By Matt Farr

Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce admits he is still unsure over the return date of defender Micah Richards.

The 13-time capped England international has been out of action since mid-October with a knee injury, but neither Bruce nor the club know when the defender is expected to return.

According to the Birmingham Mail, Richards was put on a six-to-eight-week recovery programme, though with progress still to be made, he is now not expected to return to action until February at the earliest.

Speaking to the Mail about the injury, Steve Bruce said: “We need to get his knee to a place where he feels comfortable.

“The big, important time for Micah is the next couple of weeks because he’s down into that six-to-eight week programme.

“We hope that he can recover from his knee injury but it seems an ongoing problem for the lad which is hugely disappointing.

“But we’ll give him the time to see if we can get it recovered. It’s one of those awful and awkward ones.

“He’s better in himself and the knee looks better at the minute, let’s just hope he can recover.”

Richards made just three appearances this season before the injury, and his last appearance for the club was Bruce’s first game in charge against Wolves.

The 28-year-old was one of English football’s biggest defensive prospects during his early days at Manchester City, but has since failed to live up to that potential after an injury-plagued career.

In November 2006, he became the youngest defender ever to be called up to the England squad, and then made his debut against the Netherlands later that month.

He left Manchester City in 2015 after a brief loan spell with Fiorentina, where he joined Villa as club captain. However, he could not stop the club from finishing bottom of the Premier League and slipping down to the Championship.

They are currently 13th in England’s second-tier after 21 games, and face QPR on Sunday.

In other Aston Villa news, Bruce has revealed what his side need to do to win promotion back to the top-flight.