Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce has now held his pre Barnsley press conference and he’s hoping to make it four straight wins this weekend.
Hosting Paul Heckingbottom’s Barnsley at Villa Park on Saturday, Bruce told the Official Site that he was expecting Barnsley to put up a good test, but his focus was on another three points to help cement our place in the Play Offs – and then maybe we can kick on into those automatic promotion spots.
‘It’s important that we put these runs together – these games are never easy. That’s the thing in the Championship. Out in the big wide world, people think it’s a given. It isn’t. I’ve got the utmost respect for Paul Heckingbottom – his team always mount a challenge. I’ve seen the video from last week and Wolves didn’t have a shot on goal against them. They’re not going to be a pushover. We’ve been playing well of late. The second half against Nottingham Forest is arguably the best we’ve played in a long while. We were in complete control of the game, and it was good to see.’
With 19 games left in the 2017/18 season, Bruce said the aim was to be well within the mix as the final ten or so matches cycle round, as by then you can start looking to the finish line and it’s obviously easier to do that if you’re near where you want to be.
‘I’d say it was more with nine or 10 to go that you see the finishing line in sight. That’s when all sorts happens. We’ve given ourselves a chance, we’d like to be closer to the top but it looks as though Wolves have run away with it. We are where we are and consistency wise we’ve been doing well of late. Let’s hope that continues.’
‘That’s the beauty of the Championship. Nothing’s a given. Take last week for example, you’d expect Wolves to go to Barnsley and win. You’d expect us to beat Millwall at home. Neither happened. That’s what the Championship is. There’s not the gulf there like there is in the Premier League.’
The gaffer went on to say that Birkir Bjarnason has certainly given him a selection dilemma following his performance in the last match.
‘He’s given me the biggest selection problem of all this week – it’s a nice one to have. Competition for places is the biggest weapon a manager can have. He had a great 45 minutes last week and he’s played his way into my thoughts for tomorrow because of that performance. I’ve got a decision to make. He’s put himself in pole position.’
Robert Snodgrass continued to come in for praise as well owing to his form.
‘Of late, he’s played very, very well. I always knew that if we could get him in the right environment, then he can create and score a lot of goals. His cross and the finish from Scott Hogan last week was the bit of quality in the game. I’m not surprised by it. You’d expect him to have between eight and 10 goals and assists from a wide area. He’s on track for that at the moment.’
With Steve Agnew being credited with helping Scott Hogan to refind his form, Bruce went on to say he already feels a part of the fixtures at the training ground as he’s slotted in excellently.
‘He’s very quiet, which means it seems like he’s been here two years rather than a few months. I’m pleased because Hogan has responded to a new voice being with him. You could see the confidence ooze out of him after getting a goal. Then all of a sudden you’ve got a different player on your hands. Steve has been a big infuence on him. It’s why I brought him here and it’s good to see. I’m delighted I’ve got him. I’ve worked with him for a few years previously and he’s a very good coach.’
Having confirmed that nothing is bubbling on a transfer front yet, he also gave his weekly injury update.
Mile Jedinak and Glenn Whelan come back into contention for the game following their respective thigh and knee issues and both players returned to training earlier this week.
Jed Steer is set for a spell on the sidelines as he needs an operation on the shoulder injury he picked up in the FA Cup loss to Peterborough United.
‘We had bad news on Jed Steer overnight. He needs an operation on his shoulder. He did it in the cup tie with Peterborough – it`s his ligaments. He has an operation next weekend, which could rule him out for the rest of the season. Mile and Glenn both trained on Thursday for the first time. We will see how they are today.’
Bruce confirmed that Jonathan Kodjia was back in rehabilitation training, but he remains some way off as fans will know.
‘We’d all like him to be fit and what an asset he’d be ahead of the run in. But unfortunately he’s not, and it’s credit to the squad, who’ve so far coped without him.’
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