January offers Villa the opportunity to make a statement of intent ahead of a crucial five-month spell.
If Steve Bruce was attempting to hide his fury following Aston Villa’s limp 1-0 loss at Norwich City earlier in December then it’s a good job he’s a football manager and not a leading man on Broadway.
It’s not often the genial Geordie is left so publicly riled by his team’s performance but the manner in which Villa’s midfield collapsed en route to the matchwinner was enough to make even the most mild-mannered individual’s blood boil.
Since then, reports have intensified suggesting Bruce is targeting a combative, tenacious central midfielder in the January transfer window and, based on his last appearance at Villa Park, they could do worse than to follow through on their reported interest in Leicester City’s Matty James in the January window, as claimed by the Birmingham Mail.
Amid the glory and the fairytale scenes of Leicester’s Premier League title triumph, James could be forgiven for feeling rather bitter. After all, the former Manchester United youngster missed the entirety of last season with a cruciate ligament injury and has only featured in the EFL Trophy for The Foxes under-23s since.
Yet, it must be remembered that, the season prior, James was a regular starter in the Leicester midfield, pushing Danny Drinkwater to the periphery.
There will of course be concerns over his fitness but the 25-year-old's character, as well as his quality, could convince Bruce to overlook his long period on the sidelines. Not only has the midfielder refused to buckle in his determination to reach first-team football again, his win-at-all-costs mentality was clear for all to see at Villa Park in January 2015.
Flying into a committed challenge with Jores Okore, James was perhaps harshly punished with a straight red card before remonstrating furiously with Ciaran Clark.
Such a display of perceived indiscipline may make potential suitors think twice but Bruce’s need for a central midfielder with personality and a spiky spirit may convince him to take a punt on a player determined to kick-start his career.