After Aston Villa’s 3-1 away win at Hull to kick-off the season, Steve Bruce opened up a little on Villa’s pursuit of Bristol City left-back Joe Bryan. When managers begin to talk about their targets it’s a sign that a potential deal is close to finalisation.
“The two clubs have been talking,” admitted Bruce to BBC WM Radio, after Villa’s opening win.
“He’s somebody we’ve identified for a good 12 months now is Joe Bryan,” added the Villa boss, of the 24-year-old. “There’s still a bit of work to be done, but we’re in with a shout.”
Middlesbrough are also reported to have had an offer agreed to by Bristol City and will have more money to play with, but Villa are allegedly in pole position.
The Villa boss had indicated last week that Villa’s new owners had instructed him to look more long-term when it came to transfers.
“The owners want young, aggressive, hungry players with things to prove. That’s their vision.” – Steve Bruce on new owners’ vision. Opposite to his previous buying? #AVFC
— My Old Man Said (@oldmansaid) August 5, 2018
Bruce has previously been accused of short-termism in the transfer market to achieve Tony Xia’s desperate need for promotion, leaving Villa with a host of departing loan players and older signings that have zero sell-on value. It’s a strategy that isn’t sustainable at Championship level, as players need to be an investment as well.
In a deal that could rise to £6m, Joe Bryan fits the profile of what Villa are now looking for.
“It’s no secret we now want to freshen the whole thing up with some younger players in the squad,” said Bruce. “That’s what we’re trying to identify.”
“He’s somebody we’ve identified for a good 12 months now is Joe Bryan.”
Saying that though, it was thought that Bruce’s signing of James Bree from Barnsley was going to sort out the right-back spot, but the player, who the Villa boss himself had seen play three times before buying, has been on the sidelines since joining and Villa even felt the need to renew Alan Hutton’s contract instead of trusting in Bree.
It will be something of a transitional season for Bristol City’s defence having lost another key defender in Aden Flint, their talismanic goal scoring centre-back, who made 246 appearances for the club, scoring 38 times. Flint went to Middlesbrough and it’ll be interesting to see if that factor aids Villa’s main rivals to Bryan’s signature.