectations.
And one man 56-year-old Bruce could look to bring back to Villa Park is goalkeeper Shay Given, who has been released from Premier League outfit Stoke City this week.
The 41-year-old spent four years at Villa between 2011 and 2015, making just 37 appearances, before moving on to first Middlesbrough and then Stoke, although Bruce should look to bring him back as he would be perfect addition to the squad.
And that’s mainly because he could be a great mentor for the young shot-stoppers at the club, as well as providing stern competition for the number one jersey.
Villa look set to land Sam Johnstone on loan again next season, and with 24-year-old Jed Steer as back-up yet Mark Bunn expected to leave as his contract is up, Bruce could do with another goalkeeper anyway to keep his options strong.
Yet bringing in a goalkeeper like Given wouldn’t just bolster the squad, it would help with things both on and off the pitch, as the 41-year-old has experienced a variety of different situations in England, be it European football for Newcastle, losing out to a young Joe Hart at Manchester City, or playing second tier football for Middlesbrough just a few years ago.
These are all experiences that Bruce should look to draw upon, as next season the expectations will be higher, and thus the pressure greater on these young goalkeepers, and a generally young squad.
It’s fair to say that Villa weren’t miles away from putting together a great run of results last year, they lost 16 times but eight were by the odd goal, and drew 14 times including eight at home – they just need that little bit extra, that bit of know-how to get over the line week in week out.
And Given could help bring that because he has been there before – he is an experienced head who would benefit the team both on and off the pitch, he has been at the club before, and knows exactly what is expected of the players, that can only be invaluable knowledge.
Thus, should the 41-year-old still want to continue playing despite his release from Stoke, Villa would do a lot worse than move for the Irishman this summer.