COMMENT by Amir Mir
Aston Villa are looking for instant promotion this season and summer signing Ross McCormack will have the biggest impact in the Championship campaign.
Striker McCormack signed from Fulham for a then Championship record of £12 million, before Villa broke their own record with the purchase of £15 million forward Jonathan Kodjia.
The 30-year-old has scored just the one goal in five Championship games for manager Roberto Di Matteo this season, in the 1-1 draw with Huddersfield.
But there is no doubt Villa have not seen the best of the Scottish international, who scored 21 goals last season for a Fulham side that narrowly avoided relegation in the second-tier.
McCormack’s all-round ability to hold the ball up, run in behind and take set-pieces will prove to be vital for Di Matteo this season in a gruelling 46-game Championship season.
And he will become even more crucial when the Africa Cup of Nations starts in January.
Villa are set to lose three players to the tournament, with attacking trio Jordan Ayew (Ghana), Albert Adomah (Ghana) and Jonathan Kodjia (Ivory Coast) all set to represent their countries.
It means Di Matteo could be light in attack for important fixtures against Wolves, Preston, Bristol City, Brentford and Nottingham Forest at a critical point in the season.
McCormack will have to play a vital part in keeping the momentum going in the New Year, although Villa did get a boost this week with the news that Benin missed out, meaning striker Rudy Gestede will be available too.
But it’s McCormack’s experience – he’s scored 117 goals in 314 Championship games – that could prove to be the difference and help to get Villa back into the Premier League at the first time of asking.
In other Aston Villa team news, these three senior players should be dropped for the Midlands clash against Nottingham Forest.