Steve Bruce reaping benefits of Aston Villa ‘big player’ policy

Steve Bruce explains how a change in Aston Villa's recruitment policy is helping them in the play-offs

Aston Villa’s policy of buying ‘big’ players is paying dividends for the play-offs, says Steve Bruce.

Celebrations were mooted in the Villa dressing room after Mile Jedinak’s goal gave them a 1-0 lead following the first leg of their semi-final against Middlesbrough at the Riverside last week.

Bruce has won more promotions from the Championship than any other manager and has a 100 per cent record at the Championship play-off stage having guided Birmingham and Hull through them in 2002 and 2016 respectively.

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Villa changed to an experience-focused recruitment policy last summer, which Bruce believes will play a big factor in their chances of reaching Wembley when they play their second leg in front of a sold-out Villa Park on Tuesday – live on Sky Sports Football.

“I’d have loved to have bought 24-year-olds and paid £25m for them,” said Bruce, who described the play-offs as “the best thing the EFL has done”.

“We went down the route of needing to have players who can handle playing for Aston Villa, first and foremost.

“There’s an expectancy with a big club, big history – you need big players.

“[Ahmed] El Mohamady, [Glenn] Whelan, John Terry, Jedinak, James Chester and Robert Snodgrass – all people who’ve been there, worn the t-shirt.

“You know that individual will not get fazed by playing for Aston Villa. There’s been a lot of players here over the years that have struggled to come to terms with playing for a big club.”

El Mohamedy is Bruce’s only doubt for the second leg, with Villa aiming to book a place at Wembley on May 29.

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