Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce braced to lose key players
Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce is braced to lose the spine of his team this summer.
In his first interview since news of Villa's financial problems broke, Bruce conceded Jack Grealish, James Chester and Jonathan Kodjia could all be sold to balance the books.
After missing out on promotion to the Premier League, Villa lost last season's captain John Terry, who was out of contract, and could not afford permanent deals for loanees Sam Johnstone and Robert Snodgrass.
Owner Dr Tony Xia is not looking to sell the club, but wants fresh investment at Villa Park. In the short term though, some of Villa's prized assets look set to be moved on.
Bruce told Sky Sports: "It's better to be open and honest with the supporters and to tell them how it is, warts and all.
"We know what to expect, we don't want to lose Grealish, Kodjia, Chester, but the inevitability is we might have to, so let's get ready for it."
Tottenham are hot favourites to land playmaker Grealish, and Bruce admits that Villa's financial predicament puts them on the back foot in negotiations.
"We have to generate some money, inevitably that's going to be player sales," added Bruce, whose side lost 1-0 to Fulham in the Championship play-off final. "There's going to be people I don't want to sell, and the obvious one is Jack, but people will know.
"They'll know we've got financial problems and they'll sit and wait and wait until deadline day, possibly. I hope that doesn't happen but we've got to batten down the hatches and wait for it.
"It's pretty brutal stuff out there. There's nobody going to feel sorry for Aston Villa because financially we got ourselves in a bit of a pickle. Yes, we've got to be ready.
"I've enjoyed working with Jack. Jack's the obvious one because he had a wonderful six months. He reminded everybody, as a 22-year-old, what a wonderful player he is. On another day at Wembley (in the play-off final) he could've scored one of the great Wembley goals.
"He's a special talent, a real special talent. Yes, you don't want to lose him, but the inevitable thing is we have to, to keep the club up and running."
Bruce acknowledged the first hurdle to overcome would be Financial Fair Play (FFP).
"Forget everything else, Financial Fair Play has to be addressed whether the owner's got any money or not," he said. "We have to try and put that into place if we possibly can.
"The owner's put out a statement, I had a conversation with him four or five days ago. I issued my commitment to the club and to see, and said look, we're up against it, let's be open and honest, we might have to make decisions which aren't going to be easy."
Bruce also confirmed he wants to be the man to 'ride the storm' with Villa.
He said: "Maybe the easiest thing for me to do would to say 'I don't like that' and walk away from that.
"After thinking about it, I thought 'The club's in trouble, if ever it needs me with my experience to beg, steal and borrow, then now's the time'.
"We are a big, big club. A huge club with a massive fan base, that'll never change. We're having a tough time at the moment but we're having to steer our way through it and ride the storm if we possibly can, batten down the hatches and get on with the hand we've been dealt at the moment.
"I've accepted it and committed myself to the cause."
On the possibility of fresh investment, Bruce added: "If we get it great, if we don't then we'll carry on as best we possibly can until the owner decides the next step he's going to take."