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Three things we learnt from Birmingham’s 1-1 derby draw with Aston Villa

Scott Challinor

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Steve Bruce wore the pantomime villain’s cape on his return to St. Andrew’s, donning the claret and blue of fierce rivals Aston Villa in the familiar old dugout area. He remains unbeaten as Aston Villa boss after Sunday’s encounter, which ended honours even and so added another absorbing chapter in the tales of clashes in the second city.

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David Davis, nominated as Sky Sports’ man of the match on the day rescued a deserved point for hosts Birmingham, bypassing his man and firing low across the keeper to restore parity in the first league meeting between the two sides since 2011. Despite the relentless pressure the Blues would apply to their opponents, they could not get the precious winner, but were good value for their point after their second-half performance. They needed it too, after going a goal behind following a looping header in the first-half scored by Gary Gardner, a boy-hood Villa fan.

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But what did we learn from this latest clash between the two rivals, who will both be hoping to be in the promotion mix near the end of the season?

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23 year old from Stoke-on-Trent. Avid Port Vale fan. Also follow Derby County & OGC Nice closely. BA Hons Modern Languages Graduate (University of Oxford). My prior experience in Sports Journalism comes from Volleyball & Floorball, having worked on major tournaments with the CEV, FIVB, & IFF. Have been contributing pieces to The Boot Room since 2016. Views are my own.

Aston Villa

Aston Villa’s play-off final is vital regarding the future of Jack Grealish

The 22-year-old has matured significantly under Steve Bruce this season.

Josh Kerr

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Aston Villa’s day of destiny awaits, and the future of Jack Grealish could also hang on this crucial Wembley fixture.

The 22-year-old has been in wonderful form for The Villans this season, and he showcased his talent in the play-off semi-final over two legs.

Villa edged past Middlesbrough 1-0, with Grealish playing a starring role over and club’s supporters will be desperate to keep their star man.

However, the future of the Solihull born youngster could hinge on whether Steve Bruce’s side gain promotion to the Premier League with a number of clubs set to swoop if Villa don’t reach the top-flight.

According to the Birmingham Mail, Grealish was recently offered a big money move to Leicester but opted to instead stay at Villa Park.

However, if Aston Villa were to fall at the final hurdle at Wembley then it may be difficult for Grealish to focus on another year in the Championship especially if the Premier League comes knocking once again.

The attacking midfielder has blossomed under Bruce this season and has been central to the club’s promotion hopes.

He has really matured over the year and his performances on the pitch have continued to impress those who once doubted whether he would fulfill his potential.

According to reports from the Mirror, Villa will need to cut costs if they fail in the play-offs and Grealish would be one of the club’s more saleable assets.

Grealish would be a huge loss to Villa, but the Midlands side will be full of confidence going into one of football’s richest fixtures.

They will know full well that a win could be the factor that ensures the club are able to withstand elusive offers for some of their top players.

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Aston Villa

Aston Villa’s James Chester comes back to haunt former manager Tony Pulis

The Welsh defender came back to bit his old boss in the play-off semi clash.

Max Cohen

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James Chester
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Tony Pulis’ Middlesbrough side were expertly stifled by Aston Villa in their play-off semifinal, as the Villans held Boro to 180 minutes of scoreless football.

Villa centre-half James Chester was a constant rock at the back, revealing to Pulis that his former boss was wrong to sell him when the two were together at West Bromwich Albion.

Chester signed for the Baggies from Hull City in the summer of 2015, after five impressive seasons for the Tigers. The fee was reported to be in the region of £8 million and many expected the Welsh international to excel in the back four under Pulis.

Yet, frustratingly for the centre-back, Chester made only 13 league appearances for the Baggies in the 2015/16 campaign. The Welshman started just nine Premier League matches all season, as Pulis clearly did not consider him as first-choice at the Hawthorns.

After just one year at West Brom, Chester was sold to Championship side Aston Villa in 2016.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

In the following two seasons at Villa Park, the centre-back has enjoyed tremendous success, making over 75 appearances and establishing himself as an indispensable presence at the back.

This season, Chester has struck up a formidable partnership with former Chelsea captain John Terry.

The airtight defensive combination was on full display during the two matches against Middlesbrough, as Chester and Terry stifled the high-octane Boro attack.

Featuring the likes of Britt Assambalonga, Adama Traore, Stewart Downing, Patrick Bamford, and Rudy Gestede, the Teesiders’ star-studded frontline was held scoreless due to Villa’s superb defense- led by James Chester.

As Tony Pulis watched his side run out of ideas and fall to a 1-0 aggregate defeat, he will surely be ruing his 2016 mistake.

Allowing James Chester to be sold to Aston Villa truly came back to haunt the Boro boss, as the Welsh international delivered Pulis a dramatic reminder of his abilities and cost the Teesiders a spot at Wembley.

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Aston Villa should at least take a look at Carles Gil this summer

The Spaniard spent the season out on loan from Aston Villa at Deportivo La Coruna.

Mathew Coull

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It looks as though Carles Gil will be leaving Aston Villa this summer. The Birmingham Mail reported this week that the Spaniard has no future at Villa Park, with the club looking to offload him in the summer.

An apparent obligation on the part of his current loan club Deportivo La Coruna to bring him in permanently has now been denied in the Spanish press. Marca now claims the permanent deal is void, after Depor’s relegation from La Liga.

It comes after a difficult season for Gil, in which he suffered a hernia problem and was eventually frozen out by new manager Clarence Seedorf.

But ask any Aston Villa fan and they will tell you that Gil is immensely talented. In fact, many would like to see him get another chance in England.

So should he?

Aston Villa paid Valencia a fee of around £3.2 million for the player, according to BBC Sport. It came after two excellent seasons out on loan at fellow Spanish club Elche.

Therefore, retrieving such a fee for the player would surely not be a difficult task for the club. But he clearly still has something to offer, especially if Villa remain in the Championship.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Gil was one of only a few players to come away from Aston Villa’s relegation campaign with any semblance of dignity and in his first half season at the club looked a real talent.

At just 25-years-old there is also still plenty of scope for him to improve. If Villa stay down again this season then major investment in recruitment is bound to diminish. So having a player with the talent of Gil still around at the club could be like a new signing for Villa.

It certainly seems as though Tony Xia and Steve Bruce want to banish any memory of that awful Aston Villa side that was relegated to the Championship. However, Gil might be one of the very few from that squad with redeemable qualities.

At the very least, it is worth keeping him through pre-season and seeing what he can do. If Bruce does not like what he sees, he can give Gil the boot before the transfer window shuts.

But if he does? Well, Gil could easily resurrect himself a decent career at Villa Park.

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