Tuesday 10 July 2018 08:41, UK
Steve Bruce has told Sky Sports News Aston Villa have no choice but to sell a number of their prized assets – including Jack Grealish - in order to stave off the threat of administration.
Villa need to raise £40m to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations following last season's failure to secure promotion to the Premier League.
The club faced a winding-up order via the High Court last month until they agreed a payment schedule regarding money owed to HMRC.
Villa owner Tony Xia last week said the club is not for sale, but Bruce is facing up to the reality that players in his squad who could command healthy transfer fees will likely leave the club this summer.
Read on for a full transcript of Bruce's exclusive interview...
Aston Villa is a huge club with a huge history, but when you lose key personnel at any senior level how difficult does that make the manager's job?
"Very, very difficult because obviously I have come out and you want to go on holiday in three or four weeks. Of course, then it unravels, all of the problems the club has got itself into.
"And the first thing before we go into anything is that we have to address is Financial Fair Play - forget everything else for the moment. Financial Fair Play has to be addressed whether the owner has got any money or not, so we have to try and put that in place if we possibly can.
"Obviously, the owner has put out a statement. I had a conversation with him four or five days ago where I issued my commitment to the club, and to him, where I said: 'We're up against it, let's be open and honest, we might have to make decisions that might not be easy, we have to generate some money'.
"Inevitably that is going to be player sales. There are going to be people that I do not want to sell - and the obvious one is Jack [Grealish] - but people will know that we have got financial problems and they'll sit and wait, and wait, till Deadline Day possibly. I hope that doesn't happen but we've got to baton down the hatches and wait for it."
Does that make it an even more bitter pill to swallow? Because - let's be honest - Jack Grealish is a young English player with enormous potential, should be worth millions and millions on the open market, but the situation you find yourself in devalues him.
"And it's pretty brutal stuff out there. There will be nobody feeling sorry for Aston Villa because financially we have got ourselves in a bit of a pickle, so yes we have got to be ready for that.
"I have enjoyed working with Jack, and Jack is the obvious one that clubs [are going to target] because he had a wonderful six months. He reminded everybody as a 22-year-old what a very good player he is. On another day at Wembley (Play-Off final versus Fulham) he could have scored one of the great Wembley goals.
"He is a special talent, a real special talent, and yes, you don't want to lose him but the inevitable thing is we have to. We have to - to keep the club up and running and keep it in line with Financial Fair Play.
There is a scenario where not just Jack, but James Chester, Jonathan Kodjia also may not see your first game at Hull….
"I think we have got to be truthful to the supporters - that could happen. That is the inevitability. I didn't like to hear that and maybe the easier thing for me to do is say 'I don't like that' and then walking away from that.
"After thinking about it I thought the club is in trouble and if ever it needs me, with my experience to beg steal and borrow, then now is the time.
"We are a big, big, club; a huge club with a big fanbase and that will never change. We are having a tough time at the moment but we have got to try and steer our way through it and ride the storm if we possibly can, baton down the hatches and get on with the hand that we have been dealt at the moment.
"I have accepted it and committed myself to the cause and I think it is better to be open and honest with the supporters, warts and all, to say how it is. We know what to expect. We don't want to lose Grealish, Kodjia and Chester but the inevitability is we might have to so let's get ready for it."
The owner Dr Xia has issued a number of statements lately. He is clearly passionate about the club. He clearly wants the club to succeed but at the end of the day words are only so much are they not?
"He has made it pretty clear that he wants investment. I think that's pretty clear from the letter that he has put out.
"I don't think he wants to relinquish the whole control of the club. I think he wants to keep hold of it, so I think the whole club is looking for investment at the moment. If we get it great, if we don't obviously we will carry on as best we can until the owner decides what the next step is that he is going to take."