SIGNED, SEALED ...NOW IT'S TIME VILLA DELIVERED.
OT every Championship manager has the power Steve Bruce has when it comes to transfers.
NUnlike some clubs now operating with a director of football who cherry-picks players for a head coach, Aston Villa have allowed Bruce to sign whoever he has wanted.
Every signing Bruce has made this season has been geared up to help him achieve one goal: promotion.
The Villa boss is well aware he may not see next season if he doesn't pull off what's expected come May. With that in mind, it's only fair Bruce is allowed to sign his players and use them however he pleases.
And he has done just that. Not every player he's signed in 2017/18 has been overwhelmingly welcomed by supporters, but they're all central to Villa's hopes of becoming a Premier League club once again.
KEEPING FOCUS Rather than sign players with one eye on the future, Bruce is very much working in the here and now. Bruce has jokingly referred to his Villa squad as 'Dad's Army' - but there's a reason why he's recruited so much experience.
Bruce's seven summer signings had a combined average age of 29 when they signed on the dotted line. All of them, bar Sam Johnstone and Josh Onomah, are now the wrong side of 30. Having said that, they've still got plenty to offer.
Captain John Terry would have played every Championship minute had it not been for a broken metatarsal in November.
Glenn Whelan has dropped out of the side in recent weeks but he was integral during Villa's successful autumn.
Ahmed Elmohamady and Robert Snodgrass have been astute additions while Villa haven't lost a league game Chris Samba has started.
'I want players who can handle it' was a phrase Bruce constantly relayed regarding his summer recruitment. By that he meant the pressure of playing for Villa - a bigger club than most if not all in the Championship.
ASTUTE LOAN SIGNINGS Bruce is renowned as a manager who looks to utilise the loan market to attack the Championship. Axel Tuanzebe became Villa's fourth loan signing this season on Thursday and a fifth is expected to be confirmed before the end of the window.
Some might say Villa haven't needed so many temporary signings but each of them has played a part, and they will continue to do so.
Onomah arrived in August with the task of filling in for Jack Grealish, who missed the first part of the season through a freak kidney injury. Onomah has struggled for minutes since Grealish's return, but while the local lad was out the Spurs youngster was key.
On the face of it, Manchester United loanee Tuanzebe looks like another player Villa can cope without. He won't get a look in at centre-back while Villa already have three useful defensive-minded midfielders in Birkir Bjarnason, Mile Jedinak and Whelan.
But his versatility will ensure he plays regularly. Right-back has been an area where Villa have rotated this season and Tuanzebe is capable of playing there, too.
Bruce's constant dipping into the loan market shows a manager who is prepared to leave absolutely nothing to chance.
"It's my job never to be content," Bruce told us. "If I'm content and happy with what I've got then I may as well pack up. We've always got to try and improve and it's my job to improve the squad in any way I can."
LEARNING THE HARD WAY Bruce's decision to let Jordan Ayew and Rudy Gestede leave last January, combined with Jonathan Kodjia's Africa Cup of Nations absence, left Villa ridiculously light in attack and they paid the price.
Scott Hogan arrived at the death but Villa had played virtually the entire month with Gabby Agbonlahor and Ross McCormack up top, and neither was brimming with confidence nor in peak physical condition. That month was a disaster and played a huge part in Villa falling away so quickly. Bruce admits that now and is determined not to leave Villa light in attack again.
ROOM FOR YOUNG GUNS Villa's array of options appeared excellent before Bruce dipped into the market and signed Tuanzebe - and with another arrival likely, supporters are understandably wondering what it means for their young talents. Andre Green and Keinan Davis have impressed under Bruce this season, as has Callum O'Hare when called upon.
Rushian Hepburn-Murphy is another on the peripheries of the first team and Bruce will ensure they don't become lost amongst the endless talent stood before him on Bodymoor Heath's pristine training pitches.
Bruce will continue to make room for the youngsters but promotion understandably comes first. Villa's policy towards youth has changed over the past year and some of the under-23s now regularly train with the first team. That will continue to be the case. If Bruce deems Davis better equipped to face a particular opponent than Hogan he will select him, as he will with any of his other 20-odd first team players.
Bruce and his coaching staff have instilled a harmony within this Villa team that few in recent history can match. Everyone is working towards the same goal and if that's achieved, Tony Xia's decision to hand Bruce the keys to the club will be justified.
That month was a disaster and played a huge part in Villa falling away so quickly. Bruce admits that now and is determined not to leave Villa light in attack again
| From left, Chris Samba, Axel Tuanzebe, Robert Snodgrass and John Terry. Above, Villa boss Steve Bruce