Steve Bruce has been appointed Aston Villa’s fourth permanent manager in the past 12 months after replacing Roberto Di Matteo.
The former Birmingham boss takes charge with Villa 19th in the Sky Bet Championship and 15 points behind leaders Huddersfield. Here, Press Association Sport looks at what the 55-year-old must do in his first few weeks in the job.
REPAIR FRAGILE CONFIDENCE
It has been an issue for the past four Villa managers, Tim Sherwood, Remi Garde, Eric Black and Di Matteo, and Bruce must rebuild a shattered team. Villa spent around B£50million in the summer and expected more than just one win and an early EFL Cup exit to Luton under new owner Dr Tony Xia.
They have conceded five goals in the last five minutes of games to drop nine points, laying bare their insecurity. Not only must Bruce address their in-game management but he must get them to believe again.
GET VALUE FOR MONEY
Restoring confidence should also see Villa getting value for money out of their big-money buys and Bruce needs to get Ross McCormack scoring again. The B£12million summer signing from Fulham has scored just twice in eight games for Villa and, including last season, those goals are his only ones in his past 16 games.
After their outlay Villa would have expected more from the Scotland international and they need him to find his form if they are going to catch pacesetters Huddersfield, Norwich and Newcastle.
SIMPLIFY VILLA’S TACTICS
Too often there were questions over how Villa lined up and who exactly was playing in midfield. Play under Di Matteo was haphazard and they paid the price several times, including against Brentford and Nottingham Forest, to drop too many points.
Confusion has reigned on the pitch home and away and Bruce needs to make sure the shell-shocked team, two points above the Championship relegation zone, can get back to basics ahead of their local derby with Wolves on Saturday.
SELL OR STICK WITH GABRIEL AGBONLAHOR
The club’s longest-serving current player and record Premier League goalscorer had no future under Di Matteo and has been training with other Villa outcasts this season having rejected a loan move to Reading on deadline day.
Problems with his attitude and fitness have been well documented and he was dropped from the squad last season after being deemed unfit. He has not played since March and Bruce must decide whether the former club captain is worth reintegrating into the squad, but with the striker’s problems deep-rooted he may find opposition from others at the club.
The bottom line for any manager is to win and Villa have won just four league games since August 2015. The club have been on an embarrassing slide for almost six years since Martin O’Neill walked out on the eve of the season but that has hastened over the past 18 months.
One victory against Rotherham this season is the sum total of their efforts and they have won just 14 times in their previous 62 home league games stretching back to the start of 2013-14. Villa fans will quickly forget his Birmingham links if Bruce can steady the ship and return them to the Premier League.