First broken by the likes of Sky Sports, and later confirmed by the club themselves, Steve Bruce has been axed as manager of Aston Villa.

The 57-year-old has finally vacated the managerial hot seat at Villa Park, less than 24 hours after the club were held to a 3-3 draw by Preston North End. The game was overshadowed by a bizarre incident that saw Bruce struck with a cabbage, an example of the damaged relationship he had with supporters.

He was appointed as Villa boss back in October 2016 and led the club to the Championship play-off final last season, but has failed to build on the promise shown on the road to Wembley.

The Villains have won just one of their last nine league games but Bruce remained confident that he could reverse the club’s fortunes.

He added firepower to his frontline with the loan signings of Premier League duo Tammy Abraham and Yannick Bolasie, but failed to bolster his backline after missing out on re-signing John Terry.

The draw with Preston proved to be the final straw for Villa’s owners, who are rumoured to be lining up Dean Smith as a replacement. 47-year-old Smith is currently in charge of Villa’s Championship counterparts Brentford, who sit 5th in the league table. He arrived at Griffin Park in 2015 after leaving Walsall, the club he began his managerial career with.

Another figure that has been linked with a move to Villa Park is Italian Andrea Stramaccioni. The 42-year-old is currently unemployed after being dismissed as manager of Sparta Prague and could potentially return to management with the Midlands strugglers.

The board will be keen to appoint a replacement as soon as possible, with a daunting trip to Millwall on the horizon. The Villains lock horns with the Lions on Saturday, looking to improve on their recent form and pile misery on Neil Harris’ lowly side.

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