With all the focus and the hype on Jack Grealish, Sam Johnstone, Robert Snodgrass, Lewis Grabban and John Terry, you may be surprised to learn that it was James Chester who won Aston Villa’s Player of the Year award.
The Welsh defender enjoyed a superb second season at Villa Park, forming an often impenetrable partnership with the 37-year-old Terry at centre-back as Steve Bruce’s side reached the play-off final.
Yes, the departures of Terry, Snodgrass, Grabban and Johnstone when their contracts and loan deals expired was a major blow with Villa in a dire financial situation and unable to afford new deals for the influential quartet.
And losing Jack Grealish will be a painful experience too, especially after the £30 million-rated playmaker enjoyed arguably the best run of form in his entire career in the last few months.
But Chester’s potential exit could perhaps be the biggest blow yet. According to the Birmingham Mail, four Premier League clubs are interested in signing the former Hull City and West Brom defender, who is understood to be valued at around £8 million.
Chester, however, is one of the few players at Villa Park who could be truly irreplaceable – and not just because of his excellent performances on the pitch.
The 29-year-old was a real leader in the dressing room too and, unlike Terry, potentially has his best years ahead of him. So if Chester leaves with the likes of Brighton and Burnley interested, finding a successor could be one of Bruce’s hardest tasks.