By Harry Sykes

Paul Merson has revealed that he was convinced Steve Bruce was a “brilliant” hire when he was appointed by Aston Villa in October.

The Championship promotion expert was handed the reins by the Midlands giants following the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo.

Bruce immediately instigated an upturn in fortunes but the team have been in wretched form either side of the new year despite huge investment in the playing squad in the January transfer window.

A major recruitment drive enabled the club to acquire senior men Sam Johnstone, Henri Lansbury, James Bree, Birkir Bjarnason, Conor Hourihane, Neil Taylor, Scott Hogan and youngster Jacob Bedeau.

But the new signings have struggled to make an impact for a team that is punching well below its weight.

Subscribe to Football Insider TV now

“I worry for Villa,” the club’s former playmaker Merson told talkSPORT. “I’m a massive fan of Steve Bruce, when he got the job I thought ‘brilliant, he’ll sort this out’. I think there is a lot more to do than what he thought.”

Villa have slipped to 17th in the Championship table and their hopes of instant promotion back to the Premier League have disappeared following a horror run that has left them 22 points behind the play-offs.

Bruce’s side have lost four consecutive league matches and have not been victorious since their 2-1 Boxing Day triumph over Burton Albion.

Villa are next in action on Monday night when they travel to second-placed Newcastle for a clash of the fallen giants at St James’ Park.

In other Aston Villa news, this Championship goalkeeper has given his verdict on January interest from Bruce’s side.

We’ve launched an << EXCLUSIVE TRANSFER WINDOW NEWS FEED>>. ‘Like Us’ on Facebook by clicking here if you want 24/7 updates on all Aston Villa transfer news