A much relieved Steve Bruce has now held his full post game interviews following victory over Norwich City today and he feels somewhat vindicated.
Hosting Daniel Farke’s side, Aston Villa put in a mighty good showing for a change and we actually took our chances as Conor Hourihane helped himself to a hattrick, with Andre Green also finding the net in the four two win, and despite their two goals it was probably the closest to playing for 90 minutes we’ve managed in a good many years.
Speaking to the Official Site as he met with the media following the game Bruce was obviously in good spirits and whilst he might feel vindicated by the result, it’s fair to say there are a number of fans who will feel vindicated by the starting line up and the changes that were made – whether or not they were forced.
‘It is ridiculous to lurch into crisis after a week. Two weeks ago against Hull we were close to blowing them away – very, very close if we`d have taken our chances. There was a time against Cardiff in the second half when it wasn`t acceptable. I thought we did okay at Reading. So all this nonsense of crisis just shows you the turmoil the club has been in. How can you be in crisis after a week? Okay, a couple of results go against you – but you`ve got to be bigger than that for sure.’
Undoubtedly the scoreline will play a part in stemming such emotions, but also importantly so will the performance with 20 chances in total created and whilst the Championship table looks healthier tonight, Bruce was questioned about going into the game whether sitting bottom had made a difference.
‘You don`t like it but I knew we weren`t going be at the bottom for long. But as we`ve just seen, Middlesbrough, who have spent £45m and been in the Premier League, they`ve been beaten twice. It is a tough, tough division and we haven`t got the divine right to blow away teams. The players don`t need reminding. We`ve been beaten twice and suddenly the roof caves in again. What we needed to do was respond. There was a lot of youngsters playing today, we must remember. When we finished there were four 19 years olds involved.’
Yes Steve, we do remember and it’s a fair point about Middlesbrough – Newcastle last season also lost two of their openers from memory – but fans also remember the only two decent performances put in so far this season do have one or two things in common.
With Conor Hourihane establishing himself as our leading scorer so far this season with four goals – in fact he’s tied on four goals as the Championship leading scorer at the minute – there was also praise for him and fans have already been commenting that it was nice to see him in his more natural attacking role.
‘I`m delighted for Conor too. He`s only been here six months and found it difficult to deal with the expectation. The same goes for Lansbury. But we know they are good players and we have to bring them out of their shell and perform on the big stage here. That becomes difficult when it is so expectant. Him and Lansbury – we bought them in January when the two of them were the top goalscorers and assist makers in the division at Barnsley and Nottingham Forest.’
Bruce went on to add, overusing the word expectation.
‘I think what they`ve found very quickly is the expectation that comes upon you and you have to find that little bit of confidence. They were big players at Barnsley and Forest and they`ve got to take it on to this big stage here. I`m delighted for Conor – when he gets to the edge of the box you think ‘goal` because he practices. It is not often you get a hat-trick for a midfield player. Terrific.’
Having covered the bulk of what he said about Keinan Davis’ individual showing, Bruce also joked.
‘He did really well against two big German centre-backs. Welcome to the Championship! It was a fantastic debut from a young player who was playing non-league a year ago.’
Bruce was also pleased with the character the team showed as Norwich fought back as we did have our shaky moments.
‘It did get a bit nervy. The first mistake we made, we got punished. We missed a diagonal pass, let them through and they scored. Of course with the start we`ve had things got a bit edgy for a while. But we scored at the right times. I`m not hiding the fact we could have scored more than four, if the truth be known. We could have scored five or six, however, we`ll settle for four.’
Again the win was important, but so far the performance and the attacking play on show. We won’t win every game from now until the end of the season but if we can largely play like that more often than not, fans will be content that we’re at least having a go.
But let’s please stop talking about expectation when all the fans have heard from the club this summer is ‘promotion’.
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