Paul Lambert has spoken of his need to bring more physical presence to his relegation-threatened side - but warned Aston Villa fans not to expect to see any star names arrive in the January window.
No sooner had Villa shown signs of emerging from their nightmare festive nosedive than they reopened fresh doubts with their charitable showing in the midweek Capital One Cup tie at Bradford City – and a defeat the Scot described as the lowest point of his career in the dug-out.
Although skipper Ron Vlaar might return to the squad for this afternoon’s (Saturday’s) vital Premier League home game against Southampton, to be followed in the near future by the recovering Richard Dunne, Lambert still believes there’s a rawness about his squad that needs addressing urgently.
Names such as Joleon Lescott and Scott Parker have immediately been ruled out as over-ambitious targets, though, as the manager seeks a Stiliyan Petrov type of leader – on a fraction of the £6m the currently cancer-stricken midfielder cost!
"We need some strength in the side, especially in the middle of the pitch," he said. "I was out with Stiliyan this week and the loss of him (to the club) has been more than people can imagine.
"It has been huge but his health is obviously the most important thing. You need that type because you people to take responsibility.
"That type of player costs money, so you have to box clever. I know what he is like because I played with him for six years. The team needs a bit of strength - mental and physical."
Villa are once more without as win in four League matches as they look to repair the fragile confidence that has been further dented by League Two opposition.
With the semi-final return a week and a half away, the heat is right on for the visit of the Saints, who beat Villa 4-1 at St Mary’s early in the season.
And, as happy as Lambert is with the long-term potential of his squad, he believes a special breed of player is required to perform when the going is as tough as it now is.
"We don’t want the club going backwards again," he added. "I have the belief that the future will be very good. If a player has the ability and you think he can handle it, I will look at him.
"But you have to handle the pressure that comes with the size of this club. There have been world-class footballers who can’t handle it. Look back to the team who won the European Cup here...there’s something to look up to.
"You have to come through periods in your career when it isn’t going right. In a stupid way, you come out stronger."
Brett Holman, Chris Herd and Ashley Westwood are all fit to return to the squad today but Marc Albrighton faces eight weeks on the sidelines with a broken metatarsal and the latest downturn in Darren Bent’s difficult season sees him ruled out for about a week and a half with a medial knee problem.
Dunne is set to step up his training after the weekend and Lambert is looking only upwards despite what he says is a low-light of his coaching and managerial career.
"If you look at the table, there’s not much between us and 11th; two games, I think. Losing at Bradford is definitely the lowest point because you are so close to getting there. The only good thing is that we have another game and it will be a completely different one here with a capacity crowd and a big pitch."